The global community's growing enthusiasm for the potential of social accountability approaches to improve health system performance and accelerate health progress makes it imperative that we learn from social accountability intervention implementation experience and results. To this end, we carried out a review of Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)'s experience with the Community Score Card© (CSC)-a social accountability approach CARE developed in Malawi. We reviewed projects that CARE implemented between 2002 and 2013 that employed the CSC and that had at least one evaluation in English. We systematically collected and synthesized information from evaluations on the projects' characteristics, CSC-related outcomes and challenges. Eight projects, spanning five countries, met our inclusion criteria. The projects applied the CSC to various focus areas, mostly health. We identified one to three evaluations, mostly qualitative, for each project. While the evaluations had many limitations, consistency of the results, as well as the range of outcomes, suggests that the CSC is contributing to significant changes. All projects reported CSC-related governance outcomes and service outcomes. There is promising evidence that the CSC can contribute to citizen empowerment, service provider and power-holder effectiveness, accountability and responsiveness and spaces for negotiation between the two that are expanded, effective and inclusive. There is also evidence that the CSC may contribute to improvements in service availability, access, utilization and quality. The CSC seems particularly suited to building trust and strengthening relationships between the community and service providers and to improving the user-centred dimension of quality. All of the projects reported challenges, with ensuring national responsiveness and inclusion of marginalized groups in the CSC process proving to be the most intractable. To improve health system performance and accelerate health progress we recommend further CSC use, enhancements and research.
Keywords: Community Score Card; governance; health; social accountability; systematic review.
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.