Theory Junkie: Accountability Structure


I’m a sucker for theories and I love talking about them.

In today’s episode of the Theory Junkie, we explore the Accountability Structure and CSR.

We were introduced to this model during a guest lecture by Michael Hoevel from Glasshouse Partnership.

An old model of relationships between pillars of society in the capitalist world, this paradigm has seen significant developments over the years. While its continuous alteration keeps it relevant, its universal application has come under scrutiny in today’s ever so rapidly changing world.


The classic interpretation of this model establishes the relationships between the Public Sector, the Private Sector and the Citizens (depicted as Civil Society).

Businesses pay taxes to the government in exchange for regulation, access to the market and protection. The government grants the people representation of their aspirations and public goods such as healthcare and education in exchange for being elected into power. Businesses receive money from society in exchange for products and services they deliver. And in the middle of it all is the Media – standing guard as the fourth pillar of authority, revealing and punishing the untruthful. This is in essence, how our world works. These relationship, whether fair or not, represent how we have come to establish modern civilisation. Of course coffee companies don’t always pay taxes, supermarket chains don’t always deliver beef when they say they do, governments don’t always live up to the expectations of people, and most certainly of all, the media doesn’t always hold true to its role as a guardian of it all. Such is life.

But, as these complex relationships mature, mutations and amalgamations emerge:


Instead of having NASA fly space shuttles into orbit, we now have SpaceX, Instead of hoping for salvation to come from the heavens and land in the puddle that we use to wash our clothes in, we now have bankers with Nobel Peace prizes. Instead of relying on the government to safeguard our environment, we have created organisations like Greenpeace and WWF. And instead of hoping that the media will bring justice to the corrupt, some would argue, we now have social media, WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

So where does Corporate Social Responsibility come into these “newborn” categories of NGOs, Public-Private Partnerships and Social Entrepreneurship?

That’s for the communication professionals to decide. CSR is what we say it is. Is advancing space exploration through government contracts not socially responsible? Is lifting millions from poverty through banking not Nobel Peace prize worthy? Is our planet not worth saving? Is the Internet not the ultimate sentinel of human knowledge?

The Accountability Structure does not provide the answer. It simply establishes the framework within which these questions can exist.

How we mould these questions, is what CSR is all about.


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