Social Accountability: 1 of 6 Building Blocks in a Social Change Framework

Posted on July 21, 2014 by


The Language of Social Accountability. Can you put words to desired outcomes?

COMING TO TERMS.  Wittgenstein argued that language shapes what is possible. In terms of Social Accountability, can we do better at linking actions and expectations to concrete outcomes?

It’s not unusual to grapple with accountability in both our organizations and our personal lives. More often than not, it’s about taking ownership and following through on commitments.

So what makes accountability is social ecosystems so difficult?

For starters, it’s a numbers game. A community has lots of people with lots of different opinions. That diversity of thinking can foster resilience but it can also block consensus, making it hard to establish common ground.  Add the nuances of culture and language, and it’s no wonder social change is fraught with confusion. It’s a virtual Tower of Babel. Just ask America’s Founding Fathers; even with shared interests and goals, finding a viable long-term structure them took decades.

Not everyone loves semantics, I know. But to me, if you can’t define a problem, you can’t solve it.

So I did some digging, including a look at our 6/25 #socialchange transcript.  Here’s a synopsis of that digging, including ideas from tweets surfacing last time. Think of them as “building blocks” ..

  • Stakeholders. Anyone who is part of a social change ecosystem, but often refering to beneficiaries.
  • Value. A defined, expected, and/or realized gain of a desired outcome or resource.
  • Social Accountability. Being answerable to stakeholders in a community or ecosystem.
  • Objectives. Specific outcomes reflecting increased stakeholder value, aligned w/ a stated charter, vision, or social contract.
  • Mutuality. Acting or reacting in the interest of supporting shared values or goals, aka common ground.
  • Social Change Framework. A way of delivering stakeholder value in an ecosystem, w/ mutually agreed accountabilities and objectives.

Some traction, perhaps? Props to Steven Abbott, Alasdair Munn, Cathryn Hrudicka and Paul Ellis for their tweeted inputs that influenced these definitions. Let me know what resonates most.

In fact, that sounds like a good chat question. On WEDS 7/23, let’s proceed along these lines next:

  • Q1. Which of our 6 #socialchange definitions resonate, and where would you focus or fine tune?
  • Q2. What significant #socialchange gaps are evident from this framing?
  • Q3. What steps might we take to close #social #accountability gaps?
  • Q4. Does our “solution language” (= framework) outline common #socialchange elements? Or must we always reinvent wheels?
  • Q5. What new #socialchange building blocks require definition (i.e., what’s missing)?

I am very excited about the progress we make each 4th WEDS as we discuss the possibilities of #socialchange at #smchat. Join us this WEDS 7/23 at 1pm ET as we advance our collective thinking.

Bring your ideas, questions and examples, and we’ll see you there!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)