DFID’s empowerment and accountability programming in Ghana and Malawi

DFID has made a strong commitment to promoting development by empowering citizens, and has pledged to support 40 million people. This review assesses DFID's work to support citizen engagement with government.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 11 October 2013
  3. Type: Other
  4. Subject: Civil society, Livelihoods and social protection
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Ghana, Malawi
  7. Lead commissioner: Diana Good

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We awarded a green-amber score and made three recommendations. We found that DFID had made a strong commitment to promoting development by empowering citizens, and pledged to support 40 million people.


The social accountability programmes we examined are achieving some promising results by empowering communities to engage, constructively, with government to resolve problems with the delivery of public services and development programmes. By contrast, support for advocacy by civil society organisations at the national level has had more limited impact and seems unlikely to generate significant improvements in government accountability.

We are concerned that, when designing its programmes, DFID tends to default to CSO grant-making, which is not always the most strategic option. We found that the most successful initiatives involved helping communities to build on existing capacities to find solutions which benefited both the community and the government service provider. Clearer and more realistic goals, with stronger criteria for delivery decisions, could help to maximise results.


  1. Promoting constructive community engagement with government around the delivery of public services and development programmes should be the principal focus of DFID’s social accountability programmes and a shared goal with its sector programmes. When scaling up successful social accountability initiatives, direct grants to national CSOs to work with local communities are likely to be more effective than competitive grant-making.
  2. DFID’s support for CSO advocacy and influencing at the national level should be more targeted, with smaller portfolios, longer partnerships and more tailored capacity building support.
  3. Future social accountability programmes should be designed with the flexibility to test different approaches and scale up successful initiatives. DFID’s central policy team should guide this process of structured learning and ensure the continuous sharing of lessons among country offices and managing contractors and with relevant sector programmes.


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Review publication

Published 11 October 2013

Government response

Published 4 November 2013

ICAI follow-up

Published 18 June 2015