At the end of a wild year, we hope our perspective breaks open a seed of change. Come, journey with us.

Same same, but different. 

Issue Nº 6, June 2021
Hello fellow people!

The tools of evaluation are very often used for the purposes of accountability. In fact, the increased use of evaluation within international development has been driven largely by the frameworks of good governance and transparency. From this root a whole host of accountability lookalikes pop up. Accountability becomes technical and procedural, not ethical, political, or relational.

Accountability within international development is:


A measurement against whatever standard and outcome has been set as desirous and necessary by the donor.

Control oriented. 

“Foreign assistance donors usually want more certainty.” Planning and assessing whether an implementing partner did what it said it would provide this perceived control.


What international development is accountable for is the expenditure of money according to plans and in a transparent manner. This remains largely divorced from process, relationships, and certainly, from impact.


The almighty work plan—accountability is assessed by comparing what you intended with what happened, and they should match.

Surface deep. 

Action to correct complaints and merely listening to feedback in the course of program implementation.

How might it look different?

In general, having accountability within any system is an important component of staying in right relationship. This goes for interpersonal interactions, as well as entire systems of governance and everything in between. When we are accountable to each other we are holding each other whole—in all the human messiness that might entail.

I’ve been avidly listening to the Finding Our Way podcast, hosted by somatics practitioner, political organizer, and writer Prentis Hemphill. On Season 2, episode 5 in which they are their own guest, Prentis pulled me into a conversation on accountability.


“Accountability is a way that we live in relationship to one another. It’s actually a component of the every day.

That we are in the kind of relationship with ourselves first, where we know that we are changing, we are growing, we are making mistakes, and we live inside of communities that have that same knowledge.

I think that begins to have it be so that accountability doesn’t become an event, but as a daily practice of
“oh I could have done this differently”
“oh this isn’t actually in alignment with my values” or
“I see you doing something that’s not in alignment with who you are”.

An every day practice of taking those small risks to change how we show up.”

What does this mean in practice?

For now, we don’t very often bid on mid-term or final evaluations—the ones whose primary purpose is one of accountability.

We try to do contracting in a more relational manner and leave room for learning, pivots in response to new information, mistakes, and moving more at the speed of trust.

We seek work that moves accountability to be much more upstream than just during program implementation. We want to be present for, hold space for, and advocate for bringing accountability into decisions of what gets funded, who gets funded, naming of priorities, etc.

We find using questions to guide decision making to be useful. If accountability is a daily practice and a practice of being in relationship:
—what does accountable international development look like?
—how might we use evaluation differently?

I’d love to hear from you. What does this spark for you?

With so much gratitude, 

“Accountability at its best is an act of love."
-Kazu Haga
Picture Impact is a women-owned small business.
December 2020. All rights reserved.

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