Community Driven Development and Elite Capture

Community driven development (CDD) has long been thought of as an effective method of service delivery for the provision of public goods. Development practitioners have argued that engaging the community in development projects will create a closer connection between those who distribute public services and its intended beneficiaries. However, as with markets and governments, CDD is not without its weaknesses. Failure can occur when a subgroup of the community, is able to mobilise to further their self-interest, to the detriment of the rest of the community. This appropriation is often termed ‘elite capture’. So while community driven development offers a promising path to achieving the goal of rural development and empowerment of the poor, there is a need to understand how it is potentially hampered by elite capture. This is of particular concern in India, as an increasing proportion of public services is distributed at the community level and is susceptible to capture by leaders and other elites within the community. This project will examine the issue of elite capture in the context of the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (JEEViKA). One of the key objectives of JEEViKA is to address rural poverty in Bihar through a process of CDD and the creation of self-help groups aimed at empowering the poor, especially women. The main research questions are: Does the presence of community groups like JEEViKa impact the provision of public services? Does the extent of elite capture differ in JEEViKA villages compared to non- JEEViKA villages? Does trust of leaders differ between JEEViKA villages and non-JEEViKA villages and is this related to different levels of elite capture? We aim to answer these questions using a field experiment with approximately 900 participants, to be conducted in a number of villages in Bihar, specifically, in JEEViKA (program) villages and non- JEEViKA (non-program villages. Participants will be women living in rural areas such as school teachers, women leaders, members of village councils and members of self-help groups. The field experiment will involve two tasks that will allow us to examine trust and cooperation amongst high and low status leaders and followers. By comparing the behaviour of leaders of different status in the JEEViKA and the non-JEEViKA villages we aim to identify (1) if some leaders have a higher likelihood of expropriating resources, engaging in elite capture and hence impacting the provision of public services; (2) whether some leaders are likely to be deemed as more trusting and more trustworthy; and (3) whether the presence of CDD projects affect these propensities. The field experiment will be complemented with household and community level surveys designed to address these questions.

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