Hold us to account


As civil society grows and becomes more visible in the public eye, it is important that we can be held accountable for our actions. This should be done in a dynamic, evolving way, where accountability is not a report, but a constructive relationship with stakeholders that improves the agency and credibility of civil society organisations.

At CIVICUS, accountability means we are transparent about who we are and what we do. It also means we answer to our partners, donors, civil society and ourselves on what we have achieved and how we achieved it.

This is underpinned by our Accountability framework that aims to:

  • Position CIVICUS as an adaptive, change-seeking alliance.
  • Put people at the centre of our work, enable more iterative and participatory programming and allow faster responses when changes in direction are required.
  • Work with mixed-method approaches to measure our contribution to social transformation.

How we’re building accountability into our work

Our Strategic Priorities 2017-2022

We listened to thousands of members and partners across the world to shape our strategic plan for 2017-2022. Through the consultation process, we heard people’s deep concerns about challenges facing humanity, how civil society can best address these challenges, and how we can best support civil society to enact change.

For CIVICUS, the impetus to review and refine our strategies for change is both urgent and specific. After a successful Strategy and Action Workshop with CIVICUS members, staff and the Board, the outcomes of our mid-term strategy review are now publicly available – read the full report by our external evaluator or have a look at the summarised infographic. The review report identifies five priority themes – coherence, systems, simplicity, leadership and metamorphosis – and makes 18 specific recommendations for action. Our management response to these recommendations includes a full report, highlighted areas, and nine action points for integration in the 2020-2021 annual plan:

Read here the CIVICUS 2020-2021 Annual Plan.

Our accountability framework helps us to consistently and systematically track our progress and impact against our strategic priorities, meet our accountability commitments and enable learning. In close alignment with CIVICUS’ Developmental Evaluation Framework, it is grounded in Utilization-focused Evaluation, recognising that in complex environments, where social change is difficult to measure and attribute to one single effort, evaluation needs to be purpose-driven.

Accountability reporting

CIVICUS is a founding member of Accountable Now, a platform of organisations focused on strengthening transparency and accountability within civil society. With the 26 other current members of Accountable Now, we strive to be transparent, responsive and focused on delivering impact. The accountability commitments ensure that we deliver on our promises and make fair, justified decisions in our work.  Every year, CIVICUS reports to an Independent Review Panel on our economic, environmental and social performance. You can read these reports and the external assessment of them on the Accountable Now website.

Online monitoring & evaluation system

As of 2018, CIVICUS is storing and analysing its data using DevResults, a web-based M&E and portfolio management system that tracks programme data. This platform houses the majority of the data that CIVICUS collects in one central place, further enabling timely data-driven decision making.

Monitoring & Evaluation Toolkit

In 2019, CIVICUS published a Monitoring & Evaluation Toolkit, aligned to its Developmental Evaluation Framework which provides a process through six phases of our M&E journey that people can follow who want more structured guidance on what/how and when to apply certain M&E approaches and tools.

Gender and diversity

CIVICUS incorporates gender and diversity issues in all our programming and internal operations. We’ve also adopted a rights-based approach in our work, centred around the rights of marginalised groups like women, the disabled and those marginalised on racial grounds. A staff-wide external Inclusion Audit was conducted in 2017-2018 to work towards the best possible inclusion policies and practices for CIVICUS Alliance and the Secretariat, and share learnings and outcomes with the Alliance.

Read more about our Gender and Diversity work here, including our Diversity Statement, a Social Inclusion Toolkit or the Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA) online platform which was created in 2019.

Youth action team

Our Youth Action Team was set up in 2016 and membership changes on a rolling basis. Following an extensive, open selection process looking for the right blend of expertise in CIVICUS youth membership, we appointed a diverse array of action team members to champion for youth and their role in civil society. This team aims to: provide strategic, informed advice on youth participation in our programming and civil society in general, collaborate to build new partnerships and resources for scaling up initiatives on youth participation, and champion and foster social innovations and cohesion related to youth engagement in civic space.

Additionally, find out more how CIVICUS strengthens youth-led movements via its Youth Action Lab or how we worked with 26 youth advocates in 2019-2020 to use data in innovative ways to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals via the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator.

How we’re empowering a more accountable, effective and innovative civil society

In addition to the various accountability initiatives within Civicus, we are also working with members and partners to foster growing, dynamic accountability within the sector. Projects include:

  • AGNA working group on legitimacy, transparency, accountability (LTA) and impact assessment promotes sharing and learning between the network’s members on how to improve public trust and the credibility of their activities through enhancing their accountability systems. The LTA working group organises an annual Global Accountability Week (see highlights from 2019 here), published a good practice platform in 2018 which invites open submissions and is regularly updated, and launched the Rendir App for Networks as a self-assessment tool in 2020.  
  • The Resilient Roots initiative tests whether organisations who are more accountable and responsive to their roots - namely, their primary constituencies - are more resilient against external threats. Read the 2020 final programme evaluation.