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.

Jubilee human pie chart by Paul Miller - Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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:

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

Mapped examples of how meaningful participation in economic futures can happen

We have been collecting and mapping well-known cases to understand how meaningful participation happen.

See our map below for a snapshot of the cases identified so far, and click on the markers to see a description of the example.

About our approach

We are working on two intersecting workstreams (WS1 and WS2), as follows:

1. 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.

2. 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).

Contact us

For more information, contact:

Jodie Thorpe, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies


Project details

start date
15 June 2017
end date
15 December 2018


About this project


Image of Evert-Jan Quak
Evert-Jan Quak

Research Officer

Image of Jodie Thorpe
Jodie Thorpe

Research Fellow, Cluster Leader

Image of John Gaventa
John Gaventa

Research Fellow and Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme

Image of Marina Apgar
Marina Apgar

Research Fellow

Recent work


Community Development Banks: is there a recipe for success?

In development, initiatives are often implemented with the underlying question of how it can be adapted and replicated. The pilot’s (un)successful factors are precious lessons to feed into new iterations, inspiring a recipe for others to follow. But even if the recipe emphasises the importance...

Gabriel De Sousa Aragão

2 March 2020


Citizens’ participation in economic governance: evidence from Ghana

Fiscal indiscipline, particularly in election years, has been a recurring annoyance in Ghana. The country unfortunately failed to recover from the wastefulness of the 2012 election year, making a 16th bailout from the IMF inevitable in 2015. The country’s previous bailouts lacked buy-in from...

Godson Korbla Aloryito

13 February 2020


Democratising economic power – reflections on Davos

As the world’s economic elites gather in Davos, I am reflecting on a blog I wrote last year in reaction to the 2019 World Economic Forum focus on “Globalisation 4.0”. Entitled ‘Putting the spotlight on “participation” in economic alternatives’, the blog questioned the Davos model...

20 January 2020