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Research Group: Increasing Citizen Demand for Good Government in Kenya

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In developing democracies, those living in poverty often have the numerical strength to demand government responsiveness but often do not do so. How can information campaigns prompt these citizens to take action? This pilot field experiment explores how variation in the content of an information campaign can impact political behaviour in villages. The first intervention provides a report card detailing politician spending in constituency development projects, to see if villagers respond to unaccounted for money in locally visible projects. The second intervention couples the report card with a public participation flyer, to see if information about legal rights and decision-making processes is necessary for citizens to use the report card to take action. Political knowledge and attitudes appear unaffected by the materials, and the report card itself appears insufficient to impact behaviour. Only when the report card is coupled with information about potential ways to participate, is there an overall increase in the local monitoring of public goods. Willingness to monitor local development projects managed by the politician appears to vary with social access to public leaders. The findings suggest that information campaigns can potentially prompt citizens with political connections to monitor a politician’s performance in local development projects, even outside of election years.

Kelly Zhang is a third year PhD candidate at Stanford University with research interests in political economy, comparative political behaviour, and development. Currently, her research in Kenya and Tanzania focuses on how information can improve politician selection in developing democracies, and how the politicization of identity impacts economic and political behaviour in the run-up to national elections. During this past year, she collaborated with Jonathan Rodden in assessing the impact of USAID projects on decentralization and accountability.

After coming to Stanford, she was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a grant from the Global Underdevelopment Action Fund (joint with Shanto Iyengar). For 2012-2013, she will be a visitor at STICERD at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

This paper is part of the CGHR Research Group, a forum for graduate students and early-career researchers from any department and disciplinary background researching issues of governance and human rights in the global, regional, and national contexts. [more details]

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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