Introduction to Community Based Monitoring

Goals: 

  • Advocating for open, transparent and accountable governance by promoting civic engagement to realise socio economic rights
  • Civil society organisations, particularly Community Based Organisations including Advice Offices, have improved skills to implement Community Based Monitoring (CBM) towards the realisation of socio economic rights, ensuring accountable governance and improved and effective public service delivery.

Objectives: 

40 government service sites monitored by Community Partners (CPs) practicing CBM, ensuring women’s priorities are considered & addressed, for improved & more responsive service delivery  with 4 government service sectors: SASSA & Health (service users majority women), Local Government and Home Affairs.

The Black Sash model of Community Based Monitoring is an excellent example of how civil society can contribute both to improved service delivery and to democratic governance. Improved service delivery is achieved through facilitating state-community partnerships to monitor and enhance programme implementation at the level of the service centre. Improved democracy is achieved through creating new forms of accountability to communities, empowering local activists to participate in local governance, and by strengthening civil society by alliance building between local community-based organisations, as well as with NGOs.

Subject to the requisite political will on the side of government, and funding to cover the facilitation, training and support needs identified, this is a model with significant potential to be scaled up across the country.Based on lessons learned from an initial pilot, Black Sash developed a technologically innovative model for CBM that aims to create a solid foundation for community empowerment and advocacy as well as state-civil society collaboration.

The core of the model is the formation of partnerships with both community-based organisations (CBOs) and government in order to strengthen the role of civil society in improving service delivery and holding public and private sectors to account.It is against the background of the importance of socio-economic rights, and civil society’s role in helping secure these, that the significance of Black Sash’s seven-step model of Community Based Monitoring becomes clear.

Social assistance through grants (as well as the delivery of other essential services) not only increases wellbeing, but also adds to the capability of citizens to contribute to South Africa’s democracy.

The Evolution of the Black Sash Model for Community Based Monitoring

Prior to the development of the CBM model, the Black Sash Trust and the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT) engaged in a partnership to implement the Community Monitoring and Advocacy Project (CMAP). CMAP was a three-year pilot project that was rolled out across all nine provinces in South Africa, from 2010 to 2013, funded by the European Union and the Open Society Foundation. The key objective of CMAP was to collect detailed and accurate information about service delivery, and use this information to advocate for improvements at the public facility level.

In 2012, Black Sash approached the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) to conduct a formative evaluation of CMAP. The CASE Report showed that CMAP significantly improved citizens’ awareness and, importantly, strengthened the voice of citizens in monitoring service delivery. CMAP also contributed to strengthening the relationships between service beneficiaries, government officials, participating CBOs, and monitors.

In September 2012, Black Sash made a submission to the Presidency to help shape the framework document for citizen monitoring of service delivery, which was also presented to Cabinet. In August 2013, Cabinet adopted the Framework for Strengthening Citizen-Government Partnerships for Monitoring Frontline Service Delivery in which the CMAP model is outlined and referenced.

In May 2013, the Black Sash launched the Reducing Maternal and Child Mortality. Through Strengthening Primary Health Care (RMCH) programme. The RMCH was a 17 month national programme funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The main objective of the RMCH programme was to provide support to the National Department of Health (NDoH) to improve the quality of, and access to, reproductive, maternal and child health services for women and children living in poorer and underserviced regions of South Africa (Black Sash Annual Report, 2013). This monitoring project also focussed on strengthening partnerships between the clinic, community health centre committees and civil society organisations and forums (e.g. Imbizos, NGOs / CBOs, ward committees, and school governing bodies) to explore options to improve the performance of health facilities. The project was piloted in two districts: OR Tambo in the Eastern Cape and uMgungundlovu in KwaZulu-Natal.

Building on the success and experiences of CMAP and RMCH, the Black Sash partnered with Making All Voices Count (MAVC) in mid-2014. MAVC is a global organisation that funds, promotes and supports innovation and accountable governance. MAVC uses creative and cutting-edge solutions – including mobile and web technology – to amplify the voices of citizens and support governments to listen and respond. At the point of data analysis for Cycle 1 of the pilot programme, Black Sash collaborated with Code4SouthAfrica, a ‘civic technology lab’. Code4SA supports civil society organisations in the transparency and governance space exploring technological support for their advocacy work. Code4SA developed a clean, easy to access presentation of the monitoring data, Performance results in the form of info-graphic posters were used in dialogue between the stakeholders at the monitored stations. Code4SA is also developing an IT platform to store and make the data accessible to a range of users. The Black Sash MAVC project is built on the principle that people are not passive users of public services, but active holders of fundamental rights.

The Role of Technology 

Black Sash adopted an innovative approach by integrating paper, online, and mobile survey-based methods of data collection. Recognising that it needed assistance with this technological aspect, in Cycle 1, Hivos, Indigo and other partners introduced the Black Sash to Code4SA, a “civic technology lab” that came on board at the end of monitoring in Cycle 1 to assist in survey data capture. Initially in Cycle 1, Black Sash used a technological platform called iSurvey, which needed a license that required renewal every six months. To mitigate these costs, Black Sash and Code4SA moved to an open source platform for Cycle 2 in order to make the data more easily accessible.

In Cycle 2 of the pilot programme, Black Sash brought in tablets using free Android-based software in order to process time-sensitive data. The software was flexible and the data could be edited at no cost. Based on feedback, Code4SA made changes between Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 in order to improve data quality.

Code4SA’s technological contribution enhanced the programme greatly. They created new tools for survey collection so that CPs could select various options easily. For example, they created “drop down” lists and used referential data.

They also made a few other amendments: in rating the facility on the surveys, respondents were given a scale of 1 to 10. They reduced this to a 5 point scale for smoother data interpretation. They also made it easier to be able to do year on year comparisons.


Read the Full report on The Black Sash Model of Community Based Monitoring