Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?

Empirical evidence of tangible impacts of social accountability initiatives is mixed. This meta-analysis reinterprets evaluations through a new lens: the distinction between tactical and strategic approaches to the promotion of citizen voice to contribute to improved public sector performance. Field experiments study bounded, tactical interventions based on optimistic assumptions about the power of information alone, both to motivate collective action and to influence the state. Enabling environments for collective action combined with bolstered state capacity to respond to citizen voice are more promising. Sandwich strategies can help ‘voice’ and ‘teeth’ to become mutually empowering, through state–society synergy.

World Development / Volume 72, August 2015, Pages 346–361 / Jonathan A. Fox