Principal Investigator: Glyn Owain Williams. Lead Organisation: University of Sheffied
Poor people’s lack of voice and influence are globally recurring themes their own accounts of their poverty, and are indicative of their wider political disempowerment. This project evaluates attempts to tackle this core element of poverty through local governance reform. Its central research question is: to what extent do participatory initiatives within local governance enhance poor people’s opportunities for political empowerment?
Local governance reform has become a key site of development intervention, underpinned by an assumption that it will deliver positive feedback between popular participation, democratisation and poverty alleviation. The project critically analyses this assumption, focusing on two Indian States internationally recognised for innovations in local governance, West Bengal and Kerala. Primary data collection in each State centres on poor people’s own evaluations of participatory governance initiatives. It asks whether participatory initiatives create new public arenas where poor people do voice their concerns, whether they practically assist poor people in pressing their claims in these arenas and elsewhere, and whether participation actually challenges underlying political exclusion.
The project has been designed in collaboration with Indian partner institutions (CDS, Trivandrum, and CSSSC, Kolkata), and will engage with potential users - from local research participants to policy makers - from the outset.