This is the report of a case study on social accountability in the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) of Ethiopia. It is one of four case studies, which taken together form one of the outputs of a global policy research project that DFID has contracted Development Pathways to undertake. These four case studies will inform the final outputs of this project: the final research report and a guidance note for practitioners.
The overall purpose of the global research project is to bring together existing evidence and generate new evidence on the effects that social accountability mechanisms have on the delivery of social protection services and on state-society relations. The four key research questions of the global research project are:

• Question 1: Where social accountability mechanisms have been used within social protection programmes, what are the intended direct and indirect outcomes (at household, community, state levels)?
• Question 2: What is the evidence of the impact of social accountability mechanisms in social protection programmes leading to improved service delivery outcomes and strengthening state-society relations?
• Question 3: Under what conditions have different social accountability mechanisms in social protection programmes been associated with improved service delivery outcomes and strengthening of state-society relations?
• Question 4: What can be learnt from other service delivery sectors about the use of different social accountability mechanisms?

We adopt a theory-based approach to our research and we have developed a draft conceptual framework (see Figure 1), which is grounded in the wider literature on social accountability, and has been adapted to the particular context of social protection.
This case study contributes to answering the first three of the global research questions. The purpose of our case study is to understand how social accountability processes around the PSNP are operating in practice in particular localities and to unpack the reasons why. We investigated social accountability processes in relation to the PSNP in two ‘woredas,’ (local areas). These were purposively selected on the basis that they were sites of an interesting social accountability pilot in 2014-15 (the Ethiopia Social Accountability Program (ESAP2) pilot).
We used three qualitative methods: case studies; institutional assessment; and (to a lesser extent) process tracing. For our institutional assessment, we reviewed documents and carried out key informant interviews at national level. We used case studies to investigate each of the five dimensions of social accountability set out in our conceptual framework; we purposively selected individuals for semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions, ensuring that we spoke with community leaders, as well as a cross-section of PSNP beneficiaries, including the most vulnerable.
The key findings of our Ethiopia case study are as follows. We conclude that in the two localities studied, social accountability processes around the PSNP have contributed to some improvements in both service delivery and state-citizen relations. The main mechanisms through which they have done this are by: raising citizen awareness and confidence; promoting direct dialogue between citizens and kebele officials (the lowest level of the administrative structure); and enabling citizens to bring local implementation issues to the attention of woreda officials1. This last mechanism has been effective because of the political economy context in Ethiopia, with its strong focus on service delivery: woreda officials are highly motivated to ensure that kebele officials address any identified implementation gaps.
The service delivery issues that have been successfully addressed in this way include:

▪ implementation weaknesses linked to a lack of local knowledge of programme rules, such as inadequate implementation of gendered public works provisions;
▪ local abuses of power, including requests for bribes, illegitimate demands of public works participants to carry out unpaid work on private land, and theft of transfers; and
▪ exclusion errors in targeting, but only those that became apparent whilst the selection process was still ongoing.

The ESAP2 programme has been important in addressing the first two sets of issues. Local PSNP committees, including the Kebele Appeals Committees (KACs) where functional, have been key to addressing targeting exclusion error.
On the other hand, we found two key limitations of existing social accountability processes: firstly, processes and impacts are ‘locally-bounded’; secondly, they appear to have benefited the most marginalised PSNP beneficiaries less than others. Furthermore, certain design features of the PSNP programme create challenges for social accountability. (reliefweb)