Findings

The research showed that staff found the framework relevant in different countries and cultures. So did local communities.

But it was also challenging for staff. It was hard work to listen really well to local people, specially when field staff had so much more power than them, or did not speak the same language. Staff were also pulled in different directions, for instance, by commitments to donors or managers.

The research did not answer all the questions it raised. Further work is needed to develop the approaches further, and tackle important tensions.

Attitudes matter most

The most important factors for improving this accountability were the attitudes of field staff and managers.

Field staff were more accountable when they really believed that local people had the ability and the right to make decisions about improving their lives. Their managers' attitudes played a big role in making space for this, as everyone was already very busy with many different priorities.

Because every situation was different, standardised tools always had to be adapted to each local context. If they were not, then there was a risk they did not improve accountability. They could even make existing power dynamics worse.

So, the research developed methods for encouraging staff and managers to reflect on their current practices, and identify their own improvements.

It also developed ways to hear directly from intended beneficiaries, and to present their views, in a simple and standard way, to managers.

General policies

However, some general policies could also be applied in most situations, to encourage staff to achieve good practice. They included:

  • An open information policy
  • Informing partners & beneficiaries about contact details, project plans, and their rights (in relation to the NGO)
  • Focusing staff attention on building dialogue and trust with partners and local people
  • Paying careful management attention to the attitudes and values of staff
  • Holding regular reviews with all stakeholders every 6 or 12 months (including the poorest and most marginalised people)
  • Collecting systematic and regular feedback from partners and local people

 

Detailed findings are available in the reports.