Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

One Villager, One Vote

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

One Villager, One Vote

Article excerpt

CIVIL SOCIETY

Increasingly in the developing world, when governments make local policy they are listening to local voices. But whose voices, exactly, get heard? Concerned that elites in Indonesia dominated decision making at the local level, Benjamin Olken, a development economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, designed a field experiment to compare the effects of alternative democratic institutions. Would direct elections result in fairer outcomes, and happier citizens, than the current system in which a few representatives deliberate among themselves?

"Village s were deciding what kind of local public good they wanted to build," says Olken. "They had a block grant and they could decide how they wanted to use the money, whether it should be to build a road, or a well, or an irrigation system," or something else. In one of the first randomized field experiments of its kind, Olken designated the political process itself. He picked out 49 villages representing more than 100,000 people participating in the Indonesian Kecamatan Development Program (KDP), which is funded through a World Bank loan to finance small-scale irifrastructure activities. Some of the villages continued to choose their preferred proposal at a meeting attended by a small group of village leaders - the usual KDP way. In the remaining villages, Olken set up direct election-based plebiscites in which eveiy eligible citizen could vote.

"The key finding is that the plebiscite process resulted in dramatically higher levels of satisfaction and legitimacy of the program and of the proposal," says Olken. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.