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


Showing 1-10 of 40 results

  • Democratising economic power: The potential for meaningful participation in economic governance and decision-making

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Participation is the act of people engaging in decisions that impact their lives. It has been widely promoted in social, political and civic spheres. However, the question of participation in economic governance is underdeveloped. This paper explores participation in economic decision-making – ranging from citizen engagement in economic policy, economic development, or the governance of economic institutions – through an analysis of 28 cases in 14 countries, from both the global South and the global North....
  • The RSA Citizens’ Economic Council: citizen contributions to policy making highlights 

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    The RSA’s Citizen Economic Council was a two-year programme (2016-2018) in which 59 citizens conducted their own enquiry into economic policy in the United Kingdom and worked and deliberated with policymakers to co-create economic policy recommendations....
  • BPDC: Costa Rica’s worker-owned bank

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Banco Popular (Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal, BPDC) is a cooperative bank that is owned and managed by the workers of Costa Rica. Its diverse clients include workers, farmers, enterprises, and a variety of development associations. Workers who hold a savings account for over one year have the right to shared ownership in the bank while employers and workers together contribute to the bank’s capital base.The governing body of BPDC is a democratically elected Worker’s Assembly comprised of 290 representatives from among the bank’s worker-owners....
  • ASMARE: informal waste workers engaging in municipal policy-making

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    ASMARE is an association of informal waste workers ( catadores ) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Founded in 1990, it was the first step of involving catadores as a part of the city’s waste collection scheme. With ASMARE, the catadores moved from working in the streets with no organisation to semi-formality; able to voice their own demands. The change supported empowerment, improvements in working and living conditions, and greater self-esteem, which became foundations for later developments including a formal role in policymaking and ownership of recycling facilities....
  • Ghana Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Eleven Accra-based civil society organisations (CSOs) working on social accountability, anti-corruption and governance joined forces in November 2014 to influence the design, implementation and monitoring of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)backed extended credit arrangement for Ghana (2015–18).Prior to the formation of the Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme, there had been no citizen initiative specifically dedicated to a serious economic intervention like this in the country. The Civil Society Platform has been at the forefront of CSOs’ engagement with key stakeholders (i.e....
  • PEKKA: women-headed household empowerment

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Grass-roots member-owned cooperatives for female heads of households in rural Indonesia (PEKKA) empower the female members through three economic activities: community-based microfinance through savings and borrowing; a closed trading and marketing system, branded as PEKKA Mart; and economic lobbying and advocacy.Through their membership of the cooperative, female heads of households are increasing their voice and agency over economic decision-making....
  • Buen Vivir Fund: participatory impact investing

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    The Buen Vivir Fund is a participatory impact investment fund operating internationally. It was founded in 2018 by Thousand Currents, a nongovernmental organisation, following a co-design process to conceptualise the Fund, initiated in 2016. The Buen Vivir Fund started small in terms of volume of capital, having raised US$1m in loan capital for its initial investment cycle of 2018–20.This US$1m, plus US$300,000 raised in grant capital, is being deployed with the guidance of the Fund’s Members Assembly....
  • RSF Social Finance: transforming the way the world works with money

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    RSF Social Finance is a public benefit financial services organisation dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money. RSF offers investing, lending, and giving services to individuals and enterprises committed to improving society and the environment.The example of RSF provides valuable lessons of how to facilitate meaningful and direct relationships across sectors and among diverse stakeholders within a structure of disciplined investment practice....
  • Participation in economic advancement: The experience of the Brazilian Network of Community Banks (BNCB)

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    This case study was designed to investigate how people in poor communities in Brazil are taking action to improve their local economies and how participation is important to achieve that. In a context of economic marginalisation and limited access to infrastructure and public goods, local movements have risen in which residents organise themselves to discuss major community issues and try to find a solution together....
  • 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....


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