Community Contributions, Participatory Decision-Making and Local Public Goods: A Field Experiment in Bangladesh.


Funded by: Swedish Research Council 


Period: March 2015 to December 2017


The project is a joint collaboration between Department of Economics, Stockholm University, Sweden and NGO Forum for Public Health in Bangladesh. 


Intervention Areas: 160 villages of Shibganj Upazila under Bogra District


Purpose and Aims:

Policymakers and development practitioners have long advocated the participation of intended beneficiaries in projects to provide public goods and services. The participation process very often mandates that beneficiary communities contribute in cash or kind towards the cost of the project. More mundanely, community contributions also reduce the cost of project implementation. However, requiring communities to contribute towards the cost of a project naturally attenuates the poverty reduction impacts of a project and may exclude the poorest communities from participation.

In this project, we will provide the first experimental evidence on the impact of requiring a community contribution on project outcomes, by randomly assigning a requirement for community contributions in cash or in labour among villages that receive an otherwise identical intervention. The intervention is a package of technical advice and subsidies for safe sources of drinking water, about which communities must take collective decisions regarding whether to participate in the project, how to raise the community contribution, and where the water source should be constructed.

In a second, parallel experiment we will also measure the effect of anchoring the decision-making process with an initial proposal for location of the water source within the community that would in project staff's opinion maximize the impact on access to safe drinking water. Anchoring the decision making process may increase the sense of entitlement to project benefits among poorer or otherwise less influential groups. As a result, it may limit the ability of influential individuals or groups to control the decision-making process and capture project benefits for their own private use.


Key research Questions

The key research questions we will address are therefore the following:

  • Does the requirement that beneficiary communities contribute towards the cost of the project influence decisions taken and outcomes and impacts of projects to provide safe sources of drinking water?
  • Does the nature of the required contribution cash or kind influence which members of the community meet the costs of the required contribution?
  • Does the requirement and nature of the contribution towards project costs influence the distribution of project benefits across the beneficiary community?
  • Does anchoring the decision-making process, by providing a baseline proposal for allocation of project benefits, influence decisions taken under a participatory process?


Potential Benefits:

The benefits of the study are the potential improvements to projects designed to extend access to safe drinking water and social services more generally in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

The project will also directly benefit approximately 2500 households who will gain access to safe drinking water and reduce the distance to safe drinking water for several hundred others.