People who are on the receiving end of injustice have to live with the consequences of social change campaigns that seek to address those injustices – these people have the most to gain from a victory – and the most to lose if something goes wrong.

History and community development practice says they’re also the best equiped to know and to articulate, workable solutions to their problems. A campaign that ignores or minimises those most impacted knowledge and voices could easily do more harm than good.

Self identified “leaders” sometimes rush in (think of the “white saviours”), believing they have all the cookie cutter answers while their preconceptions and prejudices blind them to the community based answers all around them. We can avoid this by intentionally respecting the process and cultivating accountability.

Accountability can be thought of as a proactive process that we walk together, rather than a standard that is either achieved or not.

The booklet Organising Cools the Planet outlines four basic principals for cultivating accountability;

  1. Transparency means being clear and communicative about who you are, what your politics, goals, strengths and weaknesses are. The point here is to be as open as possible about your perspectives & motivations.
  1. Participation is about actively and equitably engaging with folks about the decisions that affect them.
  1. Reflection and deliberation means that we actively open up conversation to re-evaluate the    campaign or project. It happens after participation, but once it’s begun, it is a continuous process throughout the whole process.
  1. Response is the ability to make changes to issues raised by reflection and deliberation.

When taking leadership from the most impacted, accountability is not the goal; collaboration is the goal. Accountability is the process we use. The principals of accountability moves us toward successful collaborations.

Contributed by Joshua Kahn Russell in Beautiful Trouble.

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