Improving service provision Drawing on collective action

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I mproving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives. Meanwhile recent research shows that the governance challenges. impeding service provision are not simply about working with citizens or. civil society so that they can make their governments deliver better services. Booth 2012 Centre for the Future State 2010 Fundamentally the challenge. is a state society relationship one It is about bringing together actors. involved or otherwise interested in better public services of a particular. type citizens government private sector etc so that they can find ways. to act collectively and improve service provision in their own best interests. This position also significantly challenges the way we think about citizen. empowerment and state accountability in relation to improvements in. service provision, This paper argues that as an intervention the bringing together of. different actors so that they can find solutions to their collective action. problems depends on the ability to identify and transform the incentives. underlying the various actors interests in the provision of the specific good. or service Incentives here refer to the motivations that inform the various. actors subjective positions that emerge and characterise relationships when. the actual delivery of the particular common good or service is called for By. definition incentives depend on the internal motivations of the individual. or group e g material gain social advancement reducing risk spiritual. gain and the opportunities and constraints arising from the economic. and political relationships in which the individual or group is involved. DFID 2009 p 26 It is the ability to transform these embedded incentives. either internal or external that translates into fixing incentives 3 This in. turn bolsters actors responsibilities and mutual accountabilities towards. improving the delivery of public goods and services. This paper explains how collective action4 theory can guide the practice. of finding useful entry points for fixing incentives and thereby improving. accountability for the provision of public goods and services The author. uses his action research experience with implementing the Mwananchi. governance programme5 and analysis of similar empowerment and. accountability projects to explain some of the insights. This paper starts with the concept of collective action theory and its. relevance to improving the provision of public services It then considers. the practical elements of this theory in terms of how it helps redefine the. service provision problem and lead to the design of strategic interventions. The paper ends with some reflections on the place for social accountability as. an agenda for transformative change considering it from a collective action. theory perspective rather than as a demand side accountability framework. In this paper the term public goods and services includes broadly basic. services e g health outcomes and general services e g transport provision. of justice, 282 A GOVERNANCE PRACTITIONER S NOTEBOOK ALTERNATIVE IDEAS AND APPROACHES OECD 2015. I mproving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives. 2 Relevance of collective action theory, Problematic collective actions situations lie at the heart of challenges. over the provision of public services for development This is because the. desired outcomes have to come about as a result of the effective participation. of many actors both outside and within the local communities concerned. Unlike private goods public goods6 and services are by their very nature. consumed by many people together simultaneously and even in cases where. payment is made those that do not pay cannot be easily excluded Rondinelli. et al 1989 7 Improving the quantity and quality of services and access to. them is therefore hindered because the actors concerned are not naturally. motivated to contribute their maximum They are instead often motivated. to contribute less than they could otherwise do or to access the benefits. without themselves contributing because they are in a situation where they. can afford to free ride Gibson et al 2005, This occurs because as Olson 1965 observes just because members of. a group community region country or any other grouping have a common. interest or concern it does not mean they will act in order to maximise. gains for the whole group Olson s argument is that unless the number of. individuals is quite small or unless there is coercion or some other special. device to make individuals act in their common interest rational self interested. individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interests In other. words having a common interest e g agreeing that there is need for better. education or health in a particular locality is not the same thing as acting. based on that common interest, I would add to this that it is now often widely agreed and also frequently.
stated in constitutions policy documents and legal instruments that public. office holders will account to citizens However it does not naturally happen. that they will account or that citizens will successfully hold them to account. on the delivery of a public service or performance in a public office Collective. action and the forms of accountability that come with it requires the. transformation of incentives 8, In essence when the actors concerned have to contribute from their. different positions of strength to solve a public goods and services problem. the situation creates a myriad of social dilemmas9 for them In situations. where they know that other actors will also benefit they themselves will. think and work politically in the way they position themselves and negotiate. the situation Tembo 2003 As a result they end up largely choosing. strategies that produce less than the desired outcomes The challenge. therefore is how to generate incentives for co operation among these actors. so that they adopt strategies that can achieve better outcomes defined in. terms of access quantity and quality of any given good or service 10. A GOVERNANCE PRACTITIONER S NOTEBOOK ALTERNATIVE IDEAS AND APPROACHES OECD 2015 283. I mproving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives. These incentives are such that merely increasing resources e g through. aid without due regard to the nature of these incentives could do more. harm than good Bano 2012 For instance communities can withdraw their. contribution of labour leaving it to the government or non governmental. organisations NGOs to provide everything The goods and services. would still be provided but the provision by NGOs or government creates. opportunities for patronage relationships where communities become. increasingly disempowered The withdrawal of contributions in these. situations does not occur because the actors are no longer interested nor. because they don t see the need The withdrawal happens because the. actors efforts or contributions are not directly linked to the outcomes and. hence they see that they can get away with either less or no contribution. free riding Therefore throwing money at situations where public goods or. services are lacking e g poor access to health services without addressing. the underlying collective action problems is clearly addressing the symptom. while the cause is still entrenched, Genuine co operation11 thrives on incentives that are non material in. nature or what are called psychosocial needs Bano 2012 These non. material motivations include such needs as a good reputation trust and. reciprocity They lead individuals and groups or organisations into different. types and levels of co operation or non co operation where they are lacking. and multiple configurations of accountabilities These needs define the. core relationships among the actors and they are cultivated both inputs and. outcomes of within these relationships as Ostrom points out. When some individuals initiate co operation in a repeated situation. others learn to trust them and are more willing to adopt reciprocity. themselves leading to higher levels of co operation And when more. individuals use reciprocity gaining a reputation for being trustworthy is a. good investment as well as an intrinsic value Thus reputations for being. trustworthy levels of trust and reciprocity are positively re enforcing. This also means that a decrease in any one of these can generate a. downward cascade leading to little or no co operation 2007 p 23. The level of co operation in turn determines the gains from co operation. which in this case emerge in the form of improved contributions to solving. collective public goods and service provision problems and ultimately the. quality and quantity of goods and services It is during this co operation. that multiple power relations and accountabilities are also construed and. developed in the form of the rules of co operation both formal and informal. Therefore it is crucially important to pay attention to the levels and nature. of trust reciprocity and reputation around a given public good or service if. we are to understand whether the various actors concerned would co operate. and how responsibilities and accountabilities are constructed. 284 A GOVERNANCE PRACTITIONER S NOTEBOOK ALTERNATIVE IDEAS AND APPROACHES OECD 2015. I mproving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives. It is the presence or absence of these non material attributes that shows. if those concerned could co operate in a proposed project to improve service. provision or not It also suggests the kinds of accountabilities who is to hold. who to account that might be possible and how that might change with. interventions that seek to transform accountabilities in certain direction. e g wanting to see poor people hold duty bearers to account This is a. different approach from seeking collaboration or co operation just because. the actors concerned appear on the same list of needs or that they are the. public officers associated with the sector in question. The following two sections focus on how collective action theory might. help with problem identification and definition and then how it can help. with finding solutions to the public goods and services provision challenges. at different levels and in different contexts They deliberately emphasise. problem identification definition because unless we know the problems and. their characteristics any attempt at finding solutions will be like shooting in. the dark In essence the right solutions are intricately dependent on knowing. the right collective action problem in question, 3 Identifying collective action problems in the provision of public goods. and services, As discussed earlier the process of providing public services easily lends. itself to the emergence of collective action problems because by their very. nature people cannot be excluded from using or accessing these goods and. services As Olson 1965 puts it they must be available to everyone if they. are available to anyone because it is not feasible to exclude others This. ultimately results in under provision of the good or service in question as. actors even those that take some action are locked in social dilemmas where. they are likely to make less than optimal contributions to the solutions. From a collective action theory standpoint therefore the aim is to. identify the underlying pervasive motivations that sustain the poor provision. of public goods and services at various levels Ostrom 2007 explains that. the core individual level motivations for building trust are reciprocity and. reputation within relationships Hence whether people co operate and. maximise their contribution to finding solutions to common problems is. linked to structural variables that support or undermine the trust reciprocity. and reputation at the individual and group level, Ostrom discusses structural variables in terms of different characteristics.
of groups and relationships within them and how they affect trust reciprocity. and reputation mostly geared towards common property resources However. a slightly different approach is required for the kinds of collective action. problems associated with projects aimed at improving public goods and services. of the type that we are concerned with e g health and education Instead of. A GOVERNANCE PRACTITIONER S NOTEBOOK ALTERNATIVE IDEAS AND APPROACHES OECD 2015 285. I mproving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives. characterising communities or groups in generic terms away from the service. of good in question we have to specify the good or service in question that. is either underprovided or provided with poor quality or not accessible in a. given context It is then around this specific good or service that we seek to. understand the nature and levels of core relationship characteristics trust. reputation reciprocity etc among the actors involved individual citizens. communities civil society organisations private sector government etc. Interestingly most social accountability projects and collaborative. governance practices already bring forward a lot of these motivation and. relationship problems However the traditional project design and monitoring. approaches do not lend themselves to going beyond needs or problem. analysis stakeholder and power mapping exercises as the main basis for. ImPROVING SERVICE PROVISION DRAWING ON COLLECTIVE ACTION THEORY TO FIX INCENTIVES Improving service provision Drawing on collective action theory to fix incentives Fletcher Tembo 1 Introduction Providing access to good quality public goods and services such as health and education continues to present a challenge to developing countries even after decades of aid investment Identifying the

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