If describing, in one word, what the International Civil Society Centre does it could be “convening”. Its task is to bring people together to share experiences, mutually exchange ideas and solve shared problems. But simply describing the meaning of convening would not do the Centre justice in terms of its results – and especially not for the people and organisations that it brings together.
With the Global Standard for CSO Accountability the Centre took on its biggest international project so far. Over a period of 3 years we convened nine accountability initiatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. They started to work together by comparing their individual accountability codes, see where these overlap and identify gaps where their counterpart already had expertise they might not. Every initiative came with its own set of strengths and together they brought an enormous set of experiences from this field to the table.
Two years later, after intense discussions and several consultation processes these nine initiatives developed a common accountability reference standard for the civil society organisationsector which captures a globally shared, dynamic understanding of accountability. The nine came to the conclusion that in order to increase the impact of their members, what they and other accountability initiatives really need is to strengthen the focus in their systems on listening to beneficiaries, stakeholder dialogue and closing the feedback loop.
Because accountability is about more than just writing a project report at the end of the year and analysing what was done well and what can be improved. It is about being in constant dialogue with your stakeholders about what they want, what they have to offer and how you can work together with them effectively. This understanding of accountability is at the heart of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. We call it by a term that was introduced by Restless Development, who is a member of Accountable Now, one of the developers of the Global Standard: ‘Dynamic Accountability’.
But the story of the initiatives that were brought together by this project does not end here. The Global Standard is only at the beginning of a long journey. While being in the process of implementing what they created, the initiatives the project brought together and other organisations along the way are in the process of forming a global and diverse movement that not just promotes, but also aims to live Dynamic Accountability. The Global Standard is the tool that brings together actors interested in this approach.
This collective movement turned out to be a necessary step in order to make this accomplishment sustainable. Working with and on this global reference standard needs to be an ongoing process that always questions itself and is responsive to the feedback it receives. The codes, or practices of accountability initiatives should not be set in stone – or in this case on paper and a pdf document.
For us at the Centre it is incredible to see how the people we brought together used their collective potential. They created innovation in the accountability landscape of civil society and will continue to do so in the future.