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Understandings of accountability: an autoethnographic account using metaphor

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Gibbon


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The paper explores approaches to and understandings of accountability and how these changed through the experience of working with a civil society organization to develop their social accounts. The paper considers the interrelationship between autoethnography, social accounting and metaphorical conceptualization in order to reflect on first the process of developing accountability and second the meaning of accountability. Different approaches to and understandings of accountability are explored through the reflexive use of metaphor. The use of generative metaphor developed through a personal account, an autoethnography of social accounting, and this demonstrates how my view of and approach to the process of accountability changed during the experience. The reflection opens up a space to work with the non calculative and develop better understandings of approaches to accountability in practice. Whilst the paper draws on understandings of accountability from current social environmental accounting and third sector literature, a broader view of accountability within voluntary organizations in practice is used, where the complexity of accountability as part of a fragmented and changing world is acknowledged (Miller, 2002). The development of social accounting with a third sector community organization demonstrates how accountability in practice occurred through continued conversations and dialogue. Reflection on the process of social accounting through the use of metaphor as a reflexive method assisted in making sense of the experience whilst developing accountability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gibbon J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Perspectives on Accounting

Year: 2012

Volume: 23

Issue: 3

Pages: 201-212

Print publication date: 08/01/2012

ISSN (print): 1045-2354

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9955

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1016/


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