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 46 results

  • IBEKA: community-owned and managed mini grids in Indonesia

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Institut Bisnis dan Ekonomi Kerakyatan (IBEKA), or People Centred Economic and Business Institute, supports rural electrification by installing small-scale hydro or wind mini grids and setting up village-based organisations to own, maintain and operate the systems. Elements that support participation include community ownership of energy infrastructure (mini grid) alongside community-managed enterprises to run them. Revenue generated from the mini-grids are shared through a community fund and spent based on collective decision-making.  ...
  • Jubilee Debt Campaign: civil society voice in global debt governance

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Jubilee 2000 was a highly successful global campaign to bring about debt relief for developing countries, which galvanised activists into a shared global project and brought them into negotiations with creditors. The Jubilee campaign lodged the concept of odious debt in the public consciousness. Its successes proved that debt relief was not only economically and politically feasible, but also could lead to desirable social outcomes. ...
  • RUDI multi-trading company: locally-owned agricultural trade network 

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    The Rural Urban Distribution Initiative (RUDI) was set up in India in 2004 by the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA). It is a branded local network for the procurement, marketing, and distribution of agricultural products by rural women and is owned by the small-scale farmers and rural women involved. The network is designed to allow rural capital and good quality food to circulate locally, as well as involving women who work at local processing centres and distribution hubs as ‘RUDIBen', or saleswomen.  ...
  • Preston model: Community wealth generation and a local cooperative economy

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    After the financial crisis of 2007/8, the city of Preston in Lancashire, UK, lost half of its government grants and nearly a billion pounds (US$1.3 billon) in private investments. In what has become known as the Preston Model , the city responded by creating a community wealth project. In partnership with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, the project centred on several large anchor institutions (e.g. the local hospital) shifting their procurement practices from external to more local sources....
  • Banco Palmas: Solidarity finance in Conjunto Palmeiras

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Banco Palmas is one of the early examples of solidarity finance. Emerging from a peri-urban slum in Brazil, this initiative is based on three key pillars: small, communitysanctioned loans; a local currency (to keep wealth circulating within the neighbourhood); and professional training (to generate local entrepreneurship and a skilled workforce). Participatory deliberative and decision-making spaces created by Banco Palmas include: the Local Economic Forum, Management Council, and Block Councils....
  • Up & Go: A platform for fair work and liveable wages

    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2020
    Up & Go is an online platform which brings together several cooperatively owned cleaning businesses for fair work conditions and liveable wages in a sector usually characterised by informal, precarious, and low-paid work. It is a sharing economy platform owned by its workers. Together they set prices, and 95 percent of the profits go to supporting the cooperatively owned businesses.The remaining 5 per cent is invested in Up & Go for advancing the platform’s technology and providing customer service....
  • 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....


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