Bridging the Accountability Gap: Applying assed-based and citizen-led development in Emfuleni, South Africa

This research project aims to gain an understanding of how to institutionalise the Asset-Based and Citizen-Led Development (ABCD) approach as an innovative means of promoting active citizen engagement along with local-level social accountability in Emfuleni Local Municipality, Gauteng Province in South Africa. Building on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)’s work in three wards of Emfuleni, the research tested the assumption that an ABCD approach offers a structural and transformative process by fostering a more participatory, inclusive, responsive, and equitable local government planning process. Four research methods were applied at various stages of the research project, namely: WhatsApp group discussions; ABCD orientation workshops; multi-stakeholder dialogues and the Community Scorecard (CSC) method.

Despite many challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of full commitment of some officials, it is evident that an ABCD approach can bridge the public participation divide between citizens and the local government to improve service delivery in Emfuleni. To reach government with a more direct engagement strategy, the research team introduced an ABCD-informed Community Scorecard (CSC) method to create a space for constructive dialogue, engagement, and accountability between Emfuleni communities and local municipal officials around the quality of participation in the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) processes. A joint action plan and a nominated steering team consisting of local citizens and Emfuleni Local Municipality officials were established to monitor and push for the implementation of the process.