Linking Participation and Economic Advancement

What constitutes meaningful participation in the economic sphere and how it might be enabled? In this project IDS will draw upon and expand its rich experience at the forefront of thinking about participation in development, and our emerging work at the intersection of participation and markets. We will co-create along with the Economic Advancement Program (EAP) at the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a deeper understanding of participation in economic advancement in general, as well as how EAP can bring participatory approaches into its own practice.

We will do this through two intersecting workstreams (WS1 and WS2), as follows:

WS1 - Building an evidence base for participation in economic advancement

Through mapping and co-inquiry with EAP and its partners and others in this field, we will identify existing initiatives and experiences of how meaningful participation and engagement of economically disenfranchised people can occur - and challenges be overcome - in areas such as economic investment, economic policymaking, creation of economic alternatives, and the transformation of economic systems that perpetuate vulnerability.

WS2 - Putting ideas into practice: effective participation in grant making processes:

Starting with mapping of existing practices, and through co-inquiry with OSF and partners, we will support EAP to build knowledge and skills to put into practice its commitment to participation and engagement of beneficiaries in its own programming through the stages of diagnosis and program design, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL).

Open Call

IDS and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) are working to identify exciting economic alternatives: ways that enterprises, communities and societies are making economic decisions in which ‘ordinary’ people have a real voice. 

The key to the research is not only about understanding economic alternatives, but those that have a strong participatory element.

In particular, we want to understand participation in three areas:

  • Alternative forms of economic management that enable workers, consumers, communities, farmers, for example, to have a voice.
  • Citizen voice in government economic policy-making
  • Grassroots economic alternatives where people claim ownership over economic processes that affect their lives

In the past months we have been collecting well-known cases to understand how meaningful participation happens. See our map below for a snapshot of the cases identified so far.

We are now seeking support to identify innovative examples in less familiar contexts.  

Can you help us? Are you aware of examples where people are empowered to have a say in their economic future? Or would you recommend colleagues who might?

We are calling on practitioners and other experts to contribute to the uncovering of examples and surfacing new learning. The overall aim is to shed light on these interventions and to learn from them, helping to frame future interventions.

How to contribute

IDS would like to receive your cases/examples – please email us (below) or share an example via our online form: 

Here’s why you should be participating in this process:

  • It supports research, practice, grant-making and investment towards economies that promote social justice
  • It’s an opportunity to contribute to a shared understanding of what meaningful participation in the economic sphere looks like  – with examples that will be publicised through IDS and linked to OSF
  • It is a chance to engage with others with shared interests and to keep in touch regarding the outcomes of the project.

Deadline for submissions - 31 May 2018

Find out more

Download the full open call including more in-depth information about project concepts and examples already identified.  

A mapping of the cases of participation in economic advancement we have identified so far appears below. Click on the markers to see a description of the example.

For more information, contact:

Silvia Emili, Research Officer, Institute of Development Studies

Jodie Thorpe, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

Key contacts

John Gaventa 2017


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Photo of Jodie Thorpe, Globalisation research fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915732


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Marina Apgar photo

T: +44 (0)1273 915778


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Photo of Philip Mader, Research Fellow, Business, Markets and the State

T: +44 (0)1273 915646


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This is the staff photo of Silvia Emili.


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Project Dates:
June 2017 - December 2018
Project Status:
Total project value:
$ 310,008
Open Society Foundation