Despite a legal framework for participation in South Africa, poor citizens have not to date been able to access the public services they need, leading some to talk of a ‘second democracy’, the political system as experienced by the poor. This action?research study involved local government, non?governmental organisations (NGOs), community leaders and community mobilisation to develop Water Services Scorecards, in rural Mbizana in the Eastern Cape. Water services had been grossly inadequate and were worsening. Communities were facilitated to analyse their own water?related problems; to establish standards and to measure services against indicators adapted from national policy frameworks. The case study documents the process, and reflects on its outcomes. It notes disappointment that service improvements had not been immediate. A crucial constraint, it concludes, was weak inter?level local government coordination; these are higher?order problems that local civil society action of the Citizen Voice Project type is not well positioned to tackle.