Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia


Thursday, April 7, 2011, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Michael Woolcock, World Bank

About the Seminar
After the fall of the New Order government in 1998, Indonesia faced a momentous challenge: responding to an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression while attempting to nurture the emergence of democratic governance in the lives of more than 200 million citizens. International agencies faced their own serious problems, given their explicit support of the New Order regime. Into this space a bold experiment in participatory development was undertaken by the government of Indonesia and the World Bank. Launched as a pilot but quickly scaled up as a national flagship, the Kecamatan Development Program (KDP) was in no small part “a democracy project disguised as a development project” – an attempt to meet the immediate economic needs of everyday villagers by harnessing their local knowledge and by requiring full transparency and accountability of competitive selection mechanisms used to allocate grants to community groups. Via these procedures, KDP sought to instill deliberative civic skills, to enhance the legitimacy of new democratic service delivery models at the local level, and to minimize the serious conflict that necessarily accompanies institutional change.

Did it work? Deploying an extensive mixed methods approach, Michael Woolcock finds that the answer is yes, but. Governance effects were net positive but highly variable across different contexts and unfolded along non-linear trajectories. There was no pure ’KDP effect,’ and as such one should be highly cautious in responding to powerful imperatives to replicate this (or any other) apparent ’best practice’ elsewhere.

This event is sponsored by the HKS Indonesia Program at the Ash Center.

About the Speaker
Michael Woolcock (Ph.D., Brown, Sociology) is lead social development specialist in the World Bank’s Development Research Group, where he has worked since 1998. He has published extensively on the social dimensions of economic development, most recently in his co-authored book Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia (Yale University Press, 2011), from which his presentation will draw. From 2006-2009 he was the founding research director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester. He taught part-time at Harvard Kennedy School from 2000-2006, and will resume that role in 2011-2012.