Do They Work?: Assessing the Impact of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives in Service Delivery

Date and Time

July 19, 2011

7:00 am to 8:30 am


by Anuradha Joshi, Fellow in Governance and Public Policy, Institute of Development Studies, SussexAbstract: In the past decade, strengthening public accountability is emerging as a key strategy for improving public services.  Increasingly, debates about strengthening accountability have focused on two types of initiatives: (a) increasing government transparency – bringing previously opaque information or processes into the public domain and b) and ‘social accountability’—broadly defined as citizen-led action for demanding accountability from providers.  The popularity of such initiatives has also raised important questions about impact.  Does increasing transparency or supporting social accountability initiatives lead to outcomes we desire?  What are the assumed links through which these impacts are expected to occur?  Drawing on a paper commissioned by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, Dr. Joshi will outline the available evidence on the impact of such initiatives in the field of public service delivery.  The main argument is that there is not enough evidence to identify the conditions under which such initiatives work and have impact.  The reasons for this are several:  vagueness about what an initiative means; the fragmented nature of the evidence, lack of systematic attention to impact, and few comparative studies that focus on the identification of key enabling factors.