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 21-30 of 46 results

  • 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”....
  • 'Empresas recuperadas': Argentina's recovered factory movement

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    The ‘empresas recuperadas' or worker-recovered enterprise movement in Argentina emerged as a response to the country's sovereign debt crisis of 2001, with workers fighting for their right to run abandoned factories. Central to the movement is an ethos of solidarity, with worker-owned enterprises based on horizontal authority, collective decision-making and shared returns from the business...
  • Linking participation with economic advancement: PEKKA case study

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    Grass-roots member-owned cooperatives for female heads of households in rural Indonesia (PEKKA) empower the women 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. Fieldwork for the PEKKA cooperative Lodan Do’e on the impacts of these economic activities shows that through their membership of the cooperative, female heads of households were able to increase voice and agency over economic decision-making....
  • Deepening impact through a participatory due diligence process

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    Impact investing can create a disconnect between the needs of the people that an investment means to serve and the intentions of the investor....
  • Linking participation and economic advancement: Buen Vivir Fund case study

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    The Buen Vivir Fund is a participatory impact investment fund operating internationally. It was founded in 2018 by Thousand Currents, a non-governmental organisation, following a co-design process to conceptualise the Fund, initiated in late 2016. The Buen Vivir Fund has intentionally started small in terms of volume of capital, having raised US$1m in loan capital for its initial investment cycle in 2018–20....
  • Linking participation and economic advancement. Ghana Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme: case study

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2019
    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 Platform has been at the forefront of CSOs’ engagement with key stakeholders (i.e....


See all content in Eldis on Participation