Community Score Cards

Ediliya Chizu from Kantayeni village in Dowa district, central Malawi, leads a network of women standing up for their right to have a say in the provision of local services

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‘Social accountability’ sounds like a grand idea – but what does it actually mean? And how does it help improve the lives of poor and marginalised people?

The basic idea is that if services – such as health care or education – can be overseen by the people they are meant to be for, then those services are more likely to respond to and meet the needs of those people.

And if decision-makers – whether they be government officials or members of water management boards or agricultural committees – have to answer to local people, then they are more likely to make decisions that reflect those people’s wishes.

The process influenced the improvement of health services in our communities because community members now know the health centres are their property and it is their responsibility to monitor their performance. – Government Representative in Tanzania

So how do you make it happen? In 2002, CARE in Malawi developed something called Community Score Cards (CSCs). Service users (local people) are brought together in groups to decide what they want to get from a particular service, to ‘score’ how well that service is being delivered, and to negotiate with service providers to address problems and make improvements. For example:

  • In Malawi, a community used the CSC process to challenge and stop a range of corrupt practices, such as a government education advisor trying to extort money from the parents of school pupils.
  • In Tanzania, a CSC process led to health workers at a local clinic agreeing to provide an out-of-hours service for pregnant women; additional health workers being deployed to health centres in villages where this was requested by the villagers; and even the construction and renovation of health centres, the provision of housing for health workers, and the provision of user conveniences such as toilets.
  • In Rwanda, the CSC process identified access to water as being particularly problematic for several villages. In one village, local leaders negotiated the installation of a water pipeline, with the community contributing to its construction through community works (known as umuganda).

Community Score Cards are now used by CARE in many countries and have become part of an internationally-recognised process for improving service-delivery.

Mothers and babies at a health clinic in Tanzania

Young mothers at a village health clinic in Uyui, Tanzania