Solving Problems in Public Service Delivery: Pathways to resolution when citizens identify problems in Kenya, Afghanistan and Palestine

Solving Problems in Public Service Delivery: Pathways to resolution when citizens identify problems in Kenya, Afghanistan and Palestine

Social accountability strategies aim to improve service delivery by increasing citizen engagement and the public responsiveness of duty-bearers. Such mechanisms can include innovations that encourage civic voice and build citizen power. By bringing citizens and duty-bearers closer together (through a social accountability mechanism or platform), certain problems regarding service delivery can be solved, and responsiveness, transparency and inclusiveness are improved.

However, the evidence regarding the impact of social accountability interventions remains inconclusive. Although social accountability mechanisms aim to increase citizen engagement in service delivery processes, often problems raised by citizens remain unsolved.

Objectives of the study: 

Through using Integrity Action’s approach and initiatives, this study investigates the mechanisms that lead to duty-bearer responsiveness and social accountability effectiveness, identifying factors that cause positive solutions.

Integrity Action 

Integrity Action works to build just and equitable societies in which all citizens can and do successfully demand integrity from the institutions they rely on. Its work focuses on enabling citizens to promote integrity in their community, so that public services are delivered to a high standard. Integrity Action trains citizens to become monitors of public service projects (e.g. community infrastructure and water and sanitation projects), engaging with duty-bearers to solve problems regarding service delivery and increasing social accountability.


To assess the complex causal process that leads to service delivery problems being resolved, the study uses Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). QCA is a method that seeks to establish causality with in-depth case study data. QCA recognises that often factors work together to contribute to change, and hence it is important to understand what these packages of factors are. As such. it compares factors that are applicable across several different cases in order to identify which package of factors are most likely to achieve the desired outcome (problem resolution).

Integrity Action defines a problem as occurring when an aspect of a service being delivered has gone wrong, for example if part of the service has not been delivered or where there has been a breach of integrity of the institution delivering the service. Case examples of these problems were included across three countries: Afghanistan, Kenya and Palestine. Through in-depth interviews with citizen-monitors and relevant duty-bearers responsible for fixing problems, we asked stakeholders to provide an assessment as to how the problem was solved and which factors contributed to problem resolution. Using QCA, we were then able to generate combinations of factors – or pathways – that are sufficient to achieve the positive outcome and undertook within-case analysis to assess the relevance of these pathways across the set of cases included.

What did we find? 

Through QCA and further in-depth analysis, we identified two causal pathways relevant to the majority of cases to achieve problem resolution:

  1. Mutual Trust AND Human Capacity is a highly relevant pathway leading to problem resolution. When there are high levels of trust between monitors and duty-bearers, open discussions regarding problem resolution take place, leading to a collaborative approach to problem resolution. The presence of duty-bearers’ human capacity to engage with citizens helps to build mutual trust further and enables meaningful engagement. When a duty-bearer has capacity to engage with the monitors, and the monitors trust that duty-bearers will work to achieve positive solutions, a partnership is formed that can lead to problem resolution.
  2. Informed Citizen-led Action AND Human Capacity is also a relevant pathway leading to problem resolution. A monitor uses accurate information to understand the issues that exist, and duty-bearers’ human capacity is needed for duty-bearers to meaningfully engage with monitors and find a resolution. Both factors work very closely together in cases to resolve problems.

Both pathways indicated that several of the factors identified as important to achieve problem resolution are interlinked.  Monitors require access to accurate information to raise a problem, and a duty-bearer’s human capacity to engage with the monitors will help find a solution to the problem. Often, when duty-bearers have human capacity, mutual trust is built. Through this trust, collaboration is enabled; the monitors and duty-bearer work together to find a solution and engage with other relevant stakeholders. Where mutual trust and collaboration are present, there are often social incentives for the duty-bearer to respond to monitors and work to conserve their close relationship and work to identify solutions. This indicates that a solid and trustworthy relationship between the monitors and the duty-bearer enables non-confrontational engagement. The existence of well-established participatory mechanisms helps catalyse problem resolution.

Learning for social accountability initiatives 

  1. The findings from this study suggest that citizens that possess accurate information regarding their rights, entitlements and the progress of service delivery projects are more likely to raise the problem to the right duty-bearers in an effective way. The proximity of the duty-bearer is also an important enabler for problem resolution. In contexts where decision-making is not done at the local level, the ability for problem resolution to occur is limited as power to solve problems is centralised. However, there were positive incidents where forums existed that helped to bring stakeholders together to find resolutions to problems. There are benefits of building these forums to increase the likelihood of a collaborative approach to problem resolution, based on mutual trust, particularly where decision-making processes are centralised.
  2. The perception of who was ultimately responsible to solve problems was identified as an important factor for problem resolution. Where lines of accountability are not clear, engagement with duty-bearers and monitors could be beneficial to ensure the right stakeholders are targeted to be included in problem resolution processes and to build knowledge of who is responsible.
  3. The findings of this study suggest that monitors’ perception of who is responsible and the capability and action of duty-bearers to engage with monitors are important factors that enable problem resolution. Therefore, work to strengthen the capability and opportunity of duty-bearers to respond to citizens and activities that build knowledge regarding roles and responsibilities could help to achieve social accountability effectiveness.

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