2016-2019 has seen a proliferation of large studies, donor reviews and evaluations published on social accountability (especially in health), with seemingly contradictory findings. Yet, if we go behind the findings, there are key common lessons for practice, including those studies with null results. These lessons include, but are not limited to, the role of high-quality community-based facilitators, the value of collaborative approaches, and contributions to system strengthening and relationship building. We make a start in exploring these lessons across different studies. We aim to encourage new syntheses, going beyond randomized field trials. These are, badly needed to help guide practitioners and challenge researchers to explore questions, which build further knowledge, not on whether it works, but how, why, and in what circumstances.
 We believe that different degrees of ‘confrontation’ will be needed at different times and in different places. Projects working within the framework of bilateral and multilateral agreements will likely be biased toward pragmatic and technical contributions—changing systems seemingly ‘from within’. Social accountability movements trying to defy bias, prejudice, and injustice remain much needed in the world, and will continue to be a force for change putting pressure on public administration. This tension is not exclusive to social accountability, but certainly social accountability is a space for living with this tension. Projects have to tread carefully on political issues, while movements naturally seize political platforms more forcefully. We do not believe in disqualifying one or the other approach, or pitting them against each other. We are seeking progress through a “ ” dialogic approach.When governments, unfortunately not-so-rarely, decide to be blind and deaf to the aspirations of people, or of particular groups of people, giving power and voice to people will be more political and more confrontational at some point. This reflects a difference in framing of social accountability, as ‘projects’ versus ‘movement’. We are not going to debate here whether one form of social accountability is better than the other, or the possibility of an approach to social accountability “in the middle”.