Wednesday, January 16, 2013
PUBLICATION: Information & Collective Action in Community-Based School Monitoring in Uganda
A preliminary paper from Abigail Barr, Frederick Mugisha, Pieter Serneels, and Andrew Zeitlin.
Community-based monitoring of public services provides a possible solution to accountability problems when state oversight is limited. However, the mechanisms through which such policies can be effective are not well understood. Are community-monitoring interventions successful because they improve information alone, or do they also need to overcome collective action problems in local communities in order to be effective? We investigate this question by implementing a combined field and lab experiment in 100 Ugandan primary schools, which randomly assigns schools and their Management Committees (SMCs) either to standard community-based monitoring, to a participatory variation that addresses coordination problems, or to a control group. We find substantial impacts of the participatory treatment on pupil test scores as well as pupil and teacher absenteeism, while the standard treatment has small and insignificant effects, and we develop a test using randomization inference to show that differences in these joint outcomes between treated groups are statistically significant. Combining this evidence with SMC member behavior in laboratory games, we find evidence that improved collective action explains these differences. The results have implications for the design of community-based monitoring policies, and help to explain their variable effectiveness across contexts.