Let’s get vertical

February 7, 2017 | Joy Aceron and Francis Isaac

Transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) to make governments responsive and effective is a reform solution that has been popular in recent decades. A diverse range of TPA initiatives have shown mixed results; some worked, others failed. The gains made along the way varied from functional, to instrumental, to transformational. Solutions became problems requiring new solutions; sometimes, this led to innovations that distracted from fixing the basics.

So there is a need to sift through what works and what doesn’t, how and why. Our recent research report – Going Vertical – shines the spotlight on seven social accountability initiatives in the Philippines. It contributes to a growing body of knowledge which argues that strategic approaches are a promising route to delivering meaningful results from TPA initiatives. Strategic approaches, as described by Fox and Halloran, involve using multiple actions and tactics over time to achieve a goal, and an awareness of the complex and dynamic governance landscape, and the power shifts needed to achieve goals.

The research investigated how one strategic approach to citizen accountability - vertical integration – enabled seven reform initiatives in the Philippines to gain meaningful results. These initiatives all took place during a period when the goal of social accountability had strong traction in civil society, and an ecosystem of champions within government. But now, times have changed.

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