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Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity #IDSAHE2017

In July 2017, researchers, practitioners, advocates and policymakers gathered for the Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change event hosted in collaboration with Unequal Voices, Future Health Systems, the Open Society Foundations, the Impact Initiative, and Health Systems Global.


  1. To kick off the discussions, the IDS Accountability for Health Equity team presented some reflections on an emerging framework.
  2. The workshop themes included: accountability politics at the local level and beyond; implications of the spread of health markets; the influence of longer-term historical factors in shaping current accountability relations; the challenge of connecting civil society led accountability initiatives with formal oversight and audit structures; and the roles of technology and knowledge intermediaries in linking researchers, community organisations and policy actors.
  3. Throughout the sessions and the plenaries, participants identified some important dimensions that shape accountability relations, processes and institutions: history, language, technology, context, institutions, knowledge and evidence, interest and ideology, and power and politics.
  4. Historical struggles for justice and freedom create a sense of health rights that can support contemporary struggles for accountability - or perhaps may no longer fit with the realities of the present and future.
  5. Understanding when and how language has constructed many different meanings of accountability is important. Language can be used to avoid genuine accountability, or as a creative resource for challenging accountability.
  6. Technology can be useful a tool but it is not, on its own, a ‘magic bullet’ for accountability, we must also question the accountability of actors driving technological and data innovations.