GPSA: Bridging the Gap Between What Citizens Expect and What Governments Do

August 11, 2015


About 150 fourth graders attend class outside near Lilongwe, Malawi, where only a fraction have textbooks.

© Josef S. Trommer/World Bank

  • The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) has exceeded expectations since the World Bank established the program in 2012, and works to build more citizen-centric governance in developing countries through social accountability mechanisms.
  • With the support of a growing group of donors and a network of over 260 global partners from civil society, government and the private sector, the GPSA is supporting 23 projects in 17 countries with a third Call for Proposals under way.
  • Recent contributions from donors include the Governments of Finland and the Dominican Republic, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Aga Khan Foundation and the World Bank – and others are in the works.

Until recently, the Government of Malawi faced difficulties tracking whether teaching and learning materials, such as textbooks, were delivered to schools in a timely manner. Monitoring teacher absenteeism – whether teachers even showed up at schools – was another serious concern.

Now with the click of a button, the Ministry of Education is receiving information about these service delivery problems in real time.

This is one example of the results that are being achieved in countries that have opted to take part in the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), a multi-donor program set up to address the disconnect between what citizens expect and what governments do. Sometimes called “the accountability gap,” this problem might manifest as schools without roofs, poor hospital care, dilapidated roads, or inadequate water supply.

The World Bank established the GPSA in 2012 with the purpose of bridging this gap, enhancing citizens’ voice and, just as importantly, supporting the capacity of governments to respond effectively to their voice.

Since its launch, the GPSA has been working with civil society, governments, and the private sector to help solve challenges such as these through strategic social accountability mechanisms.

The GPSA is based on constructive engagement between governments and civil society, in which citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) can engage with policymakers and service providers, generate information and align incentives to bring about greater accountability and responsiveness to citizens’ needs 

The GPSA is currently supporting 23 projects, through grants and capacity building, in countries ranging from Bangladesh to Ghana to Paraguay. In addition, an extensive knowledge and learning agenda allows GPSA grantees and other partners to enhance the implementation of social accountability interventions.

The GPSA operates with the support of more than 260 global partners and a growing group of donors. Most recently, the Government of Finland signed a contribution of €1 million in support of the program.

Other donors include the Dominican Republic, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and the Aga Khan Foundation. This growing support is only one signal of GPSA’s expanding strength and reach.

" We also know that governments who listen to, and work with, citizens can be more efficient and effective. Social accountability is the new normal in development. "

Mario Marcel

Senior Director for the Governance Global Practice

GPSA-funded projects operate in a range of sectors: health, education, social protection, water, and across issues such as public sector procurement and budget transparency. The GPSA’s Third Call for Proposals, which is seeking proposals that address strengthening civil society's capacities for social accountability, is open until August 12, 2015.

Through a country-tailored approach, it makes grants available to CSOs in any of the eligible countries that have chosen to opt-in to the program. Following a thorough review and selection process, the GPSA will award new grants by the end of this year.

In Malawi’s education sector, reforms are underway. Thanks to an alliance between several Malawian CSOs, the Ministry of Education and the GPSA, monitoring tools have been set in place to ensure that basic needs, such as textbook delivery and teachers’ attendance in schools, are met.

By establishing a new monitoring scheme, feedback is channeled in real time to all 12 education districts, enabling citizens to collaborate in solving problems that impact their children.

Malawi’s is just one example of how the GPSA can support civil society and governments to bridge the accountability gap.

In the words of Mario Marcel, Senior Director for the Governance Global Practice, “We know active engaged citizens are at the center of good governance. We also know that governments who listen to, and work with, citizens can be more efficient and effective. Social accountability is the new normal in development.”