(Image taken by MIT PhD Student Ying Gao during fieldwork in the Philippines)

Does providing the poor with opportunities to learn new civic skills and interact with powerful local officials improve their ability to hold the government accountable for public service provision? Or, does it lead to elite capture?

Theories of political accountability point to information and power asymmetries between citizens and government officials as important obstacles to achieving better governance. Accordingly, many civic education interventions focus on empowering citizens with skills and information they can use to hold government officials accountable. But in settings where institutional mechanisms for sanctioning poorly performing officials are weak, addressing information asymmetries may not be enough, and efforts to empower citizens may lead to unintended consequences. MIT GOV/LAB is partnering with a coalition of local civil society organizations in the Philippines to better understand how civic skills training and interaction with officials affect government responsiveness and political participation of marginalized groups.

A new project? You might have noticed that this project description has undergone a slight reorientation from the previous “Representation or Cooptation? Examining the Effects of Community Leadership Training in the Philippines”. The Philippines Government delayed barangay elections by a year, from October 2016 until 2017. As a result, MIT GOV/LAB had to work closely with our partners to adapt the project specifics while still keeping the research goals and governance focus front and center. For your reference, the old project description can be accessed below.