Picon, Mario Giuseppe (2014). 'From Deliberation to Policy and Service Delivery: Implementation challenges and their role in participatory strategies' sustainability in El Alto and Cercado de Lima, Peru' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.
'Unfortunately, policy decisions on local participatory development have historically been driven by fads […] Passionate advocates spark a wave of interest, followed, after a few years, by disillusionment, which gives ammunition to centralizers to engineer a sharp reversal…' (Mansuri and Rao, 2011)
The project on which this paper is based has established a customized monitoring and evaluation system for the participatory development strategy of the Cercado de Lima (Lima, Peru) and the El Alto (Piura, Peru) districts, while performing the initial evaluation of these local strategies. I acknowledge funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, through its Measuring Institutional Reform in the Americas (MIRA) competition for the design and implementation of this evaluation.
The paper treats the participatory strategy as a process and part of a system, in contrast with the mainstream focus of evaluation on mechanisms and of randomized control trials as the preferred method of analysis; while still producing a rigorous look at participation, and the expectations it generates in citizens and policy-makers. In order to do this, I build from recent literature on participation challenges and its alleged shortcomings (Mansuri and Rao, 2011; Banerjee, Duflo, Glernnerster, Khemani, 2010); the promise of improved agency through participation (Gaventa and Barrett, 2010; Crocker, 2006); and the debate on evaluation through experimentation and/or structured experiential learning (Banerjee and Duflo, 2010; Pritchett, Samji and Hammer, 2012)
The participatory strategy is modelled as a multilayered system in which success is contingent on the engagement of a wide arrange of actors and its adequate implementation over time: in fact, I present the parallel between participation and a funnel, where the final outcome depends on the capacity of the system to:
- Reach and identification on needs and priorities of all different groups in a neighborhood, with emphasis on traditionally excluded groups.
- Collect and register information in an effective and representative manner.
- Build and sustain effective processes within the relevant institution (the Municipality) that prioritize attention to local needs in a context of limited resources and political pressures.
- Effective delivery of services that generates credibility in the participation process and its sustainability.
I find that the relative disappointment with the participatory processes studied is closely related to a poor implementation of a, on paper, very good and well-intended design, in which the different elements of the strategy: community meetings, institutional processing, outreach and leadership are phased-in ad hoc or are established with poor attention to their internal dynamic and the incentives of everyone involved (from the Mayor to the community leaders and regular citizens). Elements of behavioral economics and political economy are brought in to understand observed results.
I end with key recommendations to correct the implementation of the participatory strategy and the description of the monitoring system established to track progress over time.