Civil society plays a crucial role in demanding transparency and accountability, as well as in the fight against corruption. Their hands on approach gives them invaluable experience and knowledge for efforts to increase transparency and accountability and reduce corruption. The TALEARN Community of Practice is an initiative led by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TA/I) bringing together practitioners, activists, funders and researchers in a forum where they can engage and learn from each other. The aim of TALEARN is to work together on issues of impact and learning in the field of transparency and accountability.

Nils Taxell, senior adviser at CMI’s U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre is a member of TALEARN and leads the practice group on the initiative’s Transparency, accountability and participation nexus.

- Transparency and accountability are essential components inreducing corruption. This is why it is so important for U4 to play an active role in the Community of Practice, he says.

Providing to the point-research
Taxell attended the initiative’s first meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, where representatives from Asian, African, Latin American and Eastern European civil society organisations working on anti-corruption issues met up with donors and researchers to discuss the challenges they meet in their daily work.

-Joining forces with the practitioners and activists in civil society organisations enables us to provide relevant and practical research results, he says.

Although transparency and accountability are values that are internationally agreed upon, civil society organizations act under extreme pressure from the authorities in many countries. Poor access to information, heavy restrictions on the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech pose significant challenges. Yet, organized civil society is an important voice with the potential to have significant influence. In many countries, there are spontaneous unorganized civil society movements emerging in response to corruption and corrupt practices. It is important not to underestimate the effect unorganized activism can have.

-The effect of pressure and activism from the unorganized civil society may be just as important as regular civil society organizations, but it is difficult to incorporate their work into projects with a fixed framework. Yet, TALEARN will hopefully also shed light on how more unorganised anti-corruption activism can be supported as well, says Taxell.


 *The Community of Practice-project was launched by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TA/I) in February 2013.

*TA/I is a donor collaborative led by eight funders: The Ford Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Hivos, International Budget Partnership (IBP), Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations, Revenue Watch Institute and UK Aid.

*The members of TALEARN will continue the cooperation through joint activities, regular web-conferences and online discussions. Civil society organisations, funders or experts working in the field of transparency and accountability who are interested in joining the group will find more information here.

Accountability in practice
The members of TALEARN have formed practice groups around five priority issues and developed learning plans to make concrete progress. One of the priority issues, on which U4 is taking the lead, is centered around participation, and how to better understand and leverage the connection between transparency, accountability and participation.

-Transparency is often understood to play an important role in increasing government accountability, but the relationship between participation, transparency and accountability is less well known. We need to better understand how to strengthen support for an increased participation and the impact that increased participation has on accountability, says Taxell.

Learning is at the very heart of the Community of Practice. How to learn from past successes and failures in transparency and accountability initiatives, how to promote learning within and across organisations, and how to embed learning methods and processes at the core of organisastions working to promote transparency and accountability are main priorities.

They will also work extensively on questions of context.

-At the moment, there is limited evidence on what works and what does not work in the field of transparency, accountability and participation. Through analysis and practical experience, TALEARN will explore under which circumstances specific interventions may or may not transfer successfully to new contexts, says Taxell.