Have your say: Feedback channels to hold us to account

By Tamryn Lee Fourie

CIVICUS exists to defend people power. With a growing alliance of over 4000 members in 175 countries, we believe that together we are stronger. But, as an alliance, we need EVERYONE (our members, constituents, donors, wider civil society, general public) to tell us how the CIVICUS Secretariat is doing and to hold us to account on how strategies and approaches are implemented. A new and easy way to do this is through the online feedback and complaints form, launched in July 2018. Putting people at the centre of our work, enabling more iterative and participatory programming and allowing faster responses when changes in direction are required – this is what CIVICUS’ new Accountability Framework aims to establish, with your help.

Accountability, shifting the power

As part of our mission to strengthen civil society and mobilise citizens to fight for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world, the CIVICUS Secretariat continuously ask ourselves the question - what tools and strategies will help us to achieve the change necessary to achieve this mission? More specifically from an Impact and Accountability perspective, what data and accountability strategies, assets or tools can help us shift this power?

Through our accountability strategy and data approaches, we strive to see the diversity of those we work with reflected in our data sources (survey respondents, interviews, focus group participants etc.) and provide opportunities for our constituents to capture data on issues that are most relevant to them. We want to develop inclusive processes that not only take into account but shine a light on underlying power inequalities when it comes to sourcing data. We also want the data analysis and outputs, to be consumable, user-friendly and relevant to individual citizens and local decision makers to dialogue and make informed decisions together.

Closing the feedback loop to ensure results can be used at the local level

As outlined by Feedback Labs:

“Simply collecting feedback is not enough; closing the loop is what matters. Making regular people true co-creators in aid and philanthropy requires five steps: design, collect, analyse, dialogue, course correct. Creating buy-in among all stakeholders is crucial to completing all steps of the loop.”

In order to close the gap between the decision-makers and those whom decisions are made FOR, CIVICUS Secretariat also works with partners, through trainings and other capacity building initiatives, to develop inclusive and empowering data processes. This means, for example, being sensitive to power dynamics of who is asking the questions, refining how we are asking questions, and considering if the process provides access to power for groups that are typically left on the periphery of local decision making.

We continue to learn and test our assumptions in every of one of our initiatives. Our aim is to measure not only how we progress, but also to keep going back to our mission and constituents to make sure our ambitions and approaches first serve our constituents and their agendas.

We are also working to do this more systematically through the recent implementation of an online M&E system, DevResults, where all CIVICUS Secretariat staff can upload results-related data and learnings to establish “bottom-up” picture of our progress against our strategy. This system also tracks our response and submission rates with regard to received feedback.

The new feedback mechanism, together with the CIVICUS AGM, constituent surveys and other forums will help us to see how this internal picture relates to external perceptions of our contribution to civil society. This is summarised in our Accountability Framework and is accompanied by an ambitious set of critical learning questions that will help deepen our understanding of our contribution to the sector and how we need to adapt based on feedback and changing contexts. We hope that this process will help the broader CIVICUS alliance at a local level to apply lessons learnt from feedback received and discussions thereof.

CIVICUS takes its commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous learning and improvement very seriously. We count on CIVICUS members, allies and supporters to reach out to us when they have questions or concerns about the alliance’s work and activities. Do you think we are accountable? If not, go ahead and hold us to account! And we look forward to reporting back to you all in the coming year on how we are doing.