The “community-based development” approach may empower citizens and improve outcomes through three mechanisms: (1) an immediate direct effect of engaging citizens to decide how to allocate resources within the community-based development program, (2) an indirect effect on community organization that improves citizen engagement with other local institutions, and (3) an indirect effect on community organization that improves representation within centralized government structures. Using a randomized evaluation of a nongovernmental-organization-led CBD program in Ghana, we examine whether community-based development results in citizens’ empowerment to improve their socioeconomic well-being through these mechanisms. We find that the leadership training and experiences associated with community-based development translate into higher perceived quality of village leaders, but they simultaneously decrease contributions to collective projects outside the context of the community-based development program. In addition, although the process encourages more people to run for district-level office and results in more professional political representation, it does not increase aggregate levels of government investment in communities. Ultimately, we find that although the program led to changes in village-level and district-level leadership, it did not increase investment in public goods and did not improve socio-economic outcomes.

Publication type: 
Working Paper
October 03, 2016