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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Holding local leaders and local service provision to account: the politics of implementing a local governance performance index

Research Partners:


Photo: Advocacy at the community level, Tanzania. Photo Credit: Paul Courtright/Community Eye Health/Flickr licensed under CC.BY.2.0
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Principal Investigator: Andrew Abia Mushi. Lead Organisation: Mzumbe University

Co-investigators: Godbertha Kinyondo; Anna Mdee

This research is exploring practical ways in which citizens in low income countries can hold their local leaders to account for their performance in delivering basic services and in reducing poverty. In recent years there have been great efforts to decentralise the delivery of services and political power to the local level. The assumption behind this being that this would make service delivery more responsive to local needs. In reality this has sometimes led to local leaders and richer people being able to take control of resources and services.

There has been some research that shows that when local people, and particularly those from poorer and more marginalised groups, have access to information about their rights and the performance of local government and other service delivery agencies then they are better able to demand improvements and fairness in accessing services. They are also better able to challenge corrupt practices. There has also been some helpful recent work in using national level data on government performance in order to hold national governments to account. Some of these include the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index, World Governance Indicators, Open Budget Index and Afrobarometer.

This project, the idea for which comes from an important civil society activist organisation in Tanzania, proposes to adapt the ideas from these national indices to the local level. The project, which involves a partnership between a Tanzanian University, The Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania and the International NGO Research And Training Centre (INTRAC), Oxford, will use a participatory process in 3 local government areas in Tanzania to create a locally meaningful governance index. The project will then pilot and test this index as a tool for citizen engagement and improvement in local service delivery and governance performance over a period of 3 years.

The project will use a range of traditional and social media and public events to publicise the results from the index and enable citizens to engage with local leaders. However, it will not apply the same publicity tools in all areas in order to assess the impact of these tools. The project is interested in how the index might contribute to public dialogue and political change. It will be exploring the extent to which a local index can provide a tool to produce better access to local services and reductions in poverty. It is expected that the results of this research will benefit academic researchers and civil society actors working on the reduction of poverty in low income countries. It will also be of practical interest to national and local governments seeking to improve their performance in reducing poverty, as well as other organisations working on this issue.

Who will benefit from this research?

This research will be of benefit to academic researchers working on citizen participation, decentralisation, service delivery, poverty reduction, local government and civil society actors. It will also be of benefit to policy-makers, donors and civil society actors seeking mechanisms to enhance the effectiveness of local governance and metrics and measurement in relation to poverty reduction and inequality. It will also potentially benefit citizens and civil society actors in Tanzania.

How will they benefit from this research?

Academic researchers will benefit through the creation and piloting of a local governance performance index in Tanzania. This will build on existing research on national level governance indices as well as local governance accountability mechanisms. An additional aspect of this research will be in pioneering a methodology that incorporates new forms of technology such as mobile phones and social media. Policy-makers, donors and civil society actors will benefit from evidence based findings in relation to the possibility for creating a local governance index that specifically tackles structural inequalities and enables new spaces for public dialogue and scrutiny of local governance processes and politics. Citizens will benefit from access to new spaces and new knowledge with which to tackle local governance issues relating to service delivery and local political leadership.

What will be done to ensure they will have the opportunity to benefit from this research?

Different audiences will require varying forms of engagement. Academic researchers will be engaged through the production of working papers and peer-reviewed published outputs. The Mzumbe University Centre for Society and Governance on-line open access journal will be used for the majority of these outputs in order to ensure accessibility to academics working in Africa and also to a wider policy and practitioner audience who do not have access to many mainstream academic journals. For wider benefit we will create spaces for dialogue on the creation of the index and for dissemination of results using traditional and social media as well as public events. Dialogue with relevant stakeholders and citizens is an intrinsic component of the project methodology and therefore will be built into the project from start to finish. The partnership with INTRAC will also extend the impact to international civil society networks beyond Tanzania, through tailored publications and network sharing.

Key Stakeholders Workshop

This scheme requires a stakeholder workshop and we would hold this in Dar-es-Salaam at the end of the project. Given that this project is being led by a Tanzanian institution we anticipate that significant local networks of stakeholders will be mobilised and that interest and participation in a final workshop will be significant. We will not pay any sitting allowances or hold the workshop in a lavish hotel as is characteristic of most of these type of workshops. We will be seeking a more accessible and cost effective local venue that enables the participation of the widest range of stakeholders possible. We will also seek to ensure participation of key policy-makers from the relevant Ministries and Development Partners. Full media coverage will be facilitated for this event. The workshop will also make provision for stakeholders who are unable to travel through the use of social media tools.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Institute of Development Studies
Fund Start Date: 
April 11th, 2014
Fund End Date: 
October 30th, 2018
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: