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From functional to social accountability: Transforming the accountability relationship between funders and non-governmental development organisations

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2007
<mark>Journal</mark>Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Volume20
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)446-471
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to analyse the evolving nature of the accountability relationship between a group of Irish non-governmental development organisations (NGDOs) and their primary governmental funder. Design/methodology/approach - The examination is undertaken in the context of a unique funder-led initiative to instil a broad social accountability focus among NGDOs while re-orienting the NGDO-funder accountability dynamic towards a partnership-based approach - whereby the accountability entity would effectively be a supra-organisation comprising the funder and the NGDOs. The empirical content of the paper is derived from a series of in-depth interviews with senior individuals working within the Irish NGDO sector, along with a comprehensive analysis of documentary sources. Findings - The partnership rhetoric central to promoting the enhanced focus on social accountability across the "virtual" accountability supra-organisation has not been transformed into reality, and the NGDO-funder accountability relationship within the supra-organisation remains centred on control and justification. A lack of resources, organisational commitment, guidance, and expertise from the governmental funder has contributed to an attitude of scepticism among many NGDOs towards both the partnership rhetoric and the accompanying adoption of the central tenets of social accountability, particularly downward accountability to beneficiaries. Research limitations/implications - The research is based on a detailed analysis in a specific context which may limit its wider applicability. Nevertheless, it adds insights to the developing academic literature on NGO accountability, with particular reference to their broader social accountabilities. Practical implications - Although highly context-specific, the findings of the study will be useful to researchers and policy makers interested in understanding how NGDO-funder accountability relationships can move towards mutual accountability and genuine partnerships focused on promoting social accountability. Originality/value - Very few in-depth academic examinations of the evolving nature of NGDO-funder accountability relationships in specific NGO contexts have emerged in the accountability literature. Many of the insights in this paper are derived from individuals inside organisations in the NGDO sector who are regularly addressing issues of accountability, both social and otherwise. This provides in-depth, highly-informed insider perspectives on the evolving nature of these relationships, especially in the context of attempts to promote more partnership-based approaches to the delivery of development aid. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.