Redesigning Government Accountability Toolkits for Children

How we worked with Save the Children Cambodia to update their Social Accountability Documentation Toolkit to better engage children.

We worked with Save the Children Cambodia to update their Social Accountability Documentation Toolkit to better engage children.

Advocating child participation in accountability programs

Beginning in 2015, a 4-year partnership between the government and civil society groups aimed to reduce poverty in Cambodia through inclusive local governance that provides greater access to public services. This initiative became known as the Implementation of Social Accountability Framework (ISAF). ISAF programmes focused on improving the quality of services provided by local commune councils, health centres and primary schools to the provincial areas of Cambodia. The goal was to educate local citizens in understanding their basic rights and access to these services and empower them to be able to hold these service providers accountable for their work.

One of the NGOs tasked with implementing these ISAF programmes was Save the Children. Although the programmes were designed for adults, Save the Children’s Child-Centric Social Accountability (CCSA) documentation was created to promote these services among children and encourage them to participate in ISAF programmes so that they too had an understanding of their basic rights regarding the services that were important to them.

Research, Design and Testing for Save the Children

Glean came onboard the project to assist Save the Children in updating their CCSA documentation. Glean did this by providing participatory research, redesign and testing to find more interactive ways for children to engage with the learning tools that were being used in ISAF programmes. The updated documentation would then be used by Commune Accountability Facilitators (CAFs) – adults who ran ISAF programmes - and Childrens Club Leaders (CCLs).

Research: Understanding ISAF learning tools

It was important for Glean to first gain an understanding of the ISAF materials in order to make sure that any redesign would come alongside what CAFs were using rather than introduce something entirely new. Through key informant interviews, Glean learned that one of the main tools used by CAFs was a series of posters describing citizens’ rights and what they should expect of their local commune, primary schools and health centres. Each poster had a picture that had to clearly communicate to someone who is illiterate. There was also a simplified title in Khmer that explained the right. For those who were literate, there was also a detailed description of each right. This design meant that the materials could be taught to a wider audience with a ranging level of literacy and understanding.

Design: Educating through storytelling

With the research phase completed, the next challenge for Glean was to take the concepts of the ISAF programmes and create new designs for the CCSA, which could be taught by the CAFs that would cover the same topics but aim to resonate with a younger demographic. In keeping with designs that would be familiar to the CAFs, Glean decided to build on the concept of the ISAF posters by adapting them into a storytelling tool. The team created characters from the family members on the posters that were shown to be engaging with local service providers. Glean devised several scenarios involving different family members interacting with local services. These scenarios would match the image from the ISAF posters and were then put together as a simple storybook for the CAFs to go through with the children. By creating characters with personalities that children can identify with and incorporating a storytelling approach, the hope was that this would be a fun way for the CAFs to tell them the story of a family engaging with local government.

Challenges: Observations from the field

CAFs are a vital part of the CCSA, as individual citizens with a clear sense of engagement and ownership in social accountability, providing a visible example of public service in communities. Having said that Glean did note some gaps in capacity during the field visit. As they were originally trained to teach these programmes to adults, it was clear that the CAFs were very comfortable teaching adults. However, this came across during the sessions with the CCLs. In the early session run by the CAFs, the children didn’t interact as much or ask questions. One of the challenges Glean faced was finding ways to encourage the CAFs to engage more with the kids on their level.

Testing multiple activities and trying to keep the children engaged took a lot of effort, Glean landed on a lot of drawing exercises. Eg. Drawing their community, school classrooms, pointing out where the bathroom is etc.

Results: CCSA is a necessary and effective initiative.

Though the documentation called for long sessions, child participants and CAFs were engaged and interested in the process. Both CCLs and CAFs are engaged and able, and this represents a significant resource for Cambodia’s ongoing social accountability activities. As the current form of ISAF has come to an end, the CCSA approach provides a clear value to children and communities and makes the ISAF process stronger than it would otherwise be. 

Final thoughts and lessons from the project

In an ideal world we’d always like more testing to find out which areas of the ISAF programmes were most important to them. Glean found that for the kids, when the activities were more engaging, they cared more about what they were learning. This highlights how important it is for these kinds of materials and documentation to be taught on a level that makes sense for the target audience learning them.

Getting involved in projects that involve a lot of design and testing, this reaffirmed the importance to come in alongside what’s already being done rather than making a big leap into something new. In this case it wouldn’t have been helpful for the CAFs, who have been running the programmes for 4 years, to have to completely change their teaching materials. Storytelling changed the teaching style but not the content and Glean saw this as a lower barrier of entry for CAFs.

  • Research
  • Design
Project Consultant(s)
Jesse Orndorff
David Burton