Listen First: a pilot system for managing downward accountability in NGOs

This article reports on a research project intended to develop systematic ways of managing downward accountability in an international NGO. Innovative tools were developed and trialled in six countries. The tools comprised a framework, defining downward accountability in practical terms, and three management processes. They were successfully used to (a) encourage staff to improve downward accountability in ways relevant to their context; (b) hear beneficiaries’ assessments of the level of accountability achieved and the value of the NGO’s work; and (c) generate quantified performance summaries for managers. Taken together, they form a coherent draft management system. Areas for further research are identified.