Embedding poor people's voices in local governance: participation and political empowerment in India

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Picture: Juan Antonio F. Segal/Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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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.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
ES/E021964/1
RES-167-25-0268
Project Status: 
Closed
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Town and Regional Planning
Fund Start Date: 
January 1st, 2008
Fund End Date: 
November 30th, 2010
Fund Currency Code: 
GBP
Fund Value: 
390514
citizenship
democratisation
empowerment
exclusion
governance
governance-reform
local-governance
marginalisation
Participatory-initiatives
political-capabilities
poor-people
public-space
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