PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesCommunity accountability
Community accountability

One review [1] investigated whether community accountability mechanisms and processes improve inclusive service delivery to communities by governments, donors and NGOs. Four themes emerged as being central:

  1. Capacity development was a defining feature of interventions directed at community accountability and inclusive service delivery, and was characterised as education and training, enhanced access to information, financial security and the creation of supportive environments. It emerged as being central to strengthening community accountability and promoting inclusive service delivery.
  2. Empowerment was also common to all interventions and was depicted as being integral to capacity development. Three types of empowerment are identified: individual, community and economic. The importance of economic security in supporting community participation is emphasised.
  3. Education, training and access to information are identified as being crucial in improving transparency and reducing corruption. These interventions work by increasing people’s knowledge, confidence and changing expectations.
  4. The definition of health used in the review takes account of the determinants of health, and therefore includes improvements in a health-supporting environment and health-promoting behaviour as well as a reduction in incidence and prevalence of conditions.

Interventions were effective in strengthening community accountability and supporting inclusive service delivery because they adopted integrated approaches that recognised the multitude of factors, including culture, that impact on citizenship. The review highlights the importance of trying innovative and using new approaches. It also reveals that effective interventions do not always need to be complicated and expensive.

A review focusing solely on primary education [2] examined specific community accountability interventions (such as community score cards, citizen report cards), and selected decentralisation, school-based management and community schools initiatives. The review found that accountability and empowerment interventions can improve education outcomes in some circumstances. However, more studies found improved immediate and intermediate outcomes (such as enrolments, attendance, retention and year-repetition rates) than improved learning outcomes. Very few of the interventions which improved student learning outcomes used single strategies. Providing information about rights and entitlements alone was rarely enough to empower communities or to improve accountability. Interventions were found to be affected by national, sectoral, cultural and local factors and may seek to affect various accountability relationships.  The review identified 11 mechanisms which generate particular kinds of outcomes and 11 categories of contextual features that seem to affect whether and how interventions work. Thirty specific propositions are presented about the circumstances in which community accountability and empowerment interventions are more likely to generate improved education outcomes.

1. What is the evidence that the establishment or use of community accountability mechanisms and processes improves inclusive service delivery by governments, donors and NGOs to communities? (2013)

2. Enhancing community accountability, empowerment and education outcomes in low and middle-income countries: A realist review (2014)


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