Supporting Social Accountability Campaigns with Sample-Based Observation

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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The National Democratic Institute’s (NDI’s) guide on Supporting Social Accountability Campaigns with Sample-Based Observation is a resource for social accountability advocates to determine when and how to utilize sample-based observation (SBO) to strengthen their advocacy campaigns where processes can be independently observed, objectively measured and are large enough in scale to be sampled. While social accountability campaigns frequently employ evidence collected through citizen engagement to drive responsive reforms, this guide focuses on adapting proven methods used by citizen observer groups to collect and use statistical data to enhance advocacy.

Around the world, civil society organizations have employed SBOs for over two decades to monitor elections, providing objective and accurate information, giving hundreds of thousands of citizens oversight of the process, and amplifying citizen call for evidence-based reform. Drawing lessons from election SBOs, this guide explores how SBO can potentially be integrated into social accountability campaigns addressing a range of issues from public health, to education, to access to justice. While the SBO methodology has many benefits -- including accurately measuring problems, illuminating solutions, framing messaging, and building citizen voice and organizational capacities, it is not appropriate for all strategies, campaigns, or organizations.

This guide outlines key considerations for advocates of social accountability campaigns, including: applicability with the campaign strategy; preconditions; working in partnerships; sampling methodology; data collection and analysis; and volunteer management. The guide also explores effective advocacy and communication planning, such as early engagement with public officials and impacted community members, building a tailored outreach plan, and dynamic uses of SBO findings. Additionally, it highlights lessons from social accountability SBOs conducted in Serbia and Tunisia. The strategies and lessons in this guide aim to expand the tools available to social accountability advocates to be more effective and impactful in supporting citizen calls for change.

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