An introduction to community scorecards

This is the first in the series of blog posts related to community scorecards.  These are based on learning from our work with the Citizen Engagement ProgrammeCESCN'weti and other partners in Mozambique using this tool.

An introduction to community scorecards

CARE Malawi pioneered the development of community scorecards as a tool in 2002 and provide the following introduction:

"The Community Score Card (CSC) is a two-way and ongoing participatory tool for assessment, planning, monitoring and evaluation of services.  It is easy to use and can be adapted into any sector where there is a service delivery scenario. The Community Score Card brings together the demand side (“service user”) and the supply side (“service provider”) of a particular service or program to jointly analyze issues underlying service delivery problems and find a common and shared way of addressing those issues. It is an exciting way to increase participation, accountability and transparency between service users, providers and decision makers."

The Community Score Card (CSC) - A generic guide for implementing CARE’s CSC process to improve quality of services (May 2013)

CSC are now widely adopted as a participatory governance approach for improving the implementation of quality services.

When are community scorecards useful?

Unicef highlight the following reasons for using CSC as a tool:

  1. Monitor and improvethe quality of services, facilities or projects
  2. Track inputs and expenditures (e.g. availability of drugs at a medical centre)
  3. Identify community-approved ‘benchmark performance criteria’ for resources and budgeting decisions
  4. Compare functioning, performance and satisfaction across facilities and districts
  5. Improve feedback and accountability loops between providers and users
  6. Link CSC findings with internal management and incentive systems of ministries and service providers
  7. Strengthen citizen voice and community empowerment – the reason for the community focus.

Challenges and considerations with community scorecards

Time - implementing a CSC process is time-consuming.  It can take a year or longer to complete one full cycle.  The time taken can vary significantly depending on the time needed to engage community and provider groups in the process.

Facilitation - the process requires strong facilitation skills from the implementing organisation.  The process is designed to raise problems with service delivery, which can lead to conflict or defensiveness among the participants.  It can also create expecations that the problems raised by participants will be resolved, which is not always achieveable.

Research by CARE and ODI also raised the following challenges:

  • CSC require high levels of engagement with, and working through, different levels of the state apparatus. For support based on the idea of civic engagement, this is a counter-intuitive finding.
  • Impacts are often ‘stuck’ at the local level and have only translated into national level impacts where they have plugged into existing reform processes.

Prof. Jonathan Fox (American University) draws the following conclusions from his analysis of broader evaluations around social accountability interventions (not limited to community scorecards):

  • How can citizen oversight efforts address the problem of “squeezing the balloon,” when anti- accountability forces redeploy or deflect challenges to their impunity?
    • There are often missing links between local community voice and national citizen policy/oversight 
    • Citizen oversight needs to scale up and vertically integrate to address accountability gaps throughout the governance “supply chain” 
  • [Social accountability interventions] will have more bite if voice is bolstered with “teeth” 
    • Few voice-led initiatives are coordinated with relevant governance reforms to encourage government responsiveness (i.e., audit/anti-corruption investigative bodies, information access reforms, ombudsman, access to courts, etc.)

How can I learn more?

We've reviewed some of the key publications related to this tool.  Each of the links below take you to the full text for download.

Getting started

The Community Score Card CoP - CARE

The CSC CoP is intended to bring together both new and seasoned development practitioners in order to advance CARE’s thinking on CSC methodology and practice.

The Community Score Card Process - Introducing the Concept and Methodology - Coady International Institute

This presentation by the Coady Institute gives an overview of the community score card methodology.

Citizen Report Card and Community Score Card - World Bank

This World Bank web page provides a brief overview of Community Score Cards and Citizen Report Cards. It highlights the differences between these two approaches and references some key resources for each approach as further reading.

The Community Score Card (CSC): A generic guide for implementing CARE’s CSC process to improve quality of services - CARE

This toolkit gives practical, step-by-step guidance on using the CSC approach. The toolkit is generic in nature and can be applied in any sector including health, education, water and sanitation, and agriculture.

Case studies

The community scorecard process: methodology, use, successes, challenges and opportunities - Plan International

This article covers the use and basic functions of the community scorecard process. It draws on lessons from the community-based monitoring project implemented by Plan Malawi, ActionAid and the Council for Non Governmental Organisations of Malawi (CONGOMA).

The Community Score Card Process in Gambia - World Bank

This is a Social Development note from the World Bank covering the Community Score Card Process in Gambia. It describes a CSC pilot project in Gambia that was carried out in two priority sectors of the PRSP – health and education.

Detailed operational guidance

Community Score Card Process - A Short Note on the General Methodology for Implementation - World Bank

This note provides an introduction to the community score card process describing it as a community based monitoring tool that is a hybrid of the techniques of social audit, community monitoring and citizen report cards.

Operational Manual for implementing the community scorecard process - Maharashtra Rural Water Supply and Sanitation 'Jalswarajya' project

This Operational Manual provides implementation guidelines for running community-based performance and expenditure tracking that can be included in the operations of the Maharashtra Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) “Jalswarajya” project.

Community scorecard manual: A social audit tool to monitor the progress of Viet Nam’s Socio-Economic Development Plan - Ministry of Planning and Investment and Unicef

This manual provides nine detailed modules covering the community scorecard tool.

Research and evaluation

When does community monitoring improve school performance? - iiG

This research from Uganda shows that community monitoring improved test scores and pupil and teacher attendance at low cost, but only when communities can choose the criteria by which they judge school performance. Monitoring programmes that assigned criteria centrally did not lead to any improvements. This innovative new study emphasises the importance of participation and coordination between parents and teachers for improving schools.

Social accountability - What does the evidence really say? - Global Partnership for Social Accountability

This working paper by Prof. Jonathan Fox explores the distinction between tactical and strategic approaches to the promotion of citizen voice to contribute to improved public sector performance. Policy discussion of social accountability initiatives has increasingly focused on questions about their tangible development impacts. The empirical evidence is mixed. Field experiments tend to study bounded, tactical interventions that rely on optimistic assumptions about the power of information alone both to motivate collective action and to influence public sector performance. More promising results emerge from studies of multi-pronged strategies that encourage enabling environments for collective action and bolster state capacity to actually respond to citizen voice. This reinterpretation of the empirical evidence leads to a proposed new series of grounded propositions that focus on state-society synergy and sandwich strategies through which 'voice' and 'teeth' can become mutually empowering.

CARE’s experience with Community Score Cards – What works and why? - CARE

This inception report from the Overseas Development Institute sets out a series of research questions for a study investigating CARE's experience with Community Score Cards.

CARE’s experience with Community Score Cards: What works and why? - synthesis report - CARE

This synthesis report gives detailed information and findings from research into the experience of CARE International in implementing Community Score Card programmes in four countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The political economy of community scorecards in Malawi - Overseas Development Institute

This research, supported by Plan, seeks to contribute to this evidence base, using political economy methods to understand how community scorecards have worked in Malawi and what some of the wider lessons might be.

Do you know of other useful resources?  If so, please let us know in the comments so we can review and include them too.

What data should I collect when implementing a community scorecard?

Many of the resources above provide detailed guidance around this tool.  However, few provide examples of the kind of forms you might use to collect data or the kind of indicators you could use to monitor your work.  To assist in this area we've assembled a toolkit with some example data collections forms and indicators to help get you started.  While it's critical to adapt these to your context, they should serve to give you an idea of what works in other contexts.

If you're working on a larger scale then you may be interested in how BetterData can support your work.  Our community scorecard app is designed to assist your facilitators in collecting data in the field.  This links directly to indicators and reports at the programme level.  Read our case study for more information or get in touch for a demo.