Accountability and Transparency

In the Video for Change approach, it is important that practitioners ensure they are accountable to and transparent with the community depicted in their initiatives. Otherwise, your efforts could increase rather than reduce or reverse existing power imbalances and inequalities, which will lead to conflict.

Accountability

Accountability is core to your initiative’s ability to contribute to positive changes in participants’ lives and communities.

To achieve positive social change, it is important to understand how your initiative might affect the human rights issues you are working on and the people you work with. This will allow you to better assess the effects, decisions and the impact of your initiative.

There are many approaches to accountability, each with its own politics, values and priorities.

Types of Accountability

Horizontal accountability Engaging and serving people who are directly or indirectly affected by the issues addressed in your Video for Change initiative
Inward accountability Being accountable to oneself, as well as your team. This means upholding a personal commitment to being true to ethical principles and fulfilling promises
Outward accountability Communicating accountability to others, including colleagues in the field, media personnel, or other people in the communities related to your initiative but not directly affected
Upward accountability Reporting back to a donor that may have provided resources for a video or initiative. This reflects the values and priorities of a donor, and sometimes can be found in answering monitoring and evaluation questions that may be pre-set in a grant agreement

To address matters of accountability, a Video for Change initiative should:

  • consider ownership, including joint ownership or proper attribution over decisions on storyline, editing and distribution (for example, Creative Commons allows a larger set of people to take advantage of and use content)
  • address unintended consequences resulted from filming or disseminatingTo spread or give out to a lot of people your video, such as unexpected press attention, changes in funding, unanticipated interpretation of facts, etc
  • manage risks through a clear, documented plan for identifying and addressing risks, including specific risks related to markers of vulnerability (such as gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • provide a written and verbal (in local language) list of resources and referrals for local services and support (including medical, legal, protection and security)
  • document and publicise your steps towards this.

Transparency

Accountability is impossible without transparency, and vice versa. Transparency is an important ethical issue for affected communities and allows you to build lasting relationships with them. Therefore, it is important to be clear and open about your plans and objectives with stakeholders.

Often community members can be vulnerable to media exploitation — and may even have past experiences of this. Being transparent will convey a sense of trust and joint ownership, and will help them have a stake in your initiative.

At a practical level, transparency is also a key strategy in managing the expectations of your partners. If they are aware of what time and resources you have for your initiative, then they know what to expect from you.

Remember that sharing false or unverified information doesn’t fulfil the purpose of this ethic. If the information shared isn’t accurate, decision-making will be flawed. Make sure you are sharing information in a way that’s understandable and actionable by the community involved in your initiative.

It is also important to consider transparency as an ongoing process, not a one-time activity. Meaningful transparency requires that new developments are shared with all people involved.

For example, you might get more funds or more people interested in participating your initiative. There might be new developments in the issue that you are covering in your video that will affect your work.

Also be aware of the risks and benefits of being transparent in your working practices (as seen in the chart below). Risk Management may at times seem in opposition to transparency, but there are situations in which being open about what we are doing can keep us safe.

Transparency Questions and Considerations

Areas of Transparency
Questions to Reflect On
Considerations
Your goals, objectives, purpose, and the intended audience for your video Who is the ultimate decision-maker?

How much of this will you share with your stakeholders?

Who do you share the purpose of your Video for Change initiative with — and why?

How will your initiative be strengthened by sharing this? How will the community be strengthened by knowing about your goals?

Look at your stakeholders and determine who to share these with.

Your team, the people you will film and interview, those that you expect to help you produce the video should be actively informed about your goals, objectives and purpose.

Your resources: time, human resources, financial resources How will knowing the budget affect the community and the people involved in your initiative? Will it encourage them to participate? Will it hinder them?

How much flexibility will you have in your budget to accommodate feedback from the community, your team, and anyone else involved in your initiative?

While in theory it might be good for everyone to know the budget, in practice this could cause conflicts if not managed correctly. Some initiatives do go to this level of transparency, but it is rare.
Decisions and decision-making processes: how are decisions being made in your initiative? What are the levels and spaces for decision-making? Who will be invited to meetings where decisions are made about your initiative?

How will you consult with your stakeholders?

How much space for input and feedback from others will you accept?

Who are the key decision-makers and what is the scope of their power?

It’s important to consider how transparent you want your decision-making processes to be.

Be clear about where people can participate and their scope of authority. Conflicts often arise when big promises are made, but there is no follow through.

New developments affecting your initiative How often will you update stakeholders about new developments?

If you receive information that negatively affects the initiative, how and when will you share it with your stakeholders?

What are your processes and mechanisms to allow the community and people involved in your initiative to inform you of new developments affecting your initiative? Will you share new developments — for example, rough cuts or funding proposals, etc. — to get feedback?

There will always be new issues, challenges and opportunities as you carry out your initiative.

Sharing negative developments may alienate stakeholders or make them doubt the initiative. Too much sharing, or too often, may tax participants’ time. On the other hand, it may bring in new thinking for how to overcome the problem and deepen your sense of community.

Risk Management