Research on empowerment and accountability tends to focus on collective action and its potential for empowering citizens undertaking the action and on achieving state accountability.
In fragile, conflict and violence-affected settings collective action is rare and risky. So how do citizens, particularly the chronically poor and most marginalised, interact and make claims on the different public authorities that exist in these settings, and how do these interactions contribute to citizens’ sense of empowerment and accountability? Given the current agenda of ‘leave no one behind’, an understanding of how such populations interact with public authorities to meet their governance needs can help identify the constraints to achieving development for all in these challenging settings. We developed ‘governance diaries,’ a cross between a panel survey and multi-sited ethnographies, as an iterative approach to capture their experiences around governance issues over time. We explain here how this approach works, and the challenges and opportunities it offers for research.