In this rapidly changing world, how to hold powerful actors to account has emerged as a major theme. Yet there are major challenges: development professionals now face a context in which political authority is fragmented, private (non-state) actors play a vital role in providing public services, and the digital transformation is remaking citizen-state relations. The accountability agenda has to evolve to identify the opportunities and challenges these and other changes present. We need to know what accountability should look like in this context, what it can reasonably accomplish, and how it can be enhanced. At IDS, we are exploring these questions with our partners in global policy research networks.
IDS has been at the cutting edge of the accountability agenda for the past 20 years
Our research, advisory work, and professional training has supported a generation of development professionals with highly contextualised knowledge and innovative approaches to enhancing accountability.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the accountability agenda.
Accountability is crucial to reducing inequality and increasing access of marginalised citizens to essential services, and it is central to fighting corruption and strengthening democratic governance.
And it is
hard to imagine meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without
substantial gains in accountability.
Our work examines accountability as a process riven by competing interests, forms of power and rights. It looks at different types of accountability – social, legal, and political – and how these can become mutually reinforcing.
We are developing exciting and innovative approaches to understanding accountability in fragile and conflict settings. Scalability of accountability initiatives – from local to national and international, and across sectors – is a major concern of development professionals and a core focus of this work.
Our studies of digital democracy and citizen monitoring explore how power and politics, and culturally specific concepts of accountability, impact on citizen engagement and state responses. These and other insights are guiding our work into how accountability can contribute to achieving health equity, transparency in taxation and effective social protection.
Global research programmes
Projects with a thematic focus
- Digital democracy
- Private sector actors
- Fragile, violent and conflict settings
- Food rights
- Governance: the Governance of Service Delivery and Innovative Ways in Supporting Decentralised and Democractice Local Governance
- Health equity: Accountability for Health Equity, Unequal Voices/Vozces Desiguais and the Citizens Engagement Programme (CEP), which looks at accountability education as well as health
- Participatory monitoring
- Social protection
Check out videos from our Accountability YouTube Playlist
- What one factor affects your work on social accountability? Extract from our panel session at the GPSA 2017
- Five challenges to work on accountability in fragile, conflict and violent settings - Anu Joshi speaking in this extract from our panel session at the GPSA 2017
- Four challenges to World Bank support for social accountabiltiy - Helen Grandvoinnet speaking in this this extract from our panel session at the GPSA 2017
- Why Vertical Integration Matters for Social Accountability? Jonathan Fox, from the Accountability Research Centre / American University, speaking at IDS.
- Accountability for Health Equity: Power, Politics and Transformative Change - More than 80 activists, researchers, public health practitioners and policymakers gathered at IDS in July 2017 to critically examine the forces that shape accountability in health systems, from local to global levels.
- The Quest for Citizen-led Accountability - a one day research workshop IDS in April 2015, in partnership with the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) and the Transparency Accountability Initiative (TAI).
- Research Fellow
- Research Fellow
Dolf te Lintelo
- Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Co-Leader
- Programme Manager
- Research Fellow
- Research Fellow
- Research Fellow
- Cluster Leader Research Fellow
Shandana Khan Mohmand
- Research Fellow
Accountability for Health Equity Programme
Since the publication of the 2004 World Development Report a range of different attempts have been made to make the design, prioritisation and delivery of health services more accountable to different stakeholders. However, complex politics and power dynamics can limit or skew people's abilities to access services or hold them to account, particularly for poor and marginalized people. More details
Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities (SDIC)
The “Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities” (SDIC) project aims strengthen technical and institutional capacities by working directly with municipal authorities participating in the Smart Cities Mission in four secondary cities in India: Bhopal and Jabalpur (in Madhya Pradesh) and Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi (in Kerala). More details
Citizen Engagement Programme (CEP)
An empowerment and accountability programme aimed at improving the quality of health and education services in Mozambique. More details
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Research Hub
This project supports and facilitates high-quality research, exchange of ideas, relationship-building and networking among the scholarly and practitioner community working in countering violent extremism (CVE) in Kenya. The CVE Research Hub will serve as a centre of excellence in research on policy, practice and theory in Kenya More details
Democratisation, Decentralisation, Local Governance: IDS-SDC Collaboration
The aim of this third phase of cooperation between IDS and SDC is to share learning and collaborate on policy engagement in priority areas of decentralised and democratic local governance. More details
IDS is the external monitoring, evaluation and learning partner for Diálogo, a programme which aims to contribute to improved governance and accountability for Mozambican citizens. More details
Food Riots and Food Rights
The objective of this research is to improve the prospects for accountability for food security at a time of volatility. This will be achieved through an exploration of the proposition that recent popular mobilisation around food has activated public accountability for hunger. More details
Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index - HANCI
HANCI measures and ranks governments’ political commitment to reduce hunger and undernutrition on an annual basis. More details
Linking Participation and Economic Advancement
In this project, IDS will draw upon and expand its rich experience at the forefront of thinking about participation in development, and our emerging work at the intersection of participation and markets. We will co-create along with the Economic Advancement Program (EAP) at the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a deeper understanding of participation in economic advancement in general, as well as how EAP can bring participatory approaches into its own practice. More details
Making All Voices Count
Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development (MAVC) is a four-year $45 million fund to support innovation, scaling-up, and research that will deepen existing innovations and help harness new technologies to enable citizen engagement and government responsiveness. More details
National Health Systems From a Comparative Perspective: Studies of Local, Regional and Participatory Management (Decentralisation, Participation and Equity in the English NHS)
This study examines the Brazilian National Health System (SUS) in comparison with the National Health Service (NHS) in England, in order to develop proposals for reform towards an effective, universal, quality health system in Brazil. More details
Participate: Participatory Monitoring and Accountability
The Participatory Monitoring and Accountability (PMA) programme marks a new phase of the Participate initiative. It aims to foster and support PMA learning processes that enable citizen participation for accountability to be embedded in development policy and practice. More details
Pathways to Accountability Bargains (part of the A4EA research programme)
This theme is concerned with the question of: How can stable and inclusive political settlements (among elites) and a just social contract (between elites and different social groups) emerge that are based on accountable and responsive institutions? More details
The Governance of Service Delivery
A new partnership between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and IDS has been formed with the aim of supporting SDC’s ‘Democratisation, Decentralisation and Local Governance Network’ (DLGN) between 2012 and 2014. IDS’ contribution will seek to improve DLGN’s effectiveness and impact of policy strategies and operations. More details
Social Accountability in Big Cities: Strategies and Institutions in Delhi and São PauloIDS Working Paper 471 (2016)
There are signs that public services can improve in big cities when the urban poor hold providers directly accountable – what we now call social accountability. We do not know, however, to what extent the urban poor, through their civil society groups, engage in forms of social accountability nor what strategies they use. More details
What Have We Learned About Taxation, Statebuilding and Accountability?ICTD Summary Brief 4 (2016)
This ICTD Summary Brief looks at what has been learned about taxation, state-building and accountability during the Centre's first five-year funding period, ending Spring 2016. More details
How Useful are RCTs in Evaluating Transparency and Accountability?
A paper published by the Research, Evidence and Learning component of Making All Voices Count sheds light on existing evidence about the Random Controlled Trials (RCTs) in the evaluation of social accountability tools in service delivery. Where and under what conditions might RCTs be the most appropriate approach? What other evaluation approaches would be more effective, more robust, given the particular characteristics of T&A programmes? More details
Reading the Local Context: A Causal Chain Approach to Social Accountability
There is a general consensus that ‘context’ matters for development outcomes, yet we have little understanding of how exactly ‘context’ affects outcomes. This paper focuses on the question of ‘context’ in social accountability initiatives by separating macro and micro contextual factors. More details
The New Politics of Taxation and AccountabilityIDS Bulletin 33.3 (2002)
Why the title 'New politics of taxation'? What then were the 'old'? This Bulletin discusses the increasing prominence of taxation issues on policy and political agendas in developing countries. More details
Has politics shaped the terms ‘accountability’ and ‘participation’?11 Jul 2017
By Luiz Eduardo Fonseca
Empowerment and accountability in messy places...07 Jun 2017
By Duncan Green
Rating post-rape services as a tool for accountability to survivors08 Mar 2017
By Ciana-Marie Pegus
Do we need to rethink Social Accountability? Thoughts from Myanmar27 Sep 2016
By Duncan Green
Theories of change on empowerment and accountability in fragile states23 Aug 2016
By Duncan Green
When accountability is life or death: reflections from the city street26 Jul 2016
By Joanna Wheeler
Citizen voice, agency and accountability in a post-Brexit era20 Jul 2016
By Becky Faith
Can social accountability bridge the chasms between states & citizens?18 Jul 2016
By John Gaventa
Storytelling to tackle HIV stigma and increase accountability in Egypt14 Apr 2016
By Mohammed Farouk
Accountability inside out and outside in07 May 2015
By Rosie McGee