Researching the politics of service provision: a new conceptual and methodological approach

Researching the politics of service provision: a new conceptual and methodological approach

Although politics is seen as critical in shaping the quality of service provision in developing countries, this recognition has yet to be integrated within a conceptual frameworks that shape research. The current paper indicates that the World Bank’s “accountability framework”, set out in 2004, has dominated the understanding of service delivery within policy debates in recent years.

However, while this framework recognises the role of politics in accountability processes, it focuses on top-down hierarchical and participatory approaches. Thus, the author suggests a new approach that extends the accountability framework to include three “vertical” levels, emphasising the ways in which political settlements and governance arrangements influence organisational behaviour.

The document clarifies that this multi-level framework takes specific public service provision agencies as the unit of analysis, with a focus on performance. The paper underlines that this enables comparative analysis across multiple sectors and multiple countries in order to better understand variations in performance.

Overall, the main aspects of the new approach are that:

  • an explicit and more structured treatment of how the political settlement shapes sector-level interest groups, coalitions and ideas
  • a structured diagnosis of the drivers of elite and organisation behaviour, that allows for heterogeneity within the overall system
  • recognition of the porous nature of the state-citizen division, and of that with private sector provision

 

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