Community driven development (CDD) has been a key operational strategy supported by the World Bank for more than a decade – averaging about $2 billion in lending every year and now covering more than 80 countries. By emphasizing empowerment and putting resources in the direct control of community groups, CDD’s rapid spread stems from its promise of achieving inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction. Yet despite its popularity, evidence on whether these programs work still remains limited and scattered. Recently, two significant efforts have been made by the Bank to pull together the different strands of evidence there is on CDD and provide a summary picture of what we know and what we don’t (please see What Have Been the Impacts of World Bank Community-Driven Program? and Localizing Development – Does Participation Work?). The reviews find on the positive end that CDD-type programs, when implemented properly, do well on delivering service delivery outcomes in sectors like health and education, improve resource sustainability, and help in constructing lower cost and better quality infrastructure.
When I think of social capital, I think of a group, an organization or a coalition of groups that hold memberships of common interests, purposes and visions, where there is solidarity, reciprocity and collective strength, and which wields power and resources to forge collective benefits. Community empowerment, group formation, civil society strengthening, coalition building are integral components of social capital and social development interventions, which are gradually getting recognition for their economic and political potential in serving broader development goals. But social capital can be highly contextual. One kind of social capital may be good in one setting but not necessarily in another setting. Therefore, it is very important to understand negative and positive consequences of social capital in designing policy and program interventions.
There are a lot of highly interesting talks and events on governance at the World Bank these days, often we discuss them here in our blog. The other week we had a guest from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), Roland Rich, who is the Fund's Executive Head. He gave a remarkable presentation, full of memorable propositions that would all merit a blog post or two. From "We're all footnotes to Plato" to "An idea is not responsible for the people who support it" there was a lot of food for thought. For this post, I'll pick only one of his many inspiring ideas: the role of social capital in development.