Participation and National Policy

Since Make Poverty History and international campaigning on the MDGs there has been renewed recognition of the importance of national level campaigning and policy change, with the Paris Agreement focusing on 'national ownership' and highlighting questions about how to bring about change at this level.

Yet despite citizen activists beginning to realise the importance of work at the national level there have been few recent studies on national level campaigning and citizen engagement. In recent years much has focused on international campaigning or engagement at the local level, especially in participatory local governance.

In response to this, important questions have arisen around the role of the nation-state as a significant area of power. While international level policy victories on issues like trade, aid and debt are important, it is critical these are supported by national change. But with a greater focus on global governance and global civil society the national level has, in some cases, become viewed as less important as an axis of pro-poor change. Similarly, local level work has been hugely important in helping ensure any gains become a reality for the everyday lives of people living in poverty. Yet, without a national framework and political commitment, local level work is difficult to sustain, especially at any larger scale.

IDS and the Ford Foundation, in collaboration with a network of country level researchers, have responded to these debates through a study on 'Participation and National Policy'. Central to the study is the question,

'How and under what conditions does citizen engagement with the state contribute to the formation and implementation of national level policies, which have a positive impact on the lives of poor and excluded people?'

Focusing on examples where there has clearly been significant pro-poor change and social justice impacts eight case studies have been produced, all of which can be downloaded from the selected outputs below.


Key contact

John Gaventa 2017


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Democratisation and Foreign Aid in Africa

IDS Research Summary (2009)
Robinson, M. and Friedman, S.

Gaining AIDS Treatment in South Africa (Research Summary)

IDS Research Summary (2009)
Friedman, S

Reducing Maternal Mortality in Mexico

IDS Research Summary (2008)
Layton, M.

Creating Urban Reform in Brazil (Research Summary)

IDS Research Summary (2008)
Arritzer, L.

Winning Women's Rights in Morocco

IDS Research Summary (2008)
Pittman, A.

Changing Turkey's Laws to Improve Women's Rights (Research Summary)

IDS Research Summary (2008)
IIkkaracan, P.

Protecting the Child in Chile (Research Summary)

IDS Research Summary (2008)
Fuentes, C.

Land Reform in the Philippines

IDS Research Summary (2008)
Saturnino, M. and Franco, F.

Building Responsive States: Citizen Action and National Policy Change

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 5 (2008)
Gaventa, J.

Partner researchers

Gary Hawes
Project Dates:
February 2004 - February 2007
Project Status:
Ford Foundation
Research Themes / Programmes:
Participatory methodologies