Digital Accountability

Empowered relationships – leveraged impact

Executive Summary

The digital opportunity

The digital age fundamentally transforms the way in which people relate to organisations. Central to the new engagement practice is that organisations actively invite others to act, connect and contribute to the shared cause. Emerging strategies of civil society organisations (CSOs) building on this paradigm are often called people-powered strategies. They focus on facilitating and amplifying other people’s and partner’s actions and voices to leverage impact. This not only increases the pool of resources, skills, capacities and capabilities that CSOs can build on; it also increases stakeholder ownership and thus the chances of transformative impact.

Accountability is key to success

For these new strategies to work however, CSOs need to radically review their accountability culture and practice. Accountability, understood as an active and positive stakeholder relationship management with a focus on achieving the shared mission – is absolutely strategic to success of people-powered strategies.

The Digital Accountability project

The People-Powered Accountability project, initiated and facilitated by the Accountable Now, aims to identify and mainstream accountability practices that help CSOs seize the digital opportunity of people-powered work approaches. Thought leaders in our group come from ICSOs such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Transparency International and digital CSOs such as 38 Degrees,, Purpose and Tactical Technology Collective in addition to several others.

Key findings

We found interesting trends of a new and emerging accountability paradigm that fully underpins and propels people-powered work approaches in the digital age. They include among others: ask stakeholders where you add greatest strategic value for them; share power – share responsibility; open your books for in-time transparency; move from quantity to quality relationships; ask stakeholders to continuously evaluate your impact; and be prepared to take more risk where it allows greater stakeholder engagement.

This paper sheds light on the new engagement culture in the digital age. It identifies opportunities and challenges for CSOs that follow a people-powered work approach. Most importantly it highlights emerging accountability practices to support this new model for greater stakeholder ownership and leveraged impact. It provides numerous concrete examples. Furthermore, a number of one-page user briefs for specific functions in CSOs that want to put this model into practice, will be published on a later stage. It is a living document and we would appreciate your feedback to develop it further!