Accountability in Philanthropy

The Philanthropy sector in East Africa has been steadily working on building greater synergies and collaborations on the emerging pertinent matters that are collectively facing the sector. The stewardship of resources, the sourcing, utilization and accounting of these resources has been a thorny issue all across the sectors.Over the last 10 years practitioners in the CSO movement and particularly, grant making organizations have had to grapple with the term DynamicAccountability.

Although it is widely acknowledged that this term “dynamic accountability” is an evolving one, the common consensus is that Dynamic Accountability which is now defined as “a systemic approach to CSO accountability that is grounded in meaningful engagement with all stakeholders that is inclusive, participatory and continuous practice”; creates a transformational relationship between a CSO and its stakeholders, where missions are adaptive to all stakeholders’ needs and trust underpins all actions within the partnerships. Thereby, enhancing overall effectiveness of the work of development agents and the philanthropists that enable their work. The traditional concept of accountability has failed to achieve this transformation effectively and sustainably.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that philanthropy has to be swift towards showing up for communities around the world; and that while the grant-making process is often long and thorough for a reason, sometimes we have to expedite the process in order to do what grants do best i.e. help connect resources to the people who need them most. The process of setting up grants, collecting applications, selecting the right fits and then reporting on your results has been tested in these recent months. We have seen a lot of bravery and agility from grant-makers; coming up with solutions for the emerging emergencies in a creative, nimble, unhesitating and above all, compassionate nature. These unprecedented times have presented us with an even more suitable external environment for a reflective learning session on what works and what can be improved with regards to participatory grant-making systems.

In advancing adoption of intentional dynamic accountability practices within the philanthropy sector, the East Africa Philanthropy Network (EAPN) with regional and global collaborators has led series of consultative, engagement processes with the membership and the broader philanthropy sector. As such, the sessions have been designed to glean lessons for the future on how to set up and manage emergency grants with maximum efficiency, for maximum impact. The discussions have focused on the whole grant management cycle with special emphasis on how organizations are practicing:Inclusive decision-making processes and living the values of participatory grant-making and dynamic accountability.

Some of the lessons that have come through from the sessions so far include: Cautioning philanthropy development actors not to reinforce the power differentials permeating long held injustices and discriminatory practices.  The need for continuous financial flexibility and adjustments with the changing landscape especially in the time of the COVID19 pandemic couldn’t be greater, at the same time capacity development of the grantees is essential at all stages of grant management and in building a relationship of mutual trust. Good practice in building trust, reciprocity and effective communication should be embedded across all staff practices and organizational values. And finally, Grant makers recognize the need to be intentional in engaging in participatory grant-making and shifting the power to the very communities impacted by funding decisions. The examples and insights that have been shared by the diverse range of grant-makers, it is clear that while challenges exist in both the systems and practice of this approach to grant-making, the benefits will bring real and lasting positive changes toAfrica’s development. Participants agreed to continue striving to inculcate workable models of participatory grant-making, in keeping with the necessary evolution of the sector

The upcoming sessions in 2021 will be centered around how the sector can develop and apply the principles of dynamic accountability in the grant making practices, learning from good practices around the globe that can postulate lessons and guidance on how to inculcate these in practices, policies and action. The end goal is to developEast Africa-specific principles of dynamic accountability which can support the philanthropy sector be more accountable.