As people take a more active role in shaping activities, they also become more accountable themselves. This is good to increase ownership. But for it to work, the organisation needs to be crystal clear on what stakeholders can and cannot decide – what is and is not people-led. Despite all people-power, there is still an important stewardship role for organisations to play to ensure overall effectiveness and integrity. CSOs are probably best where bottom-up people’s interests are facilitated and coincide with globally coordinated action. But people need to know the exact terms of engagement. When will an organisation prioritise the stewardship over the people-led approach and how will they ensure it is well within the mandate of their supporters?
Avaaz recently asked its members if they should take their feedback religiously or use it as a guide and 75% voted for the latter option. Campact members decide what to campaign on, but only within the limits of the organisations’ codified value base. UAViators has formulated a code of conduct that ensures minimal mutual accountability of all participants in the network but sets all else free. The model is always the same: people are given more freedom to shape outcomes but within a clearly identified space and terms of engagement. In Wikipedia, they have an interesting first tier of distributed accountability. The community is invited to persuade any violators to adhere to the agreed quality standards which allows communities themselves to become the first guardian of the organisation’s accountability to the outside world.