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Accountability in action – the people management perspective

Emmanuelle Lacroix | 07th July 2015

Following the launch of the CHS Alliance in Nairobi, I took part in a field visit, organised by our colleagues at ActionAid Kenya, to see accountability in action and hear feedback from community members, the main stakeholders of the quality and accountability agenda.

The trip gave me a very timely and invaluable learning opportunity to join theory and practice. It also put into perspective one of the key messages we heard at the launch of the CHS Alliance on how proximity is one of the key drivers for accountability.

My learning started from the moment our car left Nairobi thanks to the insightful conversations I had with my fellow passengers, all M&E and accountability experts from various member agencies.  As we travelled through the amazing landscape of Kenya and crossed the equator, as the only HR person of the trip, I was reminded that good people management and HR practice directly relate to the accountability agenda and therefore the role HR ought to play in embedding of the CHS in our organisations:

  • the use of good HR data and relevant KPIs to ensure audit findings and learning are not only captured but embedded in programmes’ design and reviews;
  • the need to ensure staff understand the principles of accountability, within their team and towards the communities they aim to support, through relevant and on-going training and capacity building activities;
  • the right leadership and organizational structure to ensure the lessons captured are actually truly learned and applied;
  • the importance of engagement and giving a voice to all stakeholders (staff and communities alike).

Take the impacts of high turn-over, poor leadership or weak organizational design: it goes far beyond the HR sphere as it impacts programme delivery and an organization’s commitments to the communities they work with. For instance, the loss of developed talent at time of restructure must be captured because workforce planning is directly linked to operational effectiveness (or lack of!).

The right use of people management data therefore enables us to write a powerful narrative to influence programme design, the developing of relevant ways of working, and ultimately delivery for greater impacts. This also supports a learning organization where accountability is mainstreamed throughout, and understood and owned by all in ways relevant to them.

As HR and people management professionals, let’s remember we do know a fair lot about accountability, participative methodologies and stakeholders voice: these are embedded in our organisations’ disciplinary & grievances policies, staff engagement surveys, consultation processes, the use of 360 feedback and coaching/mentoring in performance management – to name but a few.

And to reassure us, it does not necessarily require complex new models and systems. Agencies like Retrak, a street children agency operating in East Africa, demonstrate how these principles can be translated into practical HR activities when they involve children in recruitment process – find out more on this by reading our recent case study about this practical approach to HR and accountability.

The CHS is a tool, our standard to be owned by all in our organizations as we contextualize and embed its principles so they become ultimately invisible as it lives in an organisation’s systems, guidelines and ways of working.

As I write this, I remember the stories I heard during this trip: from our driver Ibrahim, telling us stories of bandits trying to hijack cars whilst he was driving; from Elisabeth explaining how the irrigation project in Kakili has enabled her and her family to sustain their farm production and diversify their crops, and to become self-sufficient and secure revenue from selling their surplus.

This is to me what accountability in action means for me – supporting our staff with the right policies, rewards and support mechanisms, and respecting communities’ dignity in designing with them programmes that will meet their needs.

For more information on the launch of the CHS Alliance read our press release here.

What does accountability in action mean to you? Share your thoughts with us!

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