Understanding Community Participation to Make Services Work
Increasing beneficiary participation to improve public services has become increasingly popular during the last twenty years. Results from previous studies on the impact of such programs is mixed and inconsistent. We propose a simple model which explains some of those mixed results by predicting that returns to participation will vary by community characteristics. We use data from a randomized pilot project in Niger to test the model in the context of education, and support for some of the predictions. We need that parents are generally ready to participate in ways that support the teachers or help them carry out management tasks. However, only parents with high authority are able to participate in ways that oppose the teachers, in particular in monitoring teacher attendance. We also show that demand for education (measured by enrollment) increased in response to the pilot program, and we present evidence that this increase is partly explained by the practice of participating itself, rather than by improvements in quality.