On 18th January 2018,  the first in a three part webinar series focused on the role of social accountability in social protection took place. This was the first time that experts and practitioners from across the globe had been brought together to discuss this important topic. 

Social accountability is an approach to building accountability in which citizens are the key actors. More specifically, it refers to ‘the extent and capacity of citizens to hold the state and service providers accountable and make them responsive to the needs of citizens and beneficiaries’. Social accountability is important for social protection for at least three reasons:

  1. It helps programmes function effectively by: reducing error, fraud and corruption; ensuring that social protection recipients receive the right amount of cash regularly, reliably and accessibly; and helping to improve policy design.
  2. Social accountability also contributes to broader efforts to strengthen state-society relations.
  3. Finally, having a voice on issues that affect our lives is central to our dignity and self worth and is fundamental to rights-based social protection.

The webinar was co-hosted by HelpAge International and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

Government delivery and citizen demand

The first speaker was Tamsin Ayliffe, an independent social protection consultant, and the team leader of a recently completed DFID-funded research project carried out by Development Pathways on Social Accountability in the Delivery of Social Protection. Tamsin highlighted how, as social protection beneficiaries are usually poorer, more vulnerable and more politically marginalised than the average citizen, this often constrains the capacity of citizens to hold the state and service providers accountable for the delivery of social protection. However, she described how despite this, failure to deliver cash can actually drive citizen demand for accountability, particularly as this is a very tangible failure on the part of the government. Turning to the government side, Tamsin described how in low-income countries institutional capacities are often weak in the social protection sector, and decision-making centralised, which limits the capacity of the government to respond to citizens.


Civil society approach to social accountability in social protection: the case of SAGE, Uganda

The second speaker was Emily Kemigisha, Country Representative for HelpAge International, Uganda. She talked about the importance of social accountability for creating demand for the expansion of social protection and for improving implementation in existing schemes. Emily described their approach in Uganda, which focuses on older people’s right to social security, in the context of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Scheme, which exists under the Expanding Social Protection (ESP) Programme. This involves working with multiple stakeholders including citizens and broader civil society, to build demand for social protection.

Collaboration with government to support the development of relevant policy frameworks and implementation procedures is also essential for achieving long-term change.She highlighted the importance of engaging political leaders to enact relevant laws and policies, and to influence budget allocations. Emily finished by describing how social accountability cannot compensate for a poorly designed or implemented social protection scheme, citing the current limited coverage of SAGE, unclear eligibility criteria, and delayed payments, in this regard.

Government approach to social accountability in social protection: the case of PROSPERA, Mexico

The final speaker was Jaime Gutiérrez, Director General of Monitoring and Planning at the Prospera Programa de Inclusión Social, Mexico. Jaime presented the social accountability approach of PROSPERA which follows four principle features:

  1. Citizen participation mechanisms
  2. Accountability orientated
  3. Transparency promotion
  4. Fight against corruption

These principles are set within the legal framework of Mexico’s Political Constitution. He went on to describe one of the main citizen participation mechanisms, ‘Community Promotion Committees’, and the role of committee leaders (Vocales) in promoting the participation of PROSPERA beneficiaries and their families. In particular, he noted their right to raise issues with the operations and legal staff of the programme. Jaime also talked about the ‘Sentinel Point’ initiative being run by PROSPERA, which is an annual nationwide survey to assess the perspective of beneficiaries of the PROSPERA programme.

The webinar session finished with participants answering questions from the online audience. The webinar was moderated by Alice Livingstone, Social Protection Adviser, HelpAge International.

Next in the Webinar Series

The next webinar on social accountability in social protection will take place on 1st March and will explore in more depth the different approaches to social accountability, the social protection design principles which strengthen accountability, issues of sustainability and scale up, and inclusion and accessibility of accountability mechanisms. 

The final webinar will take place on 29th March and will consider the enabling environment for social accountability in areas such as legal frameworks, international conventions and instruments, the willingness and capacity of state actors to respond, and the role of information systems and technology in accountability.

For further information, please contact: [email protected]


Watch the webinar recording here!


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!

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social assistance - General
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Benefits payment/delivery
  • Feedback and complaints mechanisms
  • Governance
  • Programme design and implementation
  • Social Protection Floor (SPF)
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Human rights
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's