The Black Sash Model of Community Based Monitoring (CBM)

March 10, 2021 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
October 17, 2018 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
June 18, 2018 Lucy J Parry, Participedia Team
February 8, 2018 Meshay Moses
May 3, 2016 Meshay Moses

The 8-phase Black Sash CMB model empowers community-based organisations to use surveys and data collection for the effective oversight and monitoring of public services. The model help citizens claim and exercise their human and political rights.

Problems and Purpose

Community-based monitoring (CBM) allows civil society to gather and analyse information from government service users’ points of view. The Black Sash CBM model involves eight key phases, some of which run concurrently. The starting point is setting up partnerships with government and community-based Organisations (CBOs), building the capacity of Community Partners (CPs) to engage in their own local-based monitoring exercises. Relationships are then built with the local government facility and its managers and the next four phases commence: monitoring and data collection; analysing and cleaning data into reports; disseminating reports in the communities for reflection in dialogues where improvement plans are developed and adopted; and advocacy.  

Community-Based Monitoring is designed to benefit and involve government service users. The model helps to build constructive, democratic state-society relations between officials and community-based organisations who collaborate with community members on monitoring and future planning to improve the performance of public service centres.

The core of the Black Sash CMB model is the formation of partnerships with both community-based organisations (CBOs) and government in order to strengthen the role of civil society in improving service delivery and holding public and private sectors to account. In empowering communities to participate in CBM, Black Sash also promotes active citizenship. CBM seeks to encourage citizens to appraise the quality of services they receive at the government facility level, express their concerns, and engage in dialogues to promote greater community participation in planning, implementation, and monitoring of service delivery.

Origins and Development

The Black Sash method of Community Based Monitoring was developed by Black Sash in partnership with Making All Voices Count and with the technical assistance of Code for South Africa. Black Sash brought over 50 years of experience with community mobilization and empowerment to the model while Making All Voices Count brought expertise in research and the use of new technologies for citizen-government interfacing. Like other forms of community-based monitoring, the Black Sash model employs a participatory approach to build the capacities of citizens to partner with government to monitor local service delivery. Community-led processes such as CBM help citizens claim and exercise their human and political rights, and to push for and receive open, transparent, and accountable governance.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Partnership agreements are signed with community-based organisations to conduct monitoring at the selected service sites. Community partners are trained by the Black Sash and Making All Voices Count to conduct on-the-spot surveys of people waiting in queues at various service delivery sites, as well as record their own observations of the process as they go. The surveys collect feedback on and from:

  • Primary health service users (ordinary citizens)
  • Primary health frontline staff
  • Local government service facilities
  • South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) frontline staff
  • SASSA service point users (ordinary citizens)
  • SASSA pay-point facility users (ordinary citizens) 

After the surveys, dialogues are held to develop improvement (action) plans. Dialogue participants do not have to be those who supplied the survey information, but they should be drawn from the same pool of service users by the community partners to ensure they are equally familiar with the service and facilities being surveyed.

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

The Black Sash CBM model involves eight key phases. Some of these phases run concurrently. The starting point is the setting up of infrastructural arrangements with government. Black Sash also creates partnerships with Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), building the capacity of these Community Partners (CPs) to engage in their own local-based monitoring exercises. Then they work to build a relationship with the local government facility and its managers. Once this is set up, the model moves into the next four phases of monitoring and data collection, analysing and cleaning data into reports, disseminating reports in the communities for reflection in dialogues where improvement plans are developed and adopted. The final phase is that of advocacy. 

Phase 1 - Establishing Government Relationships

Securing physical access to government departments and their service delivery facilities forms part of the groundwork of the overall monitoring project. Black Sash signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) supporting the CBM project undertaken by Black Sash in selected government departments such as the Department of Health and Local Government (municipalities) and the Department of Social Development. 

Phase 2 - Selecting Community Partners

In this phase, Black Sash identifies community-based organisations (CBOs) to participate in the CBM pilot project. The Black Sash regional staff schedule meetings with partners across all nine provinces and outline the project concept, deliverables, timelines, roles and responsibilities. Black Sash takes great care in selecting the correct organisation with which to partner. They select community organisations on the basis of their capacity to engage and implement the project in their respective communities. Selected community organisations are required to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Black Sash. The MoU ensures mutual accountability by specifying the key roles and responsibilities for Black Sash, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the CBOs taking part in the project. The MoU also establishes a normative framework of values and principles underpinning the overall monitoring project.

All monitors are required to sign a Code of Conduct. Each monitor identifies the day(s), within a specified timeframe, when they would monitor selected sites in the communities where they lived or worked. The Code of Conduct details various character and ethical guidelines, such as the importance of honesty, accuracy in reporting, objectivity, confidentiality, and sensitivity to different languages and contexts.

Phase 3 - Engaging Local Facilities

This step is about building capacity for the local community organisation and supporting them through the local facility engagement. CBOs are trained on the ethics of monitoring so that they would be able to guide respondents through a questionnaire without invalidating the responses.

Phase 4 - Monitoring the Facility

Monitoring takes place over a three-month period each year and consists of light-touch surveys conducted by trained monitors. Each community organisation endeavours to survey at least 300 respondents per government facility in order to ensure accurate representation. Responses are captured directly onto the system via mobile or desktop tools, or else are transcribed from paper-based forms.

Phase 5 - Reporting the Findings

This step is concerned with the analysis and packaging of the survey results. Each site is analysed and their results presented back to them by means of high-impact posters which are put up at the public facility to give feedback to their service users. In addition, results are also packaged into a hand-out which is then used to plan the public dialogues with.

Phase 6 - Dialogues

Public dialogues are a platform for civil society, service users, and management of the monitored government facilities to discuss the findings of the annual monitoring; together, they will develop and adopt an improvement or action plan to address the concerns raised. This is a collaborative platform, facilitated by the community organisations, from which a joint monitoring committee (made up of community stakeholders and facility management and staff) should be established. The committee ensures the implementation of the improvement plan in the public facilities, particularly in areas where government is not delivering.

Phase 7 - Engaging in Advocacy

In this phase, the Black Sash and community organisations attend to the larger issues that emerged out of the survey results and public dialogues. It is often the case that issues raised at a local level need provincial or even national interventions in order to address the systemic concern. Here, Black Sash also encourages other stakeholders with similar interests to engage with government departments to find practical solutions to the service delivery problems and challenges raised in the surveys.

Phase 8: Reflection and Learning 

More recently, Black Sash has added another phase to the monitoring process. This step includes the writing up of case studies with community partners of the learning experiences. They reflect on the things that have worked well and should be repeated, as well as the challenges and how these should be changed in the following monitoring cycle. Black Sash and its community partners also review the survey tools in order to improve it for the next cycle.  

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The NGO Making All Voices Count used the Black Sash model of CBM in South Africa to allow citizens to monitor public service provision by collecting data on government facility sites themselves and using door-to-door surveys on personal experience with service delivery. The pilot project was very successful in improving citizens’ awareness of their constitutional rights to receive quality services and strengthening the voice of poor and marginalised communities in monitoring service delivery. The project's use of CBM also helped strengthen the relationship between service beneficiaries, government officials, and participating community-based organisations. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The South African pilot project revealed some key lessons:

Unfamiliarity with technology may be a barrier to a community's adoption of the model. Some participants were not comfortable using the Tablets to capture the data. While technology can allow for much quicker capture, sending and analysis of data, there are challenges in establishing these systems, but especially in using them in communities with limited exposure to technology or resources to cope with glitches. Those seeking to use CBM should consider the establishment of an overall and on-going training programme in technology usage.

See Also

Black Sash

Black Sash Making All Voices Count Community-Based Monitoring Project

Community-Based Monitoring


[1] Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996).

External Links

Black Sash Website

Website for the Department Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation, Republic of South Africa