Participation for Economic Advancement

Over the years, a great deal of work has been done on how to build participation and increase the voice of disenfranchised groups in political and social processes that affect their lives. Civil society and public action, with the support of engaged research, have opened up spaces for people to have a say in social and political policies at many levels. However, economic processes have only rarely been the focus of such efforts.

Economic power can liberate, but it can also oppress and disenfranchise as much as other forms of power. Economic policy-making generally still takes place behind closed doors, in processes that are heavily technocratic.  Business decision-making is in the hands of asset owners (shareholders, investors, entrepreneurs).  Orthodox economics emphasises rational self-interest over collective action towards shared well-being. Opening up and creating spaces for the economically disenfranchised to have a voice and to participate in decisions that affect them remains a key challenge. The Open Society Foundations Economic Advancement Programme is working with researchers in the Business Markets and States and Participation research teams at the Institute of Development Studies to try and address this challenge.

The Key Issues Guides and documents included in this collection are designed to present an overview of participation in economic advancement: introducing key concepts (What is Participation?); providing an overview of building participation within economic programmes - at the grantee/investee and at the internal funder levels (Participation for Economic Advancement Programming) and presenting examples of different models and processes in the economic sphere, and how these can enable meaningful participation (Mapping Participation in Economic Advancement).  It is recommended that those new to the field of participation in economic advancement read the overview guide before the other two.

Image credit: Favéla Santa Marta, Painting of life in the favéla | dany13 | Flickr | CC BY 2.0 

This Key Issues Guide is sponsored by the Economic Advancement Program of the Open Society Foundations. The Economic Advancement Program was launched in 2016 to work at the nexus of economic development and social justice by encouraging economic transformation that increases material opportunity in ways that promote open and prosperous societies.

In this collection

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Showing 1-10 of 31 results

  • Participatory impact investing: concepts and definitions

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2018
    Impact investors have done a lot of good (and some bad) so far, but mostly on their own terms. From a “return on investment perspective,” this makes sense: they have the capital, the knowledge and the means when it comes to “investment”.However, even with this perspective in mind, incorporating participation affords an opportunity to receive feedback from a larger range of stakeholders with better local knowledge and consequently safeguard against financial and social impact risks....
  • Participatory impact investing: concepts and definitions

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2018
    Impact investors have done a lot of good (and some bad) so far, but mostly on their own terms. From a “return on investment perspective,” this makes sense: they have the capital, the knowledge and the means when it comes to “investment”.However, even with this perspective in mind, incorporating participation affords an opportunity to receive feedback from a larger range of stakeholders with better local knowledge and consequently safeguard against financial and social impact risks....
  • Time to share the costs of participation in impact investing

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2018
    That there are real costs to participation is not news.  But impact investors, donors and investees themselves have not yet confronted the question of how such costs should be addressed across their industry. It is time to do so....
  • Shifting economic power dimensions for women in Adonara, Indonesia

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    Towering over the small island of Adonara in Indonesia, the Ile Boleng volcano is always present in the background. In the nearby village of Adobala, I listened as female heads of households, dressed in sarungs, talked about how they had organised themselves as a women’s group in the local cooperative ‘Lodan Do’e’. The cheerful women didn’t just use the time to talk, but also to weave and make threads or cook coconut oil.Lodan Do’e is part of the Indonesia-wide PEKKA movement....
  • Transformative participatory impact investing: The Buen Vivir Fund

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    In 2018, the Institute of Development Studies partnered with the Open Society Foundations Economic Justice Programme to build an evidence base to explore the question: “What constitutes meaningful participation in economic advancement?” Researchers sought to map cases in which alternative economic processes allow people at the grassroots level to have a real voice in economic decision-making, including business and financing models that enable participation....
  • Is participatory impact investing the antidote to “impact washing”?

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    As impact investing becomes more prominent and the market matures, so do concerns about so-called ”impact washing”. In this blog, Peter O’Flynn and Grace Lyn-Higdon explore how taking a participatory monitoring and learning approach could contain attempts at impact washing as well as ensure the investment results in meaningful impact for the people it’s supposed to benefit. This piece is part of a series on participatory impact investing....
  • PUMA: Solidarity economy in Pumarejo, Spain

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    The Community Exchange Scheme in the Pumarejo neighbourhood of Seville is one of many examples of solidarity economies rooted in alternative forms of exchange. Based on an alternative social currency, the Puma, the scheme supports collective decision-making, localised consumption, and the redeployment of under-utilised skills and competencies. Since no interest is paid on 'Pumas', the system encourages exchange rather than accumulation and wealth maximisation....
  • National Street Vendor Association: Lobbying for a national urban street vendor policy in India

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    The National Street Vendor Association (NASVI) in India is an association of Indian street vendor organisations working to protect the rights of vendors across the country through sustainable macro-level policy interventions. Engineered and promoted by NASVI, the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was passed by the Parliament of India in 2014. NASVI now works to effectively implement the policy for the welfare of Indian street vendors....
  • Participatory guarantee systems in Tanzania: Locally focused quality assurance systems

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGSs) are alternative certification schemes for organic products, built on trust and social networks, and intended for local markets. In contrast to third party export-oriented certification schemes, farmers working with PGSs are directly involved in the implementation of the system. Farmer-to-farmer peer-review is also an essential feature, built on equality and knowledge-sharing between the inspector and the inspected....
  • W.L. Gore & Associates Inc.: Workplace democracy in a transnational corporation

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    W. L. Gore and Associates (Gore) is a privately-held multinational company founded in 1958. Since its founding, it has operated through a "lattice" system of employee self-management which is said to verge on true workplace participatory democracy. Key features include a flat hierarchy in which the CEO is elected, self-managed work teams with small team sizes to secure ownership in collective decision-making, and free information flow. “Associates” (as the workers are known) step forward to lead when they have the expertise to do so; a practice referred to as “knowledge-based decision-making”....

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