Impacts of Supporting Civic Participation in Local Governance: Experimental Evidence from Rwanda
Rigorous evaluations of large-scale governance reform programs are rare, particularly in post-conflict or semi-authoritarian settings such as those found in contemporary Rwanda. This paper evaluates a recent program sponsored by the Millennium Challenge Corporation to promote civic participation in local governance in Rwanda. The initiative supported civil society organizations advocating for local issues and trained district government officials to increase responsiveness to citizens. Our evaluation uses a stratified random assignment design, whereby districts were matched on baseline characteristics and randomly assigned to either a treatment or a control group. Using nationally representative household-level survey data, we find a pattern of small negative effects on citizens’ perceived knowledge about local government affairs, perceived citizen influence on government officials, and satisfaction with government services. There were no discernible impacts on awareness of government meetings, familiarity with government officials, or perceived access to government information. We investigate the underlying mechanisms producing these impacts using qualitative interviews and find that the program succeeded in encouraging citizens to question local government policies more openly in some circumstances. With the global interest of donor agencies in improving democracy, human rights, and governance in a variety of contexts, including post-conflict settings, this represents a substantial contribution to the evidence base regarding the effectiveness of nationwide governance programs and interventions.
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