Our journey to put collective action at the center
of our practice

This year’s upcoming report of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) coincides with the 15th Anniversary of the World Development Report (WDR) “Making Services Work for the Poor”, that helped put social accountability on the development map. The social accountability practice has come a long way since then.

At the GPSA, we’ve been privileged to take the pulse of this growing area of practice for a significant part of the journey. With that in mind, in this Annual Letter we reflect on our learning, hoping this can inspire all of us to imagine ways social accountability can help to address development’s many emerging challenges, including the fractures in our societies exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and citizen movements and protests across the world.

We believe that citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) should be front and center in efforts to build our societies into more inclusive and resilient ones. In this letter, we highlight key insights about the journeys of in-country civil society groups leading social accountability practice, our role in those journeys as a global partnership anchored in the World Bank, and about social accountability processes and conditions that affect them.

Building on the lessons of 311 partners working in 73 countries and about 7 sectors, we have deepened our commitment to addressing the disconnect between people’s unmet demands and government action. We have learned that when they engage to focus on the problem at hand, civil society, citizens and public sector actors are better able to deliver solutions collaboratively - especially when they prioritize learning. See, for example, the exciting results from Wahana Visi on improving maternal, newborn, infant and child health services in Indonesia.

We are also mindful that the conditions for civil society and social accountability have been a mixed story, with some countries doing well and others experiencing challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of the problems and some government measures have constrained civic action.

We believe that governments ought to be accountable to citizens for the policies they make, the programs they design and deliver, and how they spend money. But when there is failure, how we achieve accountability is very important. We have learned from research that focusing only on scrutinizing and verifying government actions can have limited value in our problem solving.

Last year, we launched our fourth call for proposals, engaging 53 GPSA countries in the process. We are now set to provide flexible grants and non-financial support to 9 CSO-led coalitions for collaborative social accountability. We have already begun working with these groups and World Bank country and sector teams to find and build synergies between civil society-led social accountability and ongoing public sector reforms.