Empowerment and Accountability Research Programme: Understanding Social and Political Action

2016-2021; Multi-country; DFID

DFID is committed to enabling citizens to have greater ‘voice, choice, and control’. Evidence of what works for the empowerment of citizens is patchy – DFID has commissioned a research programme to address some of the evidence gaps.

This research programme will produce operationally relevant and robust research to understand the effectiveness of social and political action for the empowerment of men and women and improved accountability of governments in different contexts.  It will compare and contrast the effectiveness of social and political action supported by external actors (donors) and that led uniquely by indigenous players.  It will have a particular focus on women’s social and political action and primarily investigate fragile and conflict affected states.  Over the course of the five year programme, our research will:

  • Synthesise existing evidence in a number of key areas including experience of indigenous social and political action and externally supported social and political action;
  • Prepare historical case studies to better understand foundational empowerment processes in selected developing countries and think through the lessons from this experience;
  • Through operational research, monitoring and evaluation of different social and political action, generate new evidence on what works for the empowerment of men and women.
  • Develop tools and guidelines for research, monitoring and evaluation of complex empowerment programmes.

The evidence generated is intended to inform future policy and programming in this area by DFID and other development organisations.  Our communications strategy will promote the use and uptake of research findings with DFID, in our selected focal countries, and internationally.

Itad is one of the core partners on this five year programme, working as part of a consortium led by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.  Our particular focus is better understanding the role external actors can play in supporting empowerment through social and political action.  Working with other members of the consortium, we will synthesise existing evidence in this area and generate new evidence through evaluating selected externally supported empowerment interventions.  We will also contribute to the development and implementation of the programme’s research uptake strategy, ensuring it appropriately targets external actors, providing them with research findings which they can easily apply in their policy and programming.

Thanks to our expertise in how to assess and improve operational impact in the areas of empowerment and accountability, we bring to this consortium a particular focus on the operational side of research, and are responsible for a) sharing knowledge and experience from our existing E&A implementation work, connecting the research and operational sides of DFID programmes; b) helping develop innovative evaluation and learning approaches about what works in E&A in different contexts; c) contributing, with partners, to generating new operationally relevant evidence which informs future policy and practice in E&A; d) further strengthening the bridge between E&A conceptual thinking and what is operationalised in the field.

For this assignment, we have mobilised a high-calibre team specialised in empowerment and accountability, gender, research and adaptive learning, and innovative monitoring and evaluation methodologies including process tracing.

Image © Training Families to Help Themselves. Photo Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development