The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Conference papers

Unpicking power and politics for transformative change: resources

Picture: Possible/Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

In July 2017, the Impact Initiative, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the Unequal Voices project, Future Health Systems, and Open Society Foundation convened a three-day workshop: Unpicking power and politics for transformative change: Towards accountability for health equity

The workshop attracted between 80 to 90 participants (including ESRC-DFID grant holders) and represented: donors, multilateral agencies, national and global civil society, and research institutions. The event critically examined the practices and politics shaping accountability in health systems from the local to the global levels, and also launched an IDS programme focusing on strengthening accountability for health equity

Speaking after the event, ESRC-DFID grant holder, Ian Harper (New Norms and Forms of Development) from the University of Edinburgh, said: "I value workshops like this event as good spaces for personal networking and finding out about future opportunities, including funding, but particularly because events like this one provide excellent opportunities for multi-disciplinary discussions and reflections" 


A record of the event

As Erica Nelson (IDS) explains in her blog Naming the moment (published by IDS on 4 October 2017): "There is a political reason for sharing a “record” rather than a neat synthesis of the event... We would argue that there is all too often a lack of historical perspective and institutional memory in contemporary debates on health systems strengthening , or in the planning of interventions designed to improve accountability mechanisms at local, national or global level. Part of what can get lost (one might argue, on purpose) is the messiness and complexity of innovation and change."  

Watch a record of the event:

 A full conference report is also available from: “Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity.” This can also be downloaded at the foot of the page. 

Photographs and storify

An album of photographs from the workshop can be viewed on Flickr. (Credit: S.King - IDS.)

Watch a Wakelet story that captures key moments:



A series of blogs published to co-incide with, and follow on from, the event are available to read in full below:

  • Naming the moment: Erica Nelson (IDS) shares a record of the event, and discusses key moments and achievements.

  • Transforming accountabilities for health: reflections from the event shared by Karine Gatellier (IDS) and Tom Barker (IDS)

  • Is accountability for health equity a blaming dance? Alexandre Calandrini, from Unequal Voices, shares some reflections on the first day of the workshop. He mentions a presentation about information health care providers in India, and asks who is to blame for these providers prescribing antibiotics to patients, sometimes even when it is not recommended. He also reflects on what accountability for health equity is.

  • History and language: keywords for health and accountability: Jonathan Fox, Director of the new, Accountability Research Center at the School of International Service, American University, shares notes from his presentation at the recent IDS-hosted event on strengthening accountability for health equity. He argues that we need to be aware of how accountability terms can and have been politically constructed, and encourages us to search for terms that do a better job of communicating the key steps on the path to accountability-building.
  • Onions, elephants and lenses; reflections on the accountability for health equity workshop: Ligia Paina, a FHS Researcher, shares some reflections on the event and on the FHS team’s contributions to the sessions. Topics covered included community scorecards, opportunities for how to support accountability better, and the politics of evidence and considerations around whose knowledge counts and the role of knowledge translation among others.
  • Accountability responses to the spread of health market: Uranchimeg Tsevelvaanchig, Priya Balasubramaniam and Meenakshi Gautham - from the HSG Private Sector in Health TWG - share their reflections from the workshop focusing on accountability responses to the spread of health markets, which was one of the themes of this event. National and transnational challenges and responses to the spread of health markets were discussed based on country experiences of Mongolia, China, India, and Brazil. 
  • Has politics shaped the terms ‘accountability’ and ‘participation’? Luiz Eduardo Fonsecaa member of the international reference group for the Unequal Voices project - explores how politics has shaped the meaning of the terms 'accountability' and 'participation'. He compares the process in which meanings shift to a game where one person whispers a message that is relayed along a line of people and emerges at the end in a different form - this process of 'attenuation' can shed light on how the meaning of terms can change depending on the context, the speaker, the listener. 
  • Towards accountability for health equity: The Sustainable Development Goals set out an ambitious agenda to achieve universal health coverage for all but how will this goal be reached when we have seen already the ease with which reformed health services and refreshed health resources still fail to reach the people who need them most? Ms Denise Namburete (Nweti Communication for Health), Dr Vera Coelho (Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning - Cebrap), Dr Alexander Shankland (IDS) and Dr Gerald Bloom (IDS) explore the key role partnerships and local accountability politics play in shaping accountability in health systems.

  • News: Power, politics and health equity article highlighting the event.

ESRC-DFID research:

The event drew on a number of projects enabled by the ESRC-DFID's Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research:

Workshop Report: 

The workshop report - “Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity” - is available to download below.