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Social Accountability in Ethiopia: The Power of Feedback Loops

Last month, I had the opportunity to learn from Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Associations (CCRDA) and its partner Harmee Education for Development Association (HEfDA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia about their work to leverage the power of feedback and accountability through a process called Social Accountability.

In Social Accountability, users of public services are educated about their rights to service and given a way to voice their needs and demands in a way that holds the service providers and policymakers accountable. The process supports service users and service providers to discuss challenges and to improve the services by supporting ways for people to provide feedback directly to improve the use of these public resources.

The HEfDA Social Accountability project started in 2016, and while still in early days, it appears to be a positive force for change. A story published by HEfDA provides this example. “People in Qersa town once called an ambulance driver to take a patient to Assela (nearby town). While they were standing by the side of the ambulance, the driver said he was in Assela [with the ambulance]. The people gathered some other witnesses and charged him with cheating, and the driver admitted he had been acting unprofessionally. Feedback on the quality of the ambulance service was collected from the community, and it was finally decided that instead of the drivers, another person should receive the call of people who need ambulance services. The drivers were made to be [on] standby and stay near the ambulance all the time. After this decision, ambulance service has improved.”

“Mamo Yadeto, Project Coordinator said, ‘When the project was implemented, the community began to meet and rank the services provided by the civil servants working in various sectors. Using what is called a Community Score Card, civil servants were evaluated and were given points from zero up to ten.’” By using this tool, citizens are able to monitor the quality, access, efficiency and effectiveness of service providers.

As a student and promoter of the concept of feedback loops, this is exciting! Through this process, people are now empowered to provide feedback and take next steps to ensuring their safety and health. The feedback is taken seriously by the community and acted on. It has teeth.

And even better, the process engages the public and health service providers to work together to create solutions that improve the quality of service. It has wings.

To learn more about this work, please see this publication by HEfDA.


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