13 New Articles on Participatory Budgeting

A band inaugurates a public work selected through participatory budgeting in Brazil (picture by Prefeitura de Olinda on Flickr).

The new issue of the Journal of Public Deliberation (Volume 8, Issue 2 – 2012) presents 13 new articles on participatory budgeting. Edited by Janette Hartz-Karpz (Curtin University) and Brian Wampler (Boise State University) “This special issue of the Journal of Public Deliberation brings together leading scholars expand our conceptual tools to understand why PB programs are being adopted, how governments are adapting the rules and principles to meet different policy and political goals, and the impact of PB on civil society, state reform, and social well-being.”

Below links to the articles:

Transnational Models of Citizen Participation: The Case of Participatory Budgeting
Yves Sintomer, Carsten Herzberg, Anja Röcke, and Giovanni Allegretti

Corruption and the Limits of Electoral Accountability

Picture by watchsmart on flickr.

Interesting new paper looking at electoral accountability in 74 countries

Corruption and Accountability: “Throwing the Bums Out” Does Not Work.

By Crisp, Potter, Olivella and Mishler (November 2012)


Many theories of democracy stress the concept of accountability. Voters reward or punish elected ocials by extending or ending their political careers. Seeking the long-term reward of reelection, officials avoid the short-term benefits of corruption that would put them at risk of early electoral defeat. This good behavior, in turn, leads to voter loyalty and reelection. Previous studies of electoral volatility and political corruption, however, have not tested this reciprocal relationship with an appropriate empirical model. In this paper, we employ a bivariate normal model to assess the effects of malfeasance on voter loyalty and, conversely, of voter defection on subsequent malfeasance. We test these relationships on data drawn from 249 elections across 74 countries. Our results show that malfeasance does indeed provoke voter defection, but that electoral volatility is not followed by lower levels of perceived corruption. We discuss the importance of these novel results for the emerging literature on clarity of responsibility.

Some excerpts from the conclusion (highlights are mine):

According to the standard theory, voters hold elected ocials accountable for their performance in oce by voting out of office anyone suspected of corrupt behavior. This presumably purges government of the worst officials, reminds continuing representatives of the voters’ power, and signals to newly elected officials that they ought to behave more virtuously than their predecessors. The empirical evidence we have reported is reassuring of the standard model in only one respect. It clearly shows that voters respond appropriately to perceived corruption by throwing legislators out of office. Nevertheless, the observation that increasing volatility does not reduce perceived corruption undermines a central assumption of retrospective accountability theory: namely, that the replacement of corrupt officials creates a virtuous cycle where corruption and volatility are mutually reinforcing and spiral ever lower in tandem with one another.

The absence of any impact of volatility on perceived corruption means either that legislators do not alter their behavior in the short run in response to the signal provided by vote volatility, or that politicians do respond, but their change in behavior is not immediately perceived by voters who continue to punish newly elected legislators for the sins of their predecessors. Distinguishing between these possibilities, empirically, requires data on actual legislative corruption, which is not available. Nevertheless, weighing the two scenarios, in our estimation the second seems more plausible. In our data set, voter perceptions of legislative corruption appear highly viscous in that they do not vary much over time. Corruption is covert and hard for voters to recognize. When they do perceive corruption, voters respond appropriately by throwing the bums out of oce. But because corruption is covert, it is equally dicult for voters to know if newly elected legislators are really better behaved or whether the corruption of new members simply has not yet been exposed.

In the absence of visible evidence to the contrary, voters have no reason to update their perceptions and treat the new legislators any differently than the old ones. Rather than creating a virtuous cycle, this creates instead a low-level equilibrium trap. Voter perceptions of corruption give rise to higher levels of volatility, but because higher volatility has no systematic impact on subsequent perceptions of corruption, continuing perceptions of corruption are likely to sustain those higher levels of volatility, thereby threatening the re-election prospects of newly elected legislators regardless of their behavior. Our inability to find an effect of vote volatility on corruption by distinguishing quality democracies from low-grade ones (with an interaction with the country’s Polity score) lends support to the idea that the failure of punishment to alter (perceptions of) corruption is not limited to some subset of delegative, authoritarian, or otherwised adjective-laden set of democracies.

Putting these findings in the broader context of the open government agenda, I can’t help but wonder about the limits of transparency in the absence of additional accountability mechanisms.

Read the full paper here [PDF].

Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement Program






The Institute for Local Government’s Public Engagement program offers resources and support to help local officials and their communities design and carry out effective and inclusive public engagement activities. Topics include:

Public Engagement Basics

Broadening Participation

Difficult Situations in Public Engagement

Public Engagement Topic Areas

Measuring Success

Online Public Engagement & Technology

Sustaining Public Engagement

Thomas Malone on Collective Intelligence

THOMAS W. MALONE is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

THOMAS W. MALONE is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Interesting video (and transcripts) of Thomas Malone (MIT Center for Collective Intelligence) at Edge (highlights are mine):

If it’s not just putting a bunch of smart people in a group that makes the group smart, what is it? We looked at bunch of factors you might have thought would affect it: things like the psychological safety of the group, the personality of the group members, et cetera. Most of the things we thought might have affected it turned out not to have any significant effect. But we did find three factors that were significantly correlated with the collective intelligence of the group.

The first was the average social perceptiveness of the group members. We measured social perceptiveness in this case using a test developed essentially to measure autism. It’s called the “Reading the Mind and the Eyes Test”. It works by letting people look at pictures of other people’s eyes and try to guess what emotions those people are feeling. People who are good at that work well in groups. When you have a group with a bunch of people like that, the group as a whole is more intelligent.

The second factor we found was the evenness of conversational turn taking. In other words, groups where one person dominated the conversation were, on average, less intelligent than groups where the speaking was more evenly distributed among the different group members.

Finally, and most surprisingly to us, we found that the collective intelligence of the group was significantly correlated with the percentage of women in the group. More women were correlated with a more intelligent group. Interestingly, this last result is not just a diversity result. It’s not just saying that you need groups with some men and some women. It looks like that it’s a more or less linear trend. That is, more women are better all the way up to all women. It is also important to realize that this gender effect is largely statistically mediated by the social perceptiveness effect. In other words, it was known before we did our work that women on average scored higher on this measure of social perceptiveness than men.

This is the interpretation I personally prefer: it may be that what’s needed to have an intelligent group is just to have a bunch of people in the group who are high on this social perceptiveness measure, whether those people are men or women. In any case, we think it’s an interesting finding, one that we hope to understand better and one that already has some very intriguing implications for how we create groups in many cases in the real world.

You can watch the video here.

Myths and realities about effective civil society participation, transparency and accountability

picture by Video Volunteers(VV) on flickr

picture by Video Volunteers(VV) on flickr

By María González de Asis  & Barak D. Hoffman

Participatory development is a growing focus of donor development policies. Over the past decade, the World Bank alone has allocated approximately $75 billion for these types of initiatives (Mansuri and Rao 2011) and other development partners are also allocating large sums of money in this area. Interest in participatory development derives in part from understanding that poor development outcomes often result from bad governance and lack of citizen empowerment. Participatory development seeks to remedy these weaknesses by having people take an active role in community development and by creating demand for good governance (DFGG). The World Bank defines DFGG as the capacity of “citizens to hold the state accountable and make it responsive to their needs” (World Bank 2011: 3). Participatory development seeks to reduce poverty directly through engaging citizens in the design and implementation of development projects, and indirectly through encouraging improved governance at the national and local level.A large body of research exists on the outcomes of participatory development projects. Their impact is mixed. In general, programs appear more successful at developing citizen awareness and empowerment than at influencing development outcomes, either directly or indirectly. At the same time, we are gaining a better idea of what works and what does not, and how to design more effective strategies. This paper provides an overview of the theory, practice, and outcome of donor efforts to support participatory development.

Read the full paper here [PDF].

Accountability of Local and State Governments in India: an Overview of Recent Research

Picture by Bryce Edwards on Flickr.

Picture by Bryce Edwards on Flickr.

By Dilip Mookherjee (2012)

The lecture is organized as follows. The next section will start by discussing the notion of accountability, followed by an introduction to the Downsian theory of electoral competition. This serves as a convenient departure point for classifying di erent sources of accountability failures in actual political systems. Subsequent sections deal with each of these in turn: limited voter participation and awareness; ideology, honesty and competence of political parties and electoral candidates; capture by elites; clientelism and vote-buying. Each section starts by explaining the relevant departure from the Downsian framework, and then reviews available empirical evidence in the Indian context for each of these possible distortions’,besides effects of related policy interventions. The fi nal section summarizes the lessons learnt, and the fresh questions that they raise.

Read full paper here [PDF].