The ‘Social accountability in the delivery of social protection: Enabling environment’ webinar was held on 21 June 2018, the final webinar in a series focused on social accountability in the delivery of social protection. It considered some aspects of the enabling environment for social accountability in social protection. Specifically, the discussion focused on legal and policy dimensions, and the role of technology.

The webinar was organised by HelpAge International and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG). It was moderated by Alice Livingstone (Social Protection Adviser at HelpAge International), alongside speakers Isobel Frye (Director, Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, South Africa), Tabitha Hrynick (Research Officer) and Linda Waldman (Research Fellow) both of the Health and Nutrition Cluster, of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. 


The webinar recording is available here and the presentation here.


Human Rights, legal and policy frameworks for social accountability in social protection

Isobel Frye presented the Socio-Economic Rights (SER) Monitoring Tool developed by the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII). SPII is a non-profit research and advocacy think tank, which focuses on generating new information and analysis on the drivers and solutions to poverty and inequality in South Africa and the wider region. 

The SER Monitoring Tool was developed to monitor access to socio-economic rights within the framework of the South African Constitution and the UN International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNESCO). Isobel presented the three-step SER Monitoring Tool through a case study of the right to education in South Africa:


Step one: Policy Analysisof the instruments giving rise to and providing content for the right to a basic education in South Africa, such as the South African Constitution of 1996, UN ICESCR, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 11 of the African Union's African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Policy analysis followed the 4 A’s Framework for rights-based policies, in assessing whether education is available (functioning educational institutions and programmes), accessible (without discrimination, and physically and economically accessible), acceptable (the form and substance of education must be relevant, appropriate and accessible), adaptable (flexible enough to adapt to the needs of changing societies and communities).  


Step two: Budget Analysis of the national, provincial (equitable share) and conditional (infrastructure) grant spending from 2005/6 – 2016/17. Budget analysis considered both personnel v non-personnel expenditure and used government statistics


Step three: Monitoring and evaluation. A robust process of developing indicators involved a large number of stakeholders, including experts, academics, civil  society and governments. Indicators were developed under three categories: Access – the extent to which children and school-aged youth are able to attend schools that are physically and economically accessible to them and that they are able to attend such schools free from discrimination on prohibited grounds. Adequacy indicators measured the adequacy of inputs that national and provincial governments provide to learners at school. Quality indicators largely focused on educational outcomes. 

Isobel concluded that for SER monitoring to be effective, it is critically important to have an accountability framework in place and combine it with transparent and robust data analysis. The participation of stakeholders is very important as well. They found this tool to be a very useful way to make social and economic rights real in terms of influencing the allocation of resources in a non-politicised way.


Technology and enabling environments for social accountability in health

Tabitha and Linda from IDS presented their research from the ‘Making All Voices Count Initiative’, which involved social accountability projects across Africa and Asia. There was considerable enthusiasm regarding the potential of information communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance citizen engagement and accountability, especially in the health sector.

The research focused on seven projects (five in Africa – Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania – and two in Indonesia) to explore the factors that helped create (or hinder) enabling environments for social accountability. The projects used technology in different ways, includingremotely soliciting citizen feedback by SMS on health service experiences, collecting data from citizens offline (survey), training citizens to use apps or social media to make reports and analysing and/or adding legitimacy to large amounts of complex data. 

Linda presented a real example of how technology was used in the ‘Mobile Mapping for Women’s Health’ project in Tanzania, mapping the actions and results of individual citizens, civil society actors, data validation sessions and community dialogue sessions, as show below:



Although there were positive outcomes, there were some challenges associated with the use of technology. Some civil society participants lacked expertise with technology and also found it challenging to navigate differences in vision and expectations with the app developer. There was an unforeseen need for adaptive learning and design as a result of unforeseen technical challenges, however this had been hindered by limited time frames and donor inflexibility 

Tabitha and Linda described how preliminary research and using simple, free to use, feature phones had helped to optimize the app designs and promote inclusion. Offline engagement also helped to build awareness and trust of the technology, and ensure it was acceptable and relevant. 

While tech-based surveys and SMS had been useful to gain feedback from communities about health services, offline trainings and discussion groups were also important complements to tech-based engagement. 

They concluded by saying that technology offered potential to enhance social accountability by providing timely information, while enhancing citizen engagement to improve health services. However, an existing relationship of trust between the state and citizens generates greater positive change. Therefore, technology can be positively incorporated into social accountability if there is a productive and trusting relationship between the government and its citizens.



This blog post is part of the Social Accountability Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by IPC-IG and HelpAge International on the topic. Please join the Social accountability in the delivery of social protection online community if you are interested in following the most recent discussions on the topic. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!