August 11, 2009

Related research

Here are some of the major pieces of research that underpin our analysis, drawn from a wide literature on accountability in development.

Section 1: Foundational

David Ellerman: Helping People Help Themselves 2005
Foundational analysis of what it means for external actors to help people, drawing on eight philosopher-activists (including Freire). Ellerman argues that external actors have to be ‘helpers’ not ‘doers’: they do ‘development assistance’ not ‘development’.

Alan Kaplan: Understanding Development as a Living Process 2000
Passionate and experienced practitioner describes how "the central point of development is to enable people to participate in the governance of their own lives". One-off interventions and predesigned packages are beside the point: people have to participate in the governance of development interventions too.

Section 2: Problems

Tina Wallace: The Aid Chain 2006
Compelling evidence that results-based logic models are not effective tools for planning and reporting NGO work. "What is written is often divorced from reality, both at the planning and reporting stages of the cycle." Worse, logic models disempower field staff and beneficiaries.

Roger Riddell: Does Foreign Aid Really Work? 2007
Major synthesis of evaluations of official and NGO aid. Concludes that , after decades of trying, we don’t and can’t have the evidence to prove whether aid generates social change. Argues we should ask "how can aid work better?" instead.

Ebrahim & Weisband: Global Accountabilities 2007
Wide ranging and state-of-the-art academic review of accountability in relation to governments, NGOs and businesses. Concludes that new mechanisms of accountability are needed, with a strong leaning towards downward accountability in relation to international development.

Robert Chambers: Whose Reality Counts 1997
Very influential book about why development professionals so often get things wrong, because they do not listen well enough to the people they aim to help. Argues for the primary importance of participation.

Cooke & Kathari: Participation – The New Tyranny 2001
Critique of participation in practice, which argues that it often reinforces inequitable power structures, because practitioners do not give enough attention to power in local communities. Argues for more thoughtful participatory practice.

Chris Roche: Impact Assessment for Development NGOs 1999
Authoritative book, reporting on action research by major INGOs on impact assessment. Describes how impact is not objective but has to be negotiated between local actors. It is not easy to measure. "The results of impact assessment[s] … are insufficient on their own to make sensible decisions about resource allocation."

Irene Guijt: Critical Readings on Assessing and Learning for Social Change 2007
Extensive critical reading list of 97 texts about assessing / measuring social change. Guijt is critical of many established approaches (particularly results-based tools) and focuses on self-reflection as the basis for engaging in political changes.

Section 3: Solutions

Robert Chambers: Participatory Numbers 2007
A paper describing a ‘quiet revolution’ in how participatory techniques can generate quantified findings. They can be more reliable than major government censuses (e.g. in Malawi) and generate credible data for managers.

Terry Smutylo: Crouching Impact, Hidden Attribution 2001
Introduction of Outcome Mapping as an innovative, field tested approach to learning and accountability. Includes a sharp critique of established M&E models.

Patrick Kilby: Accountability for Empowerment 2006
Overview of debate on accountability in NGOs. Presents a method to quantify ’empowerment’ and uses it to generate evidence that better downward accountability leads to better performance in NGOs.

Keystone: A BOND Approach to Quality 2006
Research from across the UK NGO sector into what drives quality concludes that it is "primarily determined by the quality of relationships that [NGOs have] with their intended beneficiaries".

Thomas Goetz: Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops 2011
Article on feedback loops, as "a profoundly effective tool for changing behavior". Click here to read it.