Associate Professor in Economics of Wellbeing at the Governance and Inclusive Development research programme (GID) of the AISSR.
I am an economist with over 20 years of research experience in international development studies, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Côte d'Ivoire) and Sri Lanka. My PhD was on the Characterization of Poverty in Rural Uganda.
Currently, I lead the following research projects:
Based on all the applied research, I am deeply interested in pushing the agenda of rethinking economics from a wellbeing perspective. I have elaborated upon the basic premises of an Economics of Wellbeing approach in several international peer reviewed publications and a recent book (Introduction to Gender and Wellbeing in Microeconomics, Routledge 2017) and provide guest lectures on this topic to a varied audience of scholars, NGOs, public policymakers and politicians.
4 April 2016
(Blogpost written for SAGE Methodspace.com)
Development impact evaluations have gained renewed attention in the wake of development effectiveness debates and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations. These emphasize the importance of “leaving no one behind” and reaching the ultra-poor in development interventions. This article in the American Journal of Evaluation presents the principles and findings of a new Participatory Assessment of Development (PADev) evaluation approach that was co-designed with Dutch nongovernmental organizations and Northern and African research institutes in the context of rural development in Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Although participatory approaches in development evaluations have become widely accepted since the 1990s, the PADev approach is different by taking holism and local knowledge as its methodological starting points. This enables PADev to assess the differentiated effects of development interventions across different sub-groups in a community through inter-subjectivity. Instead of validation through subjectivity, which most participatory approaches do, PADev validates through inter-subjectivity.
Not only is the causal object of the assessment in PADev determined by community workshop participants. But also, are the self-reported changes the outcome of negotiated analyses and reconstructions of causal events and interventions. In a three-days, nine-exercises setting (see PADev Guidebook), five sub-groups in a community (e.g. elderly men, elderly women, young men, young women, community leaders) recall positive and negative changes in their community over the past 20-30 years, unprompted. The assessed changes are organised according to six types of capitals and capabilities (module 2). Later on, participants are asked which interventions contributed to the major positive changes, and which interventions helped to mitigate the major negative changes (module 6). For example, in Tô, Burkina Faso, workshop participants attributed a change in human capital to a school-building project:
“The school building in Tô did not help to build the knowledge of the very poor when it first came, since they simply did not send their children to school as they thought the school was not even meant for them. But when the rains were too heavy and their house leaked, they would sleep on the veranda of the building and find shelter there. They still do this, but some of them now also send their children to school”.
Pure subjectivity is hereby replaced by inter-subjectivity. Bringing together different community sub-group reports of important life changes is not without flaws. However, when similar mechanisms behind interventions and effects are identified across these different sub-groups, this increases the likelihood of a causal relationship to exist. Insofar the causal reconstructions refer to the social domain, they are also powerful self-fulfilling prophecies: people acting as if the causal relation between an intervention and an outcome is true do actually help it to become true. Discovering the complex interactions and multiple causal relations between the different dimensions in the development process (actors, interventions, livelihood domains, socio-economic categories of people and time) shows the limitations of evaluation approaches that single out one specific intervention amongst many and according to self-defined criteria. The PADev approach shows that the ‘ceteris paribus’ conditions in the real world are complex, multi-fold, and inter-related to other interventions and they are factors that require in-depth understanding rather than controlling.
Taken all things together, the article positions PADev as a variant of ‘Participatory’ approaches (according to the typology of Stern, 2012, Table 3.3), but with overlaps to the ‘Synthesis studies’. As such, it can function as a community-level complement to single-intervention, quantitative impact evaluations, as a follow-up or predecessor, so unravel measured relationships, or come up with new questions and relationships to be explored further. The article concludes that if PADev is taken-up by multiple stakeholders, including development beneficiaries and stakeholders, it can contribute to a process of local history writing, knowledge sharing, capacity development and providing input into community action plans and the strategies of CBOs and NGOs.
Full Title: Participatory Assessment of Development; lessons learned from a new evaluation methodology in Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Published in: American Journal of Evaluation, April 2016: http://aje.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/04/06/1098214016641210.full.pdf+html
Authors: N. Pouw, T. Dietz, A. Belemvire, D. De Groot, D. Millar, F. Obeng, W. Rijneveld, K. Van der Geest, Z. Vlaminck & F. Zaal
In the past decade, government social protection schemes have seen a resurgence of sorts following the failure of the Washington Consensus model and the rise of unemployment and labour informality in the developing world. The shift away from pro-growth towards more pro-poor models of development has allowed governments (supported by donors) to reintroduce poverty-alleviating programs such as subsidized health care, school meals, and cash transfers. Take, as an example, the recent popularity of conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs), which began in Latin America with Mexico’s 1994 Progresa program and Brazil’s 2003 Bolsa Família, and quickly spread to every continent in the world.
Impact evaluations of these social programs tend to show that they can help soothe economic shocks, increase children’s school attendance and enrolment, reduce the prevalence of child labour, and improve health for both children and adults. These results explain, in part, their rising popularity within policy circles and in the popular press. However, what gets lost in this larger debate is the fact that no two social protection schemes are exactly the same and that every program must take into account the idiosyncrasies of the local political and institutional context.
For this reason I decided to explore the literature on the impact of different social protection programs in Africa, a region that was particularly affected by the Structural Adjusted Programs of the 1980s and 1990s and that faces unique challenges in terms of a lack of government bureaucratic organization, structural poverty in certain regions, and a rising concentration of young people participating in the informal labour market. Specifically, we are looking at one cash transfer program from Kenya, and two social protection programs from Ghana.
Kenya is a country that was hit hard by the HIV/AIDs epidemic, resulting in a large number of orphaned and vulnerable children. Maternal mortality rates are still very high compared to other SSA countries. In response, in 2006, Kenya began the pilot-phase of a Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) program, which provided families who took care of orphaned or vulnerable children with a bimonthly cash transfer of 3,000 Ksh (around 30 US dollars). Part of the transfer was technically conditional, as beneficiaries were instructed to use the funds to invest in the education and health of the child, however, there was limited monitoring and enforcement of these conditions.
In Ghana, we looked at literature regarding the impact of both the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). LEAP is a cash transfer program for the most vulnerable segments of the Ghanaian population, including poor families that consist of the elderly (aged 65 and above), disabled, and caregivers of orphaned and vulnerable children. LEAP offers these families a cash grant and access to the National Health Insurance Scheme. The NHIS, for its part, is an ambitious program whose objective was to eliminate out-of-pocket health care fees at points of service through the issuing of government health insurance cards.
In contrast to the mostly positive evidence that has come out about social protection schemes elsewhere in the world, the results for these programs as they relate to consumption, employment, entrepreneurship, and education outcomes were mixed and at times contradictory. That is to say some variables showed positive impacts others showed negative impacts, and some showed both, depending on which study you looked at. Unfortunately, a majority of the studies used solely quantitative methods (such as multivariate modelling, propensity score matching, difference-in-differences), instead of qualitative or mixed methods approaches, and therefore our ability to give context and to explain these positive and negative results is limited. Moreover, no research had been done on how different social protection programmes work in tandem or consecutively in relation to one another.
However, the factors that I would like to highlight regarding these particular programs, and which at times does not seem to get the attention it deserves in many quantitative impact evaluations are:
Specifically, the few process evaluations and qualitative studies that were done report instances of irregularities in the provision of funds, mistakes in who ended up receiving which benefits, difficulties in identifying and reaching the poorest of the poor, and some cases of elite capture. These are important findings in light of the fact that quantitative impact evaluations tend to focus on narrow issues of whether a programs “works” or not, but not on the issues of “why.” This issue goes back to the idea that just because a program “works” in one country or region does not mean that it will work somewhere else. There is a great need to investigate how issues of targeting and implementation affect a program’s social impact, and what strategies are most effective for successfully scaling-up large social protection schemes in the developing context.
Finally, more research also needs to be done regarding how these particular programs fit within the greater social welfare system of a country. For example, in Ghana there are very few studies that look at the interaction and complementarity between the impact of the LEAP program and the impact of NHIS, even though both programs were inextricably linked. None of the studies look at how these programs affect the local political economy of the targeted areas, nor do they explore in great detail the level of quality of the benefits that are offered. For the poor, these programs do not exist in a vacuum, but coexist with a multitude of other social programs, government subsidies, and market forces, and the interaction of these forces can be of more importance than the individual impact of a single program.
All in all, there seems to be a lot of uncharted territory to explore.
Our project research team will regularly report on the study outcomes on our website: http://www.eadi.org/inclusive-growth/
For further contact:
Nicky Pouw, project leader, firstname.lastname@example.org
Margherita Giordano, research assistant, M.Giordano@uva.nl
By Nicky Pouw and Max Méndez Beck
As this post is being written hundreds of refugees from the Middle East and Africa are embarking on a precarious journey to Europe. European governments are struggling to manage the crises, leading to ever more disheartening debates over issues of social responsibility and morality. These concerns were already being expressed in January 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where pessimism seemed to reign and the discussions centered on fears of mounting religious tensions and international conflict.
One major concern for the attendees at Davos was the discouraging trend of rising inequality. There is growing empirical evidence that inequality in the ‘developed’ world has been on the rise since the 1970s, while other studies have documented the relationship between increasing inequality and the presence of conflict. Even as certain previously low-income countries become economic success stories, there is a general sense that governments have not done enough to address the needs of the marginalized. Where social protection programmes are in place, many depend on donor funding.
It is within this context that the European Journal of Development Research just published a Special Issue devoted exclusively to a new idea that is garnering more and more attention: inclusive development: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ejdr/past_special_issues.html#v27n4. Supporters of the need to achieve growth before beginning ‘redistribution’ have failed to back up their claims with empirical evidence. Therefore, inclusive development is being discussed as a critical approach for both lifting people out of poverty and creating more just, equitable and sustainable societies. However steering an economy towards economic growth that incorporates a plurality of social and political actors, while reducing poverty and inequality in a sustainable manner is a daunting task. The Special Issue looks at how strategic governance at multiple levels can play an important role in this respect.
The issue commemorates the work and academic achievements of professor Isa Baud, who on September 11, 2015 bid farewell to the Governance and Inclusive Development research programme at the University of Amsterdam. In particular it celebrates her ideas and insights regarding ‘strategic governance’ in urban environments and ‘inclusive development’ in the Global South. The contributors to the issue have either actively collaborated with professor Baud on these issues, or have sought to theoretically or empirically advance her ideas.
The issue brings together conceptual and theoretical contributions from a multitude of disciplinary angles and a variety of contexts. It begins with Catherine Sutherland, Dianne Scott and Michaela Hordijk’s article illustrating how political constraints associated with political will, historical ties, and co-opted politicians can perpetuate inequalities in the case of urban water provision in Durban, South Africa. The authors show how these historically grounded issues can be difficult to resolve, and propose a strategy of incremental transformation that incorporates local actors and marginalized views.
In the second article, Karin Pfeffer, Hebe Verrest, and Ate Poorthuis explore how reliable data can facilitate timely, responsive and adaptive urban governance in the case of water-related risks and insecurities in two Caribbean cities. The authors find that ownership and access to ‘Big Data’ is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a few, to the detriment of vulnerable subgroups whose (alternative) ways of knowing and collecting information is excluded, particularly in cases where such knowledge is not supported by ‘Big Data’.
The importance of promoting incremental learning and including experiences and perspectives of marginalized groups is highlighted by Mirjam Ros-Tonen, Yves van Leynseele, Anna Laven, and Terry Sunderland in their article on smallholder farmer value chain inclusion in Southern Africa. The authors propose an alternative to the strategic governance initiatives that favor private-public partnerships and their inherent power inequalities along the value chain, in favor of learning platforms that create a level playing field between different actors with varying knowledge systems.
Joyeeta Gupta, Mirjam Ros-Tonen and I follow with an article that seeks to advance an elaborated theory of inclusive development. We begin by defining inclusive development as “development that includes marginalized people, sectors and countries in social, political and economic processes for increased human wellbeing, social and environmental sustainability, and empowerment.” We then argue that interactive and strategic governance at the global and local level plays a vital role in achieving this type of development. We conclude with an inclusive development agenda that promotes innovative insights into the complex, multi-layered and emergent processes of excluded subgroups through greater interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.
The ability of this inclusive development agenda to influence public policy outcomes is further complicated by environments that afford businesses and private actors ample opportunities to overrule redistributive norms and practices, as Elisabeth Peyroux describes in the context of Johannesburg, South Africa. In such environments, strengthening marginalized and excluded groups becomes a key to countering powerful interests, and must be considered a priority in the strategic agenda of urban governance.
Another form of marginalization that is explored in the Special Issue is gender. Mieke Lopes-Cardozo, Jennifer Sawyer, and Maria Luisa Talavera Simoni focus on recent educational reforms in Bolivia that seek to address intercultural inequalities (by including bilingual and intercultural matters in the curriculum) but that largely ignore (or address in mere theoretical terms) observed gender imbalances. The reforms are explored in relation to the (pre-dominantly) female teachers, who are afforded little support or space for resistance in a patriarchal education system. The authors conclude by arguing that the varying degrees of marginalization faced by women and men across cultures may explain differential development outcomes.
Maarten Bavinck, Subramanian Karuppiah, and Svein Jentoft investigate the risks of ‘over-inclusion’ in the context of small-scale fishers in Chennai, India that are dependent on a common pool resource for their livelihood. Some of these ‘over-inclusion’ risks include social-cultural conflict, economic strife, unsustainable fishing practices, environmental damage, and the depletion of natural resources. In response to these risks, the authors put forth social justice and fairness principles based on the Rawlsian difference principle, where institutional arrangements are put in place that enable disadvantaged small-scale fishers to access scarce resources. The authors argue the arrangement can only work, in practice, if the more powerful actors buy in to the underlying principles.
In the final article, Arjan de Haan traces the history of the economic debate on inclusion, noting that the ‘growth first, redistribution later’ discourse of governments and multi-lateral institutions has gradually shifted from emphasizing safety nets, to ‘pro-poor’ policies, to social protection programmes, to economy-wide inclusive growth strategies. The author argues that redistributive mechanisms should ex-ante be incorporated into economic systems, so that growth and inclusion may be pursued simultaneously.
The issue hopes to honor and promote professor Baud’s academic vision by contributing to the policy debate over ways to include all groups in the development agenda. Governments of poor and rich countries alike might find inspiration and good reasons to collaborate on equal terms with poorer countries that experience related social-economic, political and environmental problems.
This is a study commissioned by SOS Children's Villages on the Social Exclusion of Vulnerable Youth and conducted by Nicky Pouw and Katie Hodgkinson at AISSR, University of Amsterdam. The study aims to understand the mechanisms behind the social exclusion and self-exclusion of vulnerable youth in four different countries: Indonesia, Guatemala, Cote d'Ivoir and the Netherlands. The study runs from 2015-2017.
Literature Review is available below.
The Research Design is available below.