Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA)

start date
1 April 2016
end date
31 December 2021

The Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) international research programme explored how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in settings affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, with a particular focus on Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan, and Egypt in its first phase.

Front cover of the report Against the Odds
Front cover for Against the Odds: Action for Empowerment and Accountability in Challenging Contexts. Image credit: heibaihui/istockphoto

Summary report: Against the Odds

Our final report, Against the Odds: Action for Empowerment and Accountability in Challenging Contexts, offers new insights into how people experience governance relationships, mobilise to make claims of authorities, and strategise to demand greater accountability against a backdrop of fragile citizen-state relations.

Two research phases for the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research programme

The A4EA programme was structured in two research phases, with the second phase building on key themes and findings from phase 1.

With the emergence of the pandemic in 2021, A4EA pivoted some of its research to explore the implications of Covid-19 for accountability and claims making – particularly in light of shrinking civic space in many countries around the world.

Download our report sharing key findings from Phase 1, ‘Empowerment and Accountability in Difficult Settings: What Are We Learning‘ by John Gaventa and Katy Oswald. Watch the animation Empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence-affected settings which summarises its key findings.


View all A4EA publications 

A4EA consortium partners

A4EA was led by IDS and implemented by a consortium, including: the Accountability Research Center (USA), the Collective for Social Science Research (Pakistan), Fórum Mulher (Mozambique), the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (Pakistan), Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económicos (IESE) (Mozambique), Itad (UK), Kaleidoscopio (Mozambiqe), Oxfam GB (UK), the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (Kenya) and Spaces for Change (Nigeria).

More than 150 individuals contributed to the work of A4EA across our two research phases and five years of the programme. Some were involved for a short period, and others for the duration of our work. We gratefully acknowledge their contribution to our work, in particular those involved in field research (many of whom can’t be named for security reasons).

A4EA International Advisory Group

We are grateful to the following people for their time and advice over the years:

  • Evelina Dagnino – University of Campinas, S. Paulo, Brazil
  • Rosalind Eyben – IDS Emeritus
  • Anne-Marie Goetz – Center for Global Affairs, School of Professional Studies, New York University
  • Duncan Green, Oxfam/London School of Economics
  • Khawar Mumtaz, former Chair of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Pakistan
  • Jeff Thindwa, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, World Bank
  • Sonia Whitehead, BBC Media Action
  • Tessa MacArthur, Dennis Curry, Will Taylor; Department for International Development/Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

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Anuradha Joshi

Research Fellow

Colin Anderson

Research Officer

Emilie Wilson

Communications and Impact Officer

Jenny Edwards

Project Manager

John Gaventa

Research Fellow and Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme

Louise Clark

MEL Manager

Ali Cheema, IDEAS
Ayesha Khan, CSSR
Richard Burge
Jo Rowlands, Oxfam
Jonathan Fox, ARC
Martin Atela, PASGR



Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid-19

The Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid project examined patterns of changing civic space and civic action in Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan during the first nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did the pandemic affect already shrinking civic space, particularly for activists and...

Recent work

Journal Article

Governance Diaries: An Approach to Researching Marginalized People’s Lived Experiences in Difficult Settings

International Journal of Qualitative Methods Vol 22

How do chronically poor and marginalized citizens interact with and make claims to the different public authorities that exist in fragile, conflict and violence-affected contexts? In other words, how does governance from below look like in difficult settings? Given the centrality of the...

2 February 2023

Impact Story

New insights on accountability and empowerment in conflict settings

The IDS-led international research programme, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) concluded in 2021 with a powerful final report, ‘Against the Odds’, which shares new insights on how accountability, governance and citizen empowerment play out differently in fragile and...

18 August 2022


Protests and Accountability in Nigeria’s Energy Sector

IDS Policy Briefing 203

Since 2016, Nigerians have experienced a stable fuel supply even if prices have continued to rise. This supply stability came to a sudden halt in January 2022, bringing back memories of long queues and harsh living conditions witnessed since 2007.

Joel Otieno & 2 others

17 August 2022