This case study, one in a series exploring community engagement and PBI, discusses the ways in which Mexico's performance-based incentive (PBI) program, Oportunidades, has (or hasn't) increased social accountability by engaging program beneficiaries, known as vocales, to oversee program administration at the local level.Oportunidades, a conditional cash transfer program, has received attention and acclaim for its success combating poverty and poor nutrition. This case study traces the origin of the vocales, describes their roles and responsibilities, and examines whether they are an appropriate mechanism for program administration. The study also considers how engaging communities through vocales might enhance social accountability and citizen empowerment.
The case finds that the vocales are a low-cost mechanism for providing a local information source to poor, marginalized, and indigenous Oportunidades beneficiaries. It is unclear that the vocales stimulate wider community empowerment or participation, but the mechanism does appear to strengthen and empower the vocales themselves. However, vocales election, training, and supervision remain disorganized, and there is a tension in the program between supporting new community leadership and ensuring that the vocales do not overstep their role.