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Community Score Cards - a powerful tool to improve public services


The Community Score Card (CSC) process is a powerful tool to monitor services, empower citizens, and improve the accountability of service providers. The scoring exercises provide citizens the opportunity to analyze services such as health services or education based on their personal perceptions. Citizens can provide encouragement for good work or express dissatisfaction. When rights holders (citizens, service users) and duty bearers (government officials or service providers) collaborate, the provision of services can sustainably change for the better.


Community Scorecard processes have been successfully conducted especially in South Asia and parts of Africa since the early 2000s and have become an internationally recognized participatory governance tool.


The World Bank promotes the Community Score Card tool, too. In Ethiopia, for instance, the CSC is part of the current public accountability programs. In Nepal, it is part of the World Bank-promoted Programme for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN) which provides practical training, action learning, and networking opportunities for civil society organizations.

Photo: Welthungerhilfe: Conducting the Score Card with the Community

What is the purpose of the Community Score Card?

The purpose of a Community Score Card process is to improve the availability, accessibility, quality, and accountability of services at community level. It is a two-way participatory process that seeks to strengthen the mutual understanding between service providers and citizens to ensure collaborative actions and overcome gaps. It helps you to:

  • Identify how services are experienced by users and service providers.

  • Establish a feedback mechanism between users and providers to find service delivery gaps and challenges.

  • Ensure informed decision-making and dialogue between service providers and users.

  • Track if services and programs are progressing well and compare the performance of services across facilities.

  • Report on the quality of services at a higher level to a district executive committee or assembly.

  • Strengthen community empowerment and citizens’ voices.


It is not about finger-pointing or blaming. It is not designed to settle personal scores! And it is not supposed to create conflict!


The CSC facilitates good governance by promoting participation, transparency, accountability, and informed decision-making.


© Illustration by Civil Society Academy

How can we apply the Community Score Card?

A Community Score Card process can be embedded in any kind of intervention. It can be relevant to assess public food distributions, agricultural extension services, health services, schools, or even public wastewater services/schemes. The scorecards can be used to assess services implemented by public as well as private service providers, including services provided by NGOs.


Both state services and NGOs can apply Community Score Cards as part of the monitoring system for various programs or projects. A minimum of two sessions needs to be conducted to assess changes.


Community Score Cards are a simple tool. However, some preconditions should be met.

  • One should have a good understanding of the local governance and service delivery structures.

  • Most importantly, it requires buy-in by the service providers, as they need to participate in the process.

  • Ideally, citizens have some level of awareness about the services, or public awareness and information dissemination campaigns are conducted prior to or alongisde the scoring exercises.

  • Lastly, it is critical to have good and purposeful facilitation by a technically competent intermediary.


Step 1: Plan and prepare

Notes indicating the services provided by the Indian Integrated Child Development Services

Establish the basis for a Community Score Card process: Thorough preparation for the process is crucial and should begin a month prior to the actual scoring exercises. Preparations include:

  • Identify the scope of the assessment and intended geographic coverage of the exercise, like health provision for pregnant women in a specific district.

  • Identify the facility/service input entitlements for the chosen sector. Even though there might be no entitlements defined in the legislation, there are always services that users can provide feedback on.

  • Raise awareness about the Community Score Card process with local communities and leaders.

  • Collect and obtain basic community data such as population data, data of services provided, service usage statistics, data on poverty level, and a list of entitlements.

  • Identify and train the lead facilitator and people within the community, such as traditional leaders, NGO staff, and government frontline service delivery staff, who can help facilitate the processes. Being target oriented and good facilitation are critical success factors for the Community Score Card process. Ideally, choose a women facilitator for services mainly addressing women.

  • Set up a Community Score Card team: Ideally each team can have two facilitators and one person in charge of the logistics.

Prepare the community gathering:

  • Invite participants: identify the main user groups in the communities addressed by the focal facility or services. Then clarify with community members who needs to be invited from the service providers and what levels of government need to be represented. For the follow-up session, people who can make decisions about the issues raised should be present.

  • Ensure that the vulnerable households and poorest of the poor are also represented. This can be done by conducting social mapping exercises with separate community groups in advance.

  • Minimum duration: one day for the community, one day for the service providers, and one day for the interface meeting. Under certain circumstances, depending on the type of service and distance between the service provider and service user, the implementation of one Community Score Card exercise can take up to seven days.

  • Community gatherings are ideally organized at the place where the facilities are provided, such as the school or health center.

Step 2. Conduct the Score Card with the Community (Day 1)


The participants on the first day are community members, particularly those entitled to the services. For example, for women’s health issues, it is crucial to invite representatives from the community, specifically the participation of pregnant and lactating mothers is very important.

  • At the community level, an assessment of priority issues in one village is carried out through a focus group discussion: what are the barriers to the delivery of quality services?

  • The community identifies indicators for the public service. A small number of clear and measurable indicators helps keep the dialogue focused, ideally not more than eight. The indicators could be output indicators for instance “the number of child vaccinations,” or performance indicators, i.e., “women giving safe birth” or “delivering healthy children.”

  • Different service points or facilities may have different problems and therefore context-specific indicators may be needed for each case.

  • It is crucial to assign scores for each indicator and give reasons for the scoring.


Please note: It is recommended that participants develop first recommendations on how to improve the situation regarding certain performance indicators.


To avoid creating unrealistic expectations, it is important to help community members develop an understanding of the constraints faced by service providers.



Community Scoring – Example from a child care center for children 0-6 years

Indicator

Full score

Given score

Cause

Remarks

​​Building

10

0

No center building

For both centers, a center building should be provided.

Regularity of the worker

10

7

Center functions regularly on time but some days the worker is not on time.

We do not know whether the worker is coming in time or not, because we do not visit the center regularly.

Nutritional food supply

10

7

No vegetables, no oil, no turmeric powder, the dal* is not good to eat.

Good quality dal* should be provided.

Breakfast

10

0

No breakfast is supplied.

Breakfast should be provided.

Mother’s committee

monitoring

10

3

Not regular

Center should be monitored properly.

Please note: Scale 1 to 10: the higher the score (6–10), the better the service; “5” is the middle point of a range of 0 to 10.

* Dal is a term in the Indian subcontinent for dried, split pulses like lentils, peas, and beans



Step 3. Conduct the Score Card with Service Providers (Day 2)

The participants on the second day are service provider representatives. The service providers essentially go through the same process as the community, outlined under step 2.

  • A general assessment/brainstorming about the service provision with focus on the question: what are the barriers to the delivery of quality services?

  • In the next step, self-evaluation indicators are developed by the service providers.

  • Then the scoring is done against each indicator and reasons for the scores are noted.

  • Identify priority issues.

  • Day 2 ends with people generating suggestions on how services can be improved.


Service Providers Scoring – Example from a child care center for children 0–6 years

Indicator

Full score

Given score

Reason

Remarks

Center Building

10

0

No Anganwadi* Building

At least one Center Building should be constructed for the two Centers.

No. of water filters

10

0

Using pots instead of filters

We ask the supervisor for water filters.

No. of toys in Centre No. 2

10

5

Children are not getting the toys.

Toys should be provided.

Regularity of the

worker


10

10

Except immunization days and

meetings, we are conducting

the pre-school every day.


We are doing our duty regularly.

Nutritional food

supply


10

8

Food distribution is regular if stock is available.


Block* Integrated Child Development Services

(ICDS) office should provide regular stock of

food in time.


Supplementary

nutrition for pre-

school children


10

10

Center 2 did not receive

nutrition supplies.


I am not receiving the money for breakfast so I

try my best to solve this problem. It is my fault

(Anganwadi worker of Center 2)


Monitoring

10

10

Parents are not cooperating

with us. They are not interested

in attending meetings.


They should monitor the pre-

school and attend the meetings.


*Anganwadi is a rural mother and childcare center in India.

*Block: Districts in India are divided into blocks, blocks in Panchayats.


Phase 4: Interface Meeting (day 3: community and service provider)

On the third day, both groups come together. The group of participants consists of community members that are entitled to the services, but also other community members, community leaders, committee members, as well as the staff of service providers at different levels, members of the local administrations and the facilitator/s.

  • Community members and service providers present their findings from the Score Cards (with the help of pre-prepared posters).

  • Community and service providers present identified priority issues (based on posters).

  • All participants prioritize the issues together (in a negotiated way) and agree on possible solutions.


It is important to establish a “conducive environment” for the service users/community to provide feedback to service providers and negotiate agreements on how to improve the services together with relevant stakeholders.


However, it is not guaranteed that service providers/government officials will be receptive to the problems identified by ‘common’ people and their suggestions for change. Some strategies for mitigating this problem are: 1) highlighting both strengths and weaknesses emerging from Score Card findings; 2) preparing adequately and facilitating effectively to ensure that interface meetings are rather constructive than confrontational; and 3) focusing not only on problems but also on solutions and proposals.


Service providers at the local level do not always have the capacity or leverage to make decisions or implement change. It is therefore important that senior officials and decision-makers be involved in the feedback loop and interface.


Phase 5: Implement and Monitor the Action Plan


A Score Card process does not stop after generating scores! The next steps are:

  • Compile a report on the Score Card process, including a joint action plan.

  • Use the outcomes and action plan to inform and influence any current plans related to the delivery of the concerned services, for instance, the planning process of the district implementation plan and budgeting process.

  • Monitor the implementation of the action plan.

  • Disseminate results through the media and communities.

  • Take steps to institutionalize the process, for example by supporting community-based organizations or service providers to repeat the exercise on an annual or half-yearly basis.

Indicator

Full score

Score by Com-munity

Score by service Provider

Consen-sus Score

Reason for Score

Recommendation

Timeline

Center Building

10

0

0

0

No Center Building

Community will apply to the concerned department

Within 15 days

Regularity of the Workers

10

7

10

8

Workers coming but not regular

Senior admin instruct workers to come regularly

Within a week

NutritionalFood Supply

10

7

8

7

Quality of food is bad, notstored in a hygienic place

This needs to be addressed at the higher official level, a letter from the community to be issued to the responsible official

In 2 months

Breakfast

10

0

10

3

Served very rare

There is a supply issue, need to raise at higher official level

In 2 months

Mothers

Committee

Monitoring


10

3

10

5

No proper training or orientation on how to monitor

Admin can arrange an orientation session for mothers

Within a month


What are the advantages?

  • The government or a private agency can adapt the Community Score Card process for any sector where service delivery exists.

  • It promotes dialogue and improves relationships between the community and the service provider. Also builds understanding about each other’s limitations/expectations.

  • It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the community members as service users.

  • It shows the service provider how to be accountable and responsible.

  • It generates performance criteria for benchmarking the quality of services that can subsequently be used by community members or the government for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.


What are the challenges?

  • The Community Score Card process requires time. Holding service providers accountable might be a new and difficult concept to understand and get communities and service providers to accept.

  • Limited awareness level of the community before scoring.

  • Sound facilitation of the process is crucial. The process can lead to conflict or can raise expectations with the service users; like creating a demand that cannot be fulfilled by the service provider.

  • There is a risk that the Community Score Card process could result in disillusionment on the part of the community members and service providers in case the proposed solutions are not implemented or if subsequent assessments do not initiate any positive change.

  • Bringing all the relevant stakeholders together may be a challenge.

Videos

 

Case Studies


Improved Service Delivery in Childcare Center, Pravah, WHH partner organization in Jharkhand, India


Pargadih is a village with more than 450 households, divided into 4 hamlets, with a diverse population of tribals, dalits, and Muslims. The village is situated about 20 km from the block headquarters. The childcare center in the village has been dysfunctional for about six months and providing services in Pargadih was an additional duty for the frontline worker from a neighboring village. It was difficult for her to cater to the needs of more than 147 children between 0 to 6 years of age. The only service provided has been immunization, once a month.


PRAVAH, a local NGO in the state initiated the community score card process, during which the community identified certain areas where service delivery has been poor. They developed the indicators and scored the quality of the services against each indicator. A similar process was conducted with the service providers (i.e., with the front-line staff). Both community and service providers were oriented about the Community Score Card process before hand, to avoid conflicts and confusion.


After completing the scoring processes, an interface meeting was organized between the service providers and the frontline staff known locally as anganwadi workers. In the interface meeting, there were a lot of discussions, where service providers talked about their constraints and challenges, while the community members expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of services provided. After conducting a community scorecard exercise, the results were presented to senior officials. They took stock of the situation and intervened, which resulted in the following:

  • Scales (for weighing children) were supplied to all the childcare centers in the block.

  • The front-line workers started visiting the centers regularly until a new appointment for the village was finalized.

  • Pre-school education was started for children between 3 to 6 years of age.

Notably, this process helped the senior officials make decisions to improve the service regularity not only in village Pargadih, but also other service delivery centers under that administrative block.



Citizens’ Feedback on the Performance of Electricity Services Provided by ESCOM, Malawi


The Kalondolondo was a collaborative project of Plan Malawi, CONGOMA, Action Aid, and the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, which aimed to implement community-based monitoring and social accountability activities from 2008 to 2015. Through partnerships with local CSOs in 25 districts in Malawi, the Kalondolondo project facilitated assessments of citizens’ perception of public service delivery using Community Score Cards for each district.


Some of the schemes and services assessed include Local Development Fund (LDF), Farm Input Subsidy Program, electricity services and piped water services, among others. The process started with desk research to review laws and policies governing the services under review, and implementation guidelines as well service charters. These were used to compile the entitlements of the rights holders under each service as well as to inform indicators for the assessment. The second step was to conduct the score card process. Before the scoring, community representatives were briefed on the entitlements in line with the service under review. The initial scoring at each site was conducted in focus groups before consolidation of the scores through a local interface meeting. The findings were then compiled into a district level report and presented at a district interface meeting with community representatives providing first-hand evidence of the findings. Finally, the findings for each district were consolidated into a national report for engagement with duty bearers at the national level.


An assessment of school blocks and teachers’ houses constructed under Local Development Funds (LDF) revealed a consistent failure to adhere to procurement guidelines, poor quality of completed houses, stalled projects, and failure to complete the buildings within three months, among other issues. Engaging the duty bearers, led to an improvement in the procurement processes with the communities being more involved as the guidelines required. Completion of LDF projects within their life span of 90 days has also improved, to a great extent due to the efforts, rising from 2.5 percent to 12.5 percent between 2013 and 2014.


 

References:

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific. 2016. The Community Scorecard Video 1 and Video 2.


CARE Malawi. 2013. The Community Score Card (CSC): A Generic Guide for Implementing CARE’s CSC Process to Improve Quality of Services. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.


Holloway, Richard, and A. Thakali. 2011. Accountability, Social Accountability and PRAN. The World Bank for Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN). Last accessed on September 9, 2022: Accountability, Social Accountability and PRAN.


Meikle, Amber. 2010. The Community Scorecard in Ethiopia – Process, Successes, Challenges and Lessons. Care Ethiopia. Last accessed on September 9th, 2022: CSC report final.


Misra, Vivek; P. Ramasankar; J.V.R. Murty.; Sanjay Agarwal; and Parmesh Shah. 2007. Andhra Pradesh, India: Improving Health Services through Community Score Cards. Social Accountability Series, No.1. World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/25021.


Pekkonen, Anu. n.d. Community Score Cards. CIVICUS. Last accessed on September 9, 2022.Community Score Cards.

 

About the Author:


Julia Escher started her career working with the German International Cooperation as an advisor for the Vietnamese Women’s Union. Since 2009 she has been working for Welthungerhilfe as an advisor for Planning, Monitoring, and Nutrition.

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