AccountabilityVideo for Change practitioners believe their activities and outputs should be made accountable to the communities they seek to support. Many Video for Change initiatives include processes that allow communities, campaigns and movements to direct, monitor, and/or evaluate initiatives. Accountability is about making the right decisions about ownership – including addressing issues relating to copyright and intellectual property – and editing decisions and processes.

Accountability is the means of ensuring the way you do things and what you do are visible to the people you have identified as key participants in your project, and having processes that allow these key participants to evaluate what you are doing.

Accountability is about responsibility and relationships. It involves transparent processes and methods to track whether your initiative is supporting those it seeks to support, and to answer how well it incorporates the Video for Change values and methods.

On the matter of accountability, a Video for Change initiative should:

  • Demonstrate a clear analysis of power relations and challenge or effectively navigate imbalances throughout the process. This involves including participants in making important design, production and post-production decisions that affect their lives, their ability to change situations, the resources they have access to, and what their group or community is taught, knows and thinks.
  • Show participation and inclusion in how the initiative engages and develops the capacities of marginalised and under-represented people and communities.
  • Mitigate risks through a clear, documented plan for identifying and addressing risks, provide resources and referrals to affected people, and attend to specific gender-based risks.
  • Document methods and activities to make visible the steps taken towards this.

Accountability is core to your project's ability to contribute to positive changes in participants’ lives and affected communities. To achieve positive social change, it’s important to understand how a Video for Change initiative impacts the human rights issues you are working on, and the people you work with. In this way, you can better assess the effects, decisions and ultimately impacts, at any stage in your initiative.

Accountability is impossible without Transparency in the same way that transparency is not enough without accountability. In many cases, these two concepts are linked. For the purposes of better defining their distinct role we’ve separated them in this toolkit.


Types of Accountability


A lack of transparency and accountability in the use of power can lead to social conflict. Important decisions by institutions, organisations, groups or individuals, affect the people they are meant to serve and support. Your Video for Change initiative should use transparent methods to assess accountability at any (or all, if feasible) stages of a project. If not, it’s possible your efforts will increase, rather than reduce or reverse, existing gaps in accountability, transparency, power imbalances, and inequalities in a society.

‘Being accountable’ means different things to different people, groups, organisations and institutions. There are many approaches to accountability, each with its own politics, values and priorities. Methods to plan for and assess accountability in social justice projects continues to evolve.

Some groups consider accountability to refer to reporting back to a donor that may have provided resources for a film or project. This so-called ‘upward’ accountability often reflects the values and priorities of a donor, sometimes seeking to answer project monitoring and evaluation questions pre-set in a grant agreement.

‘Downward’ or horizontal accountability can refer to the ethical responsibility and relationships of Video for Change practitioners (and donors where applicable) in showing whether and how they have engaged and served people who are directly or indirectly affected by the issues addressed in a Video for Change product. It’s about being responsible to others, being responsible for oneself, and sharing responsibility. It means working with peers and engaging others involved in or affected by a project to ensure you fulfil your responsibilities well.

‘Inward’ accountability refers to being accountable to oneself as a Video for Change practitioner, and a personal commitment to being true to ethical principles and fulfilling promises. Inward accountability comes from the inside out, and helps build credibility, respect and trust. Inward accountability may also concern the way team members of an initiative answer to each other through planning, team check-ins and debriefings with involved individuals and communities. It may also include participatory methods with activities to track accountability from the ‘bottom up’.

‘Outward’ accountability refers to the means a Video for Change team uses to communicate its accountability to others, creating a project culture or set of expectations and norms, or standards, that people feel compelled to follow and demonstrate. ‘Outward’ accountability focuses specifically on the accountability of you and your team members toward the individuals, groups or communities your initiative seeks to support.


Considerations in Accountability

Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you think of accountability in your Video for Change project:

  • Who is accountable to whom, and for what?
  • How can the project demonstrate accountability? And to whom?
  • Has the project undertaken a power analysis and identified existing power inequalities? What were the results of the Power Analysis, and how did the project take them into account? 
  • Has the project engaged the participation of marginalised individuals or groups? If so, how? What are or have been the results to date?
  • Has the project developed clear activities to demonstrate responsibility towards those engaged in, and in any way affected by, the work?
  • When should the project demonstrate accountability? Before, during, after filming? During distribution? Upon critical events, including any repercussions or retaliation against subjects in a video?
  • Have any unintended consequences resulted from filming or disseminating a video? For whom? How can you support them in addressing risk mitigation, protection or security needs?
  • Has the project explained verbally and in writing a follow-up information sheet in local language with contact details and a resource and referrals list (a resource and referrals list should provide information on locally available services)? Services and support should include those that are medical, legal, or specific to the protection and security of activists, human rights defenders, journalists, other targeted individuals, or extended group members.