Community Score Cards - a powerful tool to improve public services

January 17, 2018

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 analyse services such as health services or education based on their personal perceptions. Citizens can provide encouragement for good work or express dissatisfaction. In a common collaboration between rights holders and duty bearers, the provision of services can sustainably change for the better.  

 

Photo: Welthungerhilfe: Conducting the Score Card with the Community 

 

In Welthungerhilfe, especially in South Asia and in some parts of Africa, the CSC process has widely and successfully been conducted since years. In most cases, the CSC process has had a strong focus on the Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security for women and children. In this context, many services have been improved over the years – and the nutrition situation of women and children accordingly. The World Bank is a fond promoter of the Community Score Card process, too. For instance, the CSC is part of the current public accountability programmes in Ethiopia and it has been part of the World Bank promoted Programme for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN) that provides practical training, action learning, and networking opportunities aimed at civil society organisations.  

 

What is the purpose of the Community Score Card?  

 

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

 

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

  • Establish a feedback mechanism between users and providers.

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

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

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

  • Strengthen community empowerment and citizen voice.

 

It is NOT about finger-pointing or blaming. It is NOT designed to settle personal scores.

It is NOT supposed to create conflict.  

 

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 waste water schemes. The score cards can be used to assess services implemented by public as well as private services providers, including services provided by NGOs.  

 

Community Score Cards can be applied as part of the monitoring system of various programmes or projects, both by state services and by NGOs. A minimum of two sessions need 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 context. Most importantly it requires a buy-in by the service providers, as they have to participate in the process. Ideally, citizens have some level of awareness about the services, or public awareness and information dissemination campaign are conducted prior or in parallel to the scoring exercises. Lastly, it is critical to have good and purposeful facilitation by a technically competent intermediary.  

 

 

Step 1: Plan and prepare 

 

Establish the basis for a Community Score Card process:  

 

Thorough preparation for a Community Score Card process is crucial and should begin preferably a month prior to the process of mobilising a community/service provider: 

 

  • 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 which users can provide feedback on. 

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

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

  • Identify and train the lead facilitator and people within the community, such as traditional leaders, NGO staff, and officials of local governments, who can help facilitate. The target orientation and quality of facilitation is critical for the success of a Community Score Card process. Ideally, chose a women facilitator for women related services.

  • Set up a Community Score Card team: best is a team of two facilitators and one person in charge for the logistics etc. 

 

Prepare the community gathering:  

 

  • Invite participants: 1. identify the main user groups in the communities serviced by the focal facility or services (community gathering), 2. clarify with the 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, conduct a social map exercise with a separate community group in advance.  

  • Minimum duration: one day for community, one day for the service providers and one day for the interface. Under some circumstances, depending on the type of service and distance between service provider and service user, the implementation of one Community Score Card can take up to more than a week.  

  • Community gathering are ideally organised at facility level. 

 

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

 

The participants of the first day are community members that are entitled to the services. The selection of groups or participants depends on the services. For example, for women health issues it is crucial to invite representatives of the pregnant and lactating mothers group. 

 

  • At community level, an assessment of priority issues in one village is carried out: what are the barriers to the delivery of quality services? It is important to take project boundaries into account. 

  • The community selects input and performance indicators for assessing priority issues. Lesser number of clear and measurable indicators help to keep discussion focussed; ideally not more than 8 indicators. Input indicators are services which are provided as child vaccination. Performance indicators are indicators such as women giving safe birth or delivering healthy children.  

  • Different facility points/facility locations can have different problems and therefore different indicators.  

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

 

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. 

 

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

 

The participants of the second day are representatives of the service providers.  

 

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

  • In a next step, self-evaluation indicators are developed. 

  • Then the scoring needs to be completed against each indicator and reasons for the scores are noted. 

 

Day 2 ends with generated suggestions on how services can be improved.

 

 

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, leaders, committee members, as well as staff of service providers at different levels, members of the local administrations and the facilitator/the facilitators.   

 

  • Community and service provider present their findings from the Score Cards (based on posters).

  • Community and service provider 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: highlighting both strengths and weaknesses emerging from Score Card findings; preparing adequately and facilitate effectively to ensure that interface meetings are rather constructive than confrontational; and focussing not only on problems but also on solutions and proposals.  

 

Service providers at 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 are also 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 institutionalise the process, for example by supporting community-based organisations or service providers to repeat the exercise on an annual or half yearly basis. 

 

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. 

 

What are the advantages? 

 

  • The Community Score Card process can be adapted into any sector where service delivery exists.

  • It promotes dialogue and improves relationships between the community and the service provider.  

  • 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 therefore a difficult concept to understand and get accepted by communities and service providers. 

  • Sound facilitation 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.  

 

Videos 

 

 

 

 

References:  

 

CIVICUS, Anu Pekkonen (2009): Monitoring & Evaluation of Public Services, Tool: Community Score Cards.

 

CARE (2013): The Community Score Card, A generic guide for implementing CARE’s CSC process to improve quality of services.

 

Andhra Pradesh, India - World Bank Documents & Reports (2007), Note No. 1 (August): Case Study 1 Andhra Pradesh, India: Improving Health Services through Community Score Cards.

 

PRAN/World Bank (2011) Accountability, Social Accountability and PRAN (Program for Accountability in Nepal).

 

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.

 

Contact: Julia Escher

 

Would you like to give feedback to the Civil Society Academy, or are you interested in our courses or our support?

Please contact me: Joachim Schwarz

 

 

 

 

 

 

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