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 31-40 of 46 results

  • What next for power analysis? A review of recent experience with the Powercube and related frameworks

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2012
    The Working Paper aims to contribute to a growing pool of experience of applying power analysis for improving social activism and organisational practice....
  • Participatory impact investing: whose voices count?

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2018
    Impact investing is a financial investment made with the intent to affect social or environmental change. It is an ever-growing investment method with the GIIN’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey finding that over USD 114 billion was invested in impact investing assets.To put that into greater context, net ODA from official donors totaled USD 146.6 billion in 2017, and the impact investing market has greater scope (and appetite) to invest with these aims....
  • Getting serious about impact

    LinkedIn, 2016
    Realising the potential of impact investing in Africa will require all actors in the impact ecosystem to demonstrate courage in speaking “truth to power” in unpacking impact measurement – when things go well, and also when they do not....
  • Accountability: the golden opportunity in impact investing

    Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2016
    Why investors need to integrate rights and accountability into development finance, and how they can begin. Consider: Investors in traditional energy sectors routinely apply policy and accountability frameworks to manage their social and environmental risks. The sorts of risks associated with impact investments, such as investment in a biomass energy project, aren’t any less important to investigate and address than risk of harm from, say, a coal mine....
  • Impact investing

    Accountability Counsel, 2018
    What tools do people around the world have to raise grievances if an impact investment in their community causes harm to their livelihoods, negative gender impacts, or environmental abuse?How would an impact investor know about the harm, prevent further harm, or remedy an abuse? Accountability Counsel is working to address these questions with concrete tools....
  • Where’s the community accountability in impact investing?

    Green Money Journal, 2016
    The concept of impact investment that has the explicit purpose of supporting economic and community development is receiving a growing amount of attention from an increasingly diverse set of financial players.This emerging trend is one of the most exciting, and potentially problematic, trends I’ve seen over the last decade. As with any new field, impact investing raises consequential questions and issues with the answers and intended results remaining up for grabs....
  • Participation in economic decision-making: A primer

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2018
    This primer is designed to help programmes that aim to build participation into economic decision-making to better understand what ‘participation’ means.It focuses on what does meaningful participation in economic decision-making mean, and what might it look like?...
  • Democratising trade politics in the Americas: insights from the women's, environmental and labour movements

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2009
    This paper explores the extent to which and the ways in which civil society groups are contributing to the democratisation of trade policy and politics in the Americas. It explores the strategies adopted by a range of NGOs and social movements to influence the decision-making processes and the content of the trade agenda. This includes efforts to open up existing spaces of participation as well as the creation of new ones through forms of citizen engagement, democratic innovation and efforts to change the terms of debate....
  • Finding the spaces for change: A power analysis

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2006
     Around the world, new spaces and opportunities are emerging for citizen engagement in policy and governance processes. Yet opportunities for participation do not automatically translate into spaces for change. Much depends on the power dynamics that surround and infuse them, shaping who participates, where and with what result....
  • Power, poverty and inequality

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2016
    Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development.This issue focuses on the ways in which invisible power can perpetuate injustice and widen inequalities....


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