Last year we asked for feedback on three draft substrategies to guide our transparency, participation, and accountability grantmaking. We received feedback from 17 organizations. Their comments prompted valuable discussions among our team and helped refine our substrategies, which are available below in English, Spanish and French.
What follows is a brief summary of how each program officer responded to feedback and incorporated changes to the final substrategies. Each of the following points may only make sense when read within the context of the corresponding substrategy. We include them here as an earnest demonstration of our commitment to advance the transparency, participation, and accountability field based on the ideas and insights of those that do the hard work to promote active citizenship and accountable governments.
We clarified our approach to enhancing resource mobilization efforts by governments. Our interest is in enhancing citizen participation in tax/revenue mobilization policy design and implementation. Support for government revenue mobilization falls outside of our strategy and we’ve removed this language in the final version.
We added an additional learning question on taxation and public attitudes: Does knowledge about the relationship between taxation and improved quality of public services contribute to attitudes and behaviors that increase compliance and revenue collection?
We acknowledge that current international standards do not address the need to publish the budgets of individual public service delivery units. However, we believe that by strengthening the ability of citizens to engage their local governments around service delivery challenges, we will be able to learn more about resource allocation at specific service delivery units. We have seen examples of this in Uganda and elsewhere where details of school and health clinic budgets are publicly displayed.
A reviewer suggested that citizens not only need information about issues they care about and can use, but that the information is also seen as credible. We agree and have clarified this in the final version.
A number of commenters asked us to be more specific about the excluded groups that we are targeting. The final version is more specific and acknowledges that we have more to learn about how gender and other forms of exclusion intersect to affect when citizens speak, when their voices are heard, and whether they are able to influence governance decisions.
We added details about the linkages between our Fiscal Transparency and Service Delivery Monitoring substrategies. We expect that the work under our fiscal openness strategy will help to create the conditions for the goals of this strategy in three ways. First, global norms of fiscal transparency create common expectations about what information should be publicly available. Second, organizations that implement social accountability programs can benefit from the information produced through analytical tools and advocacy efforts of organizations with budget expertise. Third, we hope that more opportunities will emerge for collaboration between social accountability and fiscal transparency groups.
A number of reviewers expressed surprise that the substrategy does not include efforts to monitor or strengthen parliaments. While we recognize in the introduction the importance of representative legislators, our efforts focus on improving the performance of the administrative state in its delivery of public services. We appreciate the complementary efforts of legislative transparency and parliamentary monitoring groups.
We added an additional learning question: When officials and service providers address grievances, to what extent does greater responsiveness lead to a higher willingness to pay for services among citizens?
We added a note about the importance of promoting norms of active citizenship among youth even before they reach the age (typically 18) when the government gives them full rights as a citizen to vote, pay taxes, and receive services.
Our final substrategies are stronger thanks to the feedback we received. They will guide our grantmaking and our own learning over the next few years. In the coming months, we will publish the final version of our fourth and final substrategy on learning, led by Alfonsina Peñaloza, that will shape how our grant dollars can support exploration, experimentation, and exchange. We’ve also hired independent evaluators from Itad to help us refine what we hope to learn, question our assumptions, evaluate our strategy, and recommend ways we can do better. They’ll be working with us over the next few years, helping us learn from the practical experience and insights of our grantees and others.