To support collective learning through improved documentation of SA, we introduce the Social Accountability Reporting Checklist and accompanying questionnaire to guide practitioners in their reporting of SA programs in dissemination and other public-facing materials, including case studies, blogs, project reports for donors, working papers and more. The checklist identifies key content to include in project documents and materials to facilitate decision making about use and adaptation in different settings, for different audiences and in various formats.
For example, one of the first checklist domains encourages the user to reflect on and describe how they understand and define their SA work. The checklist does not attempt to be comprehensive of all the information from a SA program or prescriptive; instead, it identifies the ‘must-have’ content that can foster reflection, tell the story, and communicate learnings with other practitioners, researchers, local stakeholders, and program funders.
What is social accountability?
Social accountability refers to the ways by which citizens and civil society groups hold the health system and its actors accountable for their commitments, and are being used more frequently in health programming in developing countries.
What do social accountability activities aim to do?
SA activities seek to raise awareness among community members of their rights around health and gaps in services, and empower communities to engage with actors (e.g., providers) in the health system to improve health programming and health outcomes. More broadly, they aim to change local power structures and increase the voices of people and communities in decision-making about the health system to improve health outcomes.
 Boydell V, Keesbury J: Social accountability: What are the lessons for improving family planning and reproductive health programs? Washington DC: Population Council Knowledge Commons; 2014. (2) Martin Hilber A: Mapping Social Accountability in Health. Background document for the Symposium on Social Accountability for Improving the Health and Nutrition of Women, Children and Adolescents. Geneva, Switzerland: PMNCH; 2018.
How do social accountability activities take place and what are some key challenges?
The implementation of SA requires a unique set of complex activities that engage communities and health system actors in collaborative activities involving many steps and different actors. Because of their complexity, SA activities are often adapted during implementation to produce the community and health outcomes they aim to achieve.
Practitioners working on SA are challenged by the diversity in how SA is defined, the wide variety of SA activities, and a lack of robust evidence on SA. The dearth of documentation about how social accountability (SA) programs are designed and implemented, and the difficulty in explaining how and why SA activities achieve their objectives, makes adoption, adaptation and use of effective SA activities challenging.