Partnerships in Intergenerational Relations: The value of accountability and performance (Part 1)
Accountability and Performance
The question of accountability is being asked by a wide range of institutions and individuals; these range from universities, foundations to non-profit and volunteer organisations. Individuals themselves have been more than aware of the importance of accountability; after all, it is what informs and drives their purpose. Many individuals and leaders create a self-assessment tool to answer the question. For example, to what extent am I responsible for my actions that cause unhappiness and anguish to another? Or, to what extent does this organisation use its resources and capacities effectively in relation to its mission?
Today's world is waking up to the need to be more effective and accountable. People are realising the importance of being accountable to their stakeholders and linking their values, mission and goals to their actions. However, the debate is often bogged down by preconceived stances and the practice is patchy and unstructured.
The series in this issue aims to discuss the factors and developments that are driving initiatives by civil society to tackle the challenge of accountability, legitimacy and transparency. It is intended to provide insights for universities, institutions, foundations and individuals to understand the issues of accountability as a matter of strategic choice. It aims to offer a framework for building accountability systems that can enable internal performance measurement and management, foster operational and strategic learning, and strengthen organisational legitimacy as important actors in social innovation. Ref: http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/af/abstracts2/nai.html
A leader is accountable for the responsibility of those in his or her charge. Accountability is the standard against which responsibility is measured. If an organisation is to improve, there is a natural gap between the standard (accountability) and the expression of that standard (responsibility) at an individual level. Accountability is the quantitative equivalent of an individual's willingness to be at risk. It is therefore the equivalent of an individual's right to fail.
All CEOs are legally responsible and accountable to defined classes of persons or entities. Accountability in the not-for-profit world is defined as being answerable for the effective discharge of the mission of the organisation. This is characterised as the degree to which leaders are open, responsive and responsible, and the degree to which the corporate direction reflects the preferences of those to whom the director is accountable in the discharge of the mission.
Community activists as spokespersons, board members, employees and donors voluntarily become involved with a corporation because of its public benefit mission. Their nonprofit role must be transparent and make information about the mission, program activities, and finances available to its constituencies. Therefore, a nonprofit organization must be accessible and responsive to public inquiry and must reach out to interested parties. Those who are in positions of responsibility, and who act on behalf of the nonprofit sector, must be able to answer for their conduct and obligations.
However, accountability is more than just reporting results information or disclosure; it is a means to improve performance. An accountability framework identifies intended results, ensures the measurement of actual performance and assigns responsibility for using this information as the basis for making changes to achieve the intended results. Reporting includes current results compared to planned objectives, plans for improvement and performance trends over time. Increasingly, the membership is asking for better information on what they and society are getting for their membership dollars. Moreover credible information on performance is needed even more to ensure that membership dollars are being spent well. Accountability is enlightened by independent third party oversight and review of corporate actions.
In a nutshell, accountability is qualitative information about how individuals and leaders are advancing in their mission. In other words, accountability is about RESULTS that have been achieved ethically. Accountability to whom one might ask? Under not-for-profit corporate systems with a membership structure the membership are like owners of the corporation. Thus accountability is enforced by the membership through the process of being able to elect or reject the leaders and their policies.
Project Manager and Editor
24 June 2005