Civic Engagement - Social Audits
As part of our Civic Activism Awards Programme, today we are looking at how Social Audits might work for your organisation.
Just as a financial audit verifies how money is being spent, a social audit verifies how programmes and services are being carried out, with the goal of making them better and more reflective of social, environmental, and community objectives.
It is intended to help users understand and assess the strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures of a programme or service, with the aim of making improvements.
Social auditing is a way of increasing community participation, strengthening links with government and/or service providers, promoting transparency and public accountability, and instilling a sense of responsibility among all those involved.
An example of social audit was carried out in India by the Jharnipalli Panchayat gram sabha (local council) members in October 2001 to monitor development works carried out in the panchayat (council area) over the preceding three years.
Ordinary citizens and agencies, including block and district administration officials and NGOs actively participated, finding among other things that although the works were not carried out, the sanctioned funds were shown in the records as having been utilized.
A social audit involves a systematic evaluation of public records and user feedback. They can be of varying size and scope, ranging from comprehensive national audits to localised community audits.
Social audits are sometimes undertaken as a one-off event but are usually more effective when planned as an ongoing process, undertaken at regular intervals.
Social audits use participatory techniques to involve all relevant stakeholders (especially traditionally marginalized or underserved groups) in collecting and analysing evidence, providing feedback, and recommending changes where necessary.
When a community undertakes a social audit, especially for the first time, it frequently benefits from the assistance, of an intermediary organisation such as an NGO, which can provide training on the social audit process; help access the information required to conduct the social audit: assist in collating and disseminating information to the community; document the social audit findings, and; follow up with public officials regarding proposed changes or remedial actions.
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