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Bridging the gap: the role of local churches in fostering local-level accountability

Date added: October 27, 2016

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Faith-based organisations play an important role in mobilising citizens to engage with local government actors on accountability issues. Tearfund supports its partner churches to use a process known as ‘Church and Community Mobilisation’ (CCM). Through this, churches inspire and empower citizens to identify issues in their communities and mobilise their own resources to address them together. Churches then introduce a local-level advocacy component, empowering communities to draw down local government resources to meet their needs, hold local government accountable and see enhanced service delivery.

This research report explains how Tearfund set out to learn from and enhance its advocacy programme in Uganda. It carried out research in 18 communities in the Teso region of east Uganda, where the CCM advocacy process was being implemented by a partner church.

The research provides valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of conducting local-level advocacy through churches.

  • Transparency – Although churches provided some information on government programmes, access to freely available information on government plans, policies and budgets still needs strengthening.
  • Citizen empowerment – Where the CCM advocacy process was running, citizen engagement in local governance decisions was markedly improved. Generally, people who had never participated before were attending dialogues and influencing some decisions. It was, however, proving difficult to encourage more people to be involved when the CCM process had finished.
  • Inclusion – Although the inclusion of marginalised groups was a feature of CCM, it was difficult to know if everyone outside the community felt able to attend. The church can play a role in advocating on behalf of marginalised groups who struggle to be at meetings, but it should include them from the start.
  • Government responsiveness – This increased in many places where CCM advocacy took place, with response times decreasing from over five years to just one year in many cases. However, there were still delays and funding problems, which had a negative effect on community engagement and relationships with government.
  • Power dynamics –The CCM advocacy process created positive change in power dynamics, enabling any internalised sense of inferiority to be overturned, as people saw their identity differently and understood their potential to explore new initiatives.

A two-page summary is also available here.

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