Going Local: Lessons from the World Bank

Posted November 16, 2012 kmcgovern

This article by Adrienne Valdez  “Going Local: Lessons from the World Bank” uploaded to the Internet on 15 November 2012 addressed issues of participatory decision-making. Many people in developing countries have contributed much of their time participating in workshops to assist organisations design programs, evaluate and identify performance. World Bank economists analyzed nearly 500 studies on participatory development and decentralization to find out what works and what doesn’t.

They found it difficult to prove that participation reduced poverty. In my experience, there are many other factors, including the hierarchy of access to resources and services, that affect what happens in practice. It matters who participates, and what they can do about what they learn by their participation.

The authors note “three main lessons from the studies they reviewed:

  1. Community participation works best when the state is responsive to the demands of local civic groups.
  2. Projects need to be sensitive to local and national contexts, which vary widely and often have unpredictable effects on outcomes.
  3. Clear, measurable results within a specific timeframe aren’t always possible.”

Civic engagement does not work if the people with nothing to do on the day turn up. Like all structures to support decision making it needs to be planned carefully and implemented to plan. Too often tight timelines mean the community’s ability to have their agreed voice heard cannot be arranged. In lieu, those managing the community engagement use participants to confirm their best guess. Language is an impediment with many concepts not translating across language, culture and education.

The World Bank article states:

“Such efforts face multiple challenges, such as lack of coordination, inequality, lack of transparency, corruption, free-riding, and low capacity,” noted Rao, lead economist at the bank’s development research group. “Participation works best as a sandwich with bottom-up participation supported by top-down supervision.”

We have to do the work. There is no “easy way around” thoughtful work.

for the article see:  development news online. 

Filed under: Development
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