What is the meaning of public accountability?
Simply put being accountable means the willingness and the supporting actions to be answerable for the work that is being done by an organisation and everything that makes the same happen
Why is there are greater emphasis on CSOs and accountability?
- The truth is that CSOs in India suffer from a negative perception. This comes from real examples of organisations that have been dishonest as well media hype arpund the same
- CSOs use PUBLIC resources to do the work that they do- therefore, it goes without saying that they need to be responsible to share what they have done with those resources.
- CSO's stand for social good - their every action is expected to reflect the same
- CSO's should not be "asked" for greater accountability - they should proactively be accountable.
- If more CSOs were publicly accountable the support of the sector at large would increase and that is a good thing for society.
What are the ways to be publicly accountable?
- The law requires every registered organisation to put out an annual report.
- However, what goes into the report is a critical determinant of how accountable one is
- Its important to remember that NO ONE except maybe large grantors will read every word of a document.
- Public accountability through annual reports means making sure that those in ADDITION to donors are able to find the information needed about your organisation.
- Therefore this information must be shared in the simplest form.
- An ideal document of accountability needs to comprise ONLY of the following elements a) What is the vision of the organisation b) who are the people behind it c) what is it that they have done since the beginning broadly and what has their incremental achievement over the past year been- could include one story of change perhaps d) who gave them money and how much to do their work e) how was this money spent and finally e) how can people reach you to support you.
- The above can be accomplished really easily.
What are the challenges to being publicly accountable?
- Different Donors want information in different formats all the time - true but the basics of what you do and how you have managed cannot change - therefore if that is in place, then its merely a question of adding the details in the manner that is sought
- Printing reports , taking photographs is expensive - true. Moving to an online medium is easier today than ever before and several tools in open source are available. Photographs can be taken by an simple phone- good quality of photographs and reports are NOT as important as whats in them and how proactive the organisation is in putting the information out there
- Not knowing what people want to read- true. A lot of time gets spent in creating reports on the assumption that people want to read the information being put out.best is to ASK - this is a GREAT way to get the information that will be consumed and more importantly communicates INTENT to be accountable which is also fantastic.
- Writing reports in English is difficult- true. Reports can be written in vernacular- a summary of the points above can be translated in English
- Impact is difficult to capture - sometimes its true- certainly on a yearly basis in some cases. However, its important to SHARE this and explain WHY it is so- that is good enough - alternately seeking help from the public to help you measure impact so that you can be held accountable is a great way to indicate that you are an honest transparent and proactively accountable organisation.