Enhancing Agency for Capability Expansion: Experiences of Programs and Projects on Women and Families in Latin America

Yanagihara, Toru (2016). 'Enhancing Agency for Capability Expansion: Experiences of Programs and Projects on Women and Families in Latin America' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

This panel reports on some preliminary results of a research project on agency development at the Latin America Development Policy Unit of the Institute of Advanced Sciences at Yokohama National University and focuses on the theme of agency development and activation in three related contexts --- projects on the empowerment of indigenous women in Paraguay and Honduras, youth conscientizacion activities in Nicaragua, and an official program of agency development for marginalized young women in Chile --- combining anthropological, psychological, and economic perspectives. Our research project on agency development is informed by the recognition of the critical role played by “agency” (understood as desire and ability for self-determination) on the part of the target populations of programs and projects in realizing capability expansion, or sustainably enlarging and improving their life options.
The panel is designed to address this subject matter with its principal focus on inner capacities and orientations of people involved, posing the question as to whether and how such capacities and orientations could be affected by external actors. The three papers in the panel attempt to provide answers to this question in detailed and nuanced manners based on the case studies presented. The role of external actors --- project promoters, extension workers, and social workers, as case may be --- are found to be of utmost importance in the process of inner changes of individuals. Certain conditions have been identified as key factors in successful processes, in terms of the nature, intensity and duration of interactions between external actors and intervened populations. Certain hypothetical propositions are put forth with reference to narrative analysis in anthropology, self-determination theory in psychology, and institutional and behavioral economics, with a view to further exploring and examining them in future studies.
This panel will contribute to the general interest of the HDCA convention, addressing some of its central themes in a fundamental manner through empirical studies on Latin America. In particular, the findings and reflections in our presentations directly and squarely correspond to the challenges of “capturing the diverse, plural, or multidimensional nature of human conditions and development experiences” and “exhibiting the power and scope of the capability approach to describe, assess, and promote human development and social justice.” Specifically, they closely relate to two of the illustrated topics contained in the Conference Theme: “Comparing diverse capability indexes and lists of functionings” and “Diversity in human relationships and family structures.” Furthermore, they are also concerned with two of the core HDCA themes mentioned: “Methodological issues in operationalizing the capability approach” and “Policy analysis and evaluation by reference to capabilities and agency.”
The panel consists of the presentation of three papers.
The first paper (by Yoko FUJIKAKE, an anthropologist and NGO activist, and Nobuo SAYANAGI, a psychologist) has three broad objectives: presenting the methodology and main findings on empowerment evaluation, relating these to the capability approach, and bringing to bear psychological viewpoints on narrative analysis with a view to exploring a new horizon in empowerment evaluation.
The second paper (by Mine SATO, an anthropologist and development practitioner) reports the findings and reflections from the author’s field studies on a Narrative-Based Empowerment Program in Nicaragua called MMO training (Metodologia de Motivacion y Organizacion: Training for motivation and organization), providing detailed information on its historical evolution, the manuals and methods of training currently utilized, offering evaluations of its results in terms of agency enhancement, and highlighting the significance of this case against the scholastic studies on narrative-based programs conscentizacion.
The third paper (by Toru YANAGIHARA, a development economist) aims to examine and evaluate the Chile Solidario (CHS), a government program that targets indigent families, through the lens of the capability approach, highlighting its unique emphasis on agency development as fundamental prerequisite for escape from extreme poverty and evaluating the effects of psycho-social support provided through outreach activities by social workers.

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