Development Interventions and Local Power Structures

CSDS (Humphreys, van der Windt, and Sanchez de la Sierra) launched a second field experiment on development in Congo in Fall 2012. In partnership with the IRC and building on the Tuungane II Community Driven Reconstruction Project, the field experiments use variations in the design of international programs to assess the logic of collective action in local communities as well as the effects of international interventions on local governance structures.

To do this two variations are introduced in the context of a $150m development program. One is to remove the requirement common to aid programs that communities make financial copayments to development projects. These copayments are generally required based on a logic (not unlike that underpinning some accounts of politics in rentier states) that financial participation strengthens commitments to public good activities. Removing the requirement in a random subset of project sites provides a way to assess this claim as well as more general hypotheses relating material participation to political participation.   A second is to remove the requirement common in these programs that local decisions should be made by leaders selected though externally imposed elections. The external imposition of institutions for decision making is common across a wide range of development interventions on the assumption that it increases the decision making power of marginalized members of traditional communities; yet without changes to within community power relations it is unclear that these institutions will have any real effects. This experiment in the design of development aid allows for a testing of this hypothesis as well as a more general examination of the extent to which local power relations in developing countries are shaped by international interactions.  The lottery assigning treatment variations was implemented in Fall 2011 and projects are now underway.

The allocation of treatments follows a factorial design blocked across regions as shown in the Table below.

Communities allocated to treatment variations

No Election Election All
No contributions 196 196 392
Contributions 196 355 551
All 392 551 943

and illustrated in the following Figure: