What are the effects of providing civic leadership training to community leaders from marginalised groups? Can it lead to increased participation by new leaders in local government processes, and increased government responsiveness to the needs of the poorest and most marginalised? Does it have the unintended consequence of these new leaders being co-opted by local politicians?

This research investigated the impact of civic leadership training on citizen participation and government responsiveness in the Philippines. It examined an experimental pilot intervention that targeted ‘parent leaders’ – individuals already identified as community leaders in a large-scale government conditional cash transfer programme that aims to benefit the ‘poorest of the poor’.

The research collaboration evaluated the impact of this model on the political participation of parent leaders, and the responsiveness of local government officials to the needs of marginalised groups. In addition, it assessed the potential for unintended political consequences of the leadership training in the Philippines, where strong clientelist networks can influence electoral mobilisation. In particular, it considered the possibility that leadership capacity-building might make parent leaders more attractive to politicians as ‘vote brokers’ – individuals who can deliver the votes of their fellow beneficiaries in exchange for personal gain.

The research yielded several initial lessons:

  • Civic leadership training for parent leaders increased their political participation and engagement. We tested the impact of civic leadership training on 12 outcomes that measure political engagement. For 11 out of the 12 outcome measures, the treatment and control groups showed a difference in the expected direction. The consistent pattern across so many outcomes provides suggestive evidence that the training increased political engagement among parent leaders.
  • There were changes in government responsiveness. While there was little difference in citizens’ perceptions of government responsiveness to their complaints and concerns, local government officials in the communities where parent leaders were trained complied at higher rates with government transparency regulations.
  • There was no evidence of parent leaders being co-opted. In fact, reported rates of co-option, measured with a series of questions about election-related engagement and personal assistance received from officials, were lower on average in the municipalities where parent leaders had been trained.


This research could not have been undertaken without the support, guidance, and hard work of our partners in the Philippines, Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG) and Responsible Citizens, Empowered Communities in Solidarity for Social Change (RECITE, Inc.), and the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF),with special thanks to Pura Sumangil for her leadership and to Ester Alkonga and Bing van Tooren for their intellectual contributions and unflagging enthusiasm.