Panel Paper: Understanding the Impacts of a Civic Participation Initiative in Rwanda: Experimental and Qualitative Findings

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 9:45 AM
Boardroom (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ira Nichols-Barrer, Ali Protik, Lindsay Wood, Jacqueline Berman and Matt Sloan, Mathematica Policy Research
The Millennium Challenge Corporation sponsored the Rwanda Threshold Program (RTP) to help the Government of Rwanda improve its performance on governance indicators related to citizens’ political rights and civil liberties. This paper evaluates the RTP’s Strengthening Civic Participation (SCP) component, an initiative with two focus areas: (1) supporting the efforts of civil society organizations to advocate for local issues and (2) training local government officials to increase responsiveness to the concerns and priorities of citizens.

The evaluation uses a stratified random assignment process, whereby districts within each of Rwanda’s five provinces were paired based on district population and economic characteristics and then randomly assigned to either a treatment or a control group. We designed a household survey to collect data for evaluating SCP impacts, and administered this survey at baseline before the program (in early 2011) and one year after the start of the program (2012). We used the Expanded Programme of Immunization Random Walk method (Bostoen and Chalabi 2006) to draw nationally representative samples of approximately 10,000 households in each data collection round. The baseline and follow-up surveys collected data on respondents’ civic participation levels, including awareness and perceptions of local government performance, responsiveness, and accountability. Specifically, respondents were asked about their awareness of local government meetings, familiarity with local government officials, perceived citizen influence, and knowledge and access to information about local government affairs. Respondents were also asked about their overall satisfaction with government services related to water infrastructure, local road conditions, waste collection, public schools, and health clinics.

Using this household survey data to analyze program impacts, we find no discernible effects on awareness of local government meetings, familiarity with local government officials, or perceived access to government information.  However, we find that the program had a pattern of small but statistically significant negative impacts on perceived citizen influence, perceived citizen knowledge about local government affairs, and citizens’ satisfaction with local services. To contextualize these results the paper will also present findings from qualitative research that includes direct observation of local government meetings and in-depth interviews with project implementers, local government officials, and civil society leaders. Using these qualitative data, we will discuss likely reasons for the program’s mixed pattern of negative or insignificant impacts on civic participation outcomes.