Democratic Institutions and Collective Action Capacity: Results from a Field Experiment in Post-Conflict Liberia
47 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 11 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2011
We describe results from a field experiment on the effects of local democratic governance institutions that were introduced in 42 of 83 randomly selected communities in northern Liberia in 2006-8. The intervention sought to strengthen the ability of communities to solve collective action problems. Five months after the intervention was completed we used a community-wide public good game as a behavioral measure of collective action capacity. Surprisingly -- given the common view that local social and political institutions are highly robust and resistant to third-party efforts to change them -- we find that treated communities contributed significantly more in the public goods game. We use evidence from surveys of the game players to try to understand the mechanisms by which the program affected contributions. Although our conclusions here are more tentative, it appears that leaders in CDR-treated communities engaged in greater mobilization and information-sharing efforts which may have produced more coordination around socially desirable outcomes. These effects are found however only when the collective action problem is presented to mixed gender groups; for collective action problems involving women-only groups we observe no mobilization gains attributable to the treatment.
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