A Citizen Report Card (CRC) is defined as an assessment of public services from the point of view of users. By means of collecting citizen feedback on the quality and adequacy of public services from actual users, CRC provides a rigorous basis and a proactive agenda for communities and local governments to engage in a dialogue to improve the delivery of public services.
The CRC was first developed in Bangalore, India in 1994. Frustrated with the poor condition of public services, a group of private citizens undertook a one-time effort to collect feedback from the users of services. The success of the initial effort in Bangalore led to the creation of a nongovernmental organization called the Public Affairs Centre (PAC). Since then, PAC has independently and in partnerships carried out numerous CRCs in Bangalore and in various locations within India and around the world. The CRC methodology has also been adopted and implemented by civil society organizations, governments and development agencies.
The idea behind the CRC was to mimic the private sector practice of collecting consumer feedback and applying it to the context of public goods and services. The surveys derive their name from the manner in which data is presented. Just as a teacher scores a student’s performance on different subjects in a school report card, CRC data aggregates scores given by users for the quality and satisfaction with different services like water, sanitation, health, education, police, among others, or scores on different performance criteria of a given service, such as availability, access, quality and reliability. The CRC generates a database of feedback on services that is placed in the public domain. This information is then used to design and lobby improvements.
The CRC process entails a random sample survey of the users of different public services and the aggregation of the users’ experiences as a basis for rating the services. It serves to identify the key constraints that users, especially the poor and the underserved, face in accessing public services, benchmark the quality and adequacy of these services as well as the effectiveness of staff providing services. These insights help generate recommendations on sector policies, programme strategy and management of service delivery, to address these constraints and improve service delivery. It can be particularly effective when respondents are asked to rate a wide range of providers, as this allows for relative rankings, which have been proven to be an effective way of providing incentives for improvement. Relative rankings can also usefully be compiled between geographic areas.
Unlike an opinion poll, the CRC includes only feedback from individuals who have used a particular service. As a result, the CRC takes the experience of actual users of a service instead of just views from the general public.