Social Accountability 3.0: Engaging Citizens to Increase Systemic Responsiveness

128 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2023 Last revised: 16 Apr 2024

Date Written: July 19, 2023


Abstract: Social accountability has become increasingly important to development programming since the 2004 World Development Report spearheaded the first generation. In 2016, Thomas Carothers synthesized global experts’ perspectives on what became known as the second generation. With an evolving global context, new research and evaluations and tacit knowledge on how those assumptions played out in practice, the time is ripe for asking what the evidence since 2004 says about what the social accountability’s next generation might look like? This meta-analysis takes stock of that knowledge through a systems lens and presents what “social accountability 3.0” might look like. It draws on a database of 150+ cases of initiatives implemented by different civil society organizations around the world and the lived experience of practitioners. Scholarly debates present practitioners’ options in binary terms, contrasting 1.0 minimalist and 2.0 maximalist options. The review finds that this binary is inaccurate; it masks practitioners’ diverse interpretations of 2.0 and range of feasibility considerations. Instead, work in the last decade looks more like a mosaic. By opening up the analysis to the broader range of evidence, and reflecting more critically on scholars’ assumptions, a more adaptable middle path for a possible 3.0 emerges. Its key outcomes include contributing to systemic responsiveness and an operational mechanism to rework the social contract.

Keywords: social accountability, development, systems, responsiveness, accountability, social contract

JEL Classification: PSN: Other International Development Efforts & Strategies

Suggested Citation

Guerzovich, Maria F. and Aston, Tom, Social Accountability 3.0: Engaging Citizens to Increase Systemic Responsiveness (July 19, 2023). Available at SSRN:

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