Accountability to the Community

May 21, 2013

Guest Post by Lily Thorpe-Buchanan, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

Some of the most meaningful discussions we had during our weekend workshop, Community Social Change, were surrounding the idea of “downward accountability.” This, essentially, means maintaining accountability to the community you are serving. Although I’m not a fan of the phrase, the idea behind it, in my opinion, should be the idea driving all development work. We explored this idea in a number of ways during our time with Aaron and Adam, including when we mapped concepts of community social change, and in exploration of a number of case studies surrounding the Andean Alliance. This is one of the things I also appreciate most about Adam and Aaron and the Andean Alliance as a whole, as they seem to adhere to this as a key value underlying everything they do within the organization, which is illustrated by Aaron’s story of turning down a large grant because the work was not in line with what the community needed.

In considering this theme of accountability, I find myself with more questions than answers. How do other organizations maintain this “downward accountability?” It seems like much of this comes from the relationship and trust one builds with the community, but especially for far-reaching organizations, that have programs all over the world, and high turn-around rates for individuals in each location, this is a huge challenge. Should more work be trusted to smaller, grassroots organizations, like the Andean Alliance? How would this impact capacity, and the very nature of the smaller organizations?

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Our mission is to provide and implement sustainable programs and projects in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Sacred Valley of Perú in an effort to improve their lives and reduce poverty in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Furthermore, we work to support local NGOs with whom we have shared values using the skills and tools we possess.