Between 2007 and 2011 the Tuungane Community Driven Reconstruction program (CDR) worked in 1,250 war-affected villages trying to help approximately 1,780,000 people. In this time it organized the election of village committees in all of these villages, and ran training programs in leadership, good governance, and social inclusion. Elected committees worked with populations to select development projects and oversee the implementation of these projects. In the first stage of Tuungane I, which is the focus of this analysis, the project supported the construction or rehabilitation of 1,700 classrooms and 150 clinics as well as projects to support infrastructure and livelihood development. The theory behind the Tuungane intervention is that training, coupled with exposure to and practice in accountable governance in the context of these projects, can produce learning-by-doing and bring about change in local accountability and social cohesion as well as improve the welfare of communities.
This research project, mounted in partnership with IRC, sought to measure whether these objectives were met. In order to measure the causal effects of Tuungane, we use randomized intervention. The Tuungane communities were randomly selected through public lotteries from a larger pool of potential participating communities. This feature allows us to observe a set of “control” communities that are similar to the Tuungane communities in every respect except for the presence of the program. Also, among a sample of those selected, a randomly selected set of communities implemented a variation of the program in which community development committees were not required to have gender equality.
A key innovation of this research is the introduction of new measures to assess behavioral changes. The measures are generated through the introduction of an entirely new and distinct unconditional cash transfer scheme (RAPID) in which a randomly selected set of 560 villages in treatment and control areas (with populations between 200 and 2,000) were selected to receive block grants of $1,000 which they could manage as they saw fit with minimal oversight and guidance. The key question then becomes: did areas that took part in Tuungane engage differently with RAPID relative to those that did not? Monitoring and auditing allowed us to gather measures on who made the decisions, how decisions were made, the extent to which citizens tried to oversee the actions of leaders, how effective communities were at managing funds or sharing information, budget transparency, and who gets what.
Findings on implementation: While the quality of implementation was not the focus of this research, our data confirms that Tuungane was successful in implementing a large number of projects in the target areas, that the projects were in line with the preferences of the populations, and that the populations reported very high levels both of exposure to project activities and of satisfaction with the outcomes of the project.
Findings on Impacts: On most measures we fail to find evidence that these positive experiences with the Tuungane intervention led to behavioral changes. In general, we found that for many local governance measures the outcomes were relatively strong in both control and treatment areas. For example, close to half of all committees were selected through electoral procedures; yet the likelihood of using elections was nearly as great in non-Tuungane as in Tuungane areas. Levels of transparency were also similar in both groups. As part of RAPID, villagers were told that at least $900 would be made available in funding; in fact, $1,000 was provided to project leaders. On our return we found, however, that 40% of the general population knew that the final figure was $1,000, not $900; this figure was again almost identical in Tuungane and non-Tuungane areas. Of the $1,000 allocated to communities, an average of $150 was not traceable by our audit teams; again this rate was nearly identical in treatment and control areas. There is evidence that in Tuungane areas, communities included more women on committees to manage RAPID funds, but the substantive effect is weak. There is also evidence that citizens in Tuungane areas are more likely to complain when funds are misused by leaders, suggesting some fostering of bottom-up accountability. And there is some positive evidence for improvements in a survey-based measure of trust (particularly trust in ex-combatants, which is generally low), but no effects are seen for other measures of within or between village cohesion. There is little evidence of positive economic effects and some (generally scattered) evidence suggesting adverse effects.
Findings on gender provisions: We find that even without a requirement of gender equality, women comprise approximately 30% of the committee members. This may reflect pre-existing attitudes towards the role of women or features of the general emphasis on gender inclusion as part of Tuungane (our examination of such choices outside of the Tuungane process, suggested considerably lower shares of women selected to these positions). This suggests that within the context of the program the gender parity requirement is not needed to ensure that there is some representation; rather it increases the numerical strength of women on committees. There is some evidence that the inclusion requirement results in fewer projects focused on water and sanitation relative to education. This does not reflect differences between the stated preferences of men and women in the general population, but is (weakly) reflected in differences in stated preferences between male and female members of Village Development Committees. We find, however, no evidence of positive changes in attitudes towards the roles and responsibilities of women as a result of the gender parity requirement. In short, gender parity requirements are not an effective way to strengthen the position of women in this context.
Limitations: First, the results properly address only the first phase of Tuungane. Although this phase covered the major governance interventions, it involved relatively small projects and accounts for only about 20% ($3.7m out of $18m) of the funding allocated to projects overall. Second, the research took place relatively shortly after the completion of these smaller projects; in cases such as the construction of schoolrooms, potential economic returns could kick in much later. For these reasons we believe that the most significant findings relate to the social effects and not the economic effects of the program. Third, absence of evidence for a positive effect is not the same as evidence of absence — it is possible that in some cases there are small positive effects and we lack the statistical power to identify them.
Overall, the results on the impacts of the program on the economic well-being and the socio-political attitudes and behaviors of the populations are surprisingly negative. While there is little evidence of adverse effects, the evidence for positive effects is scattered and generally weak. This is in line with results from other studies that have also failed to find evidence for the strong claims of the CDR model. We can only speculate on the reasons for these weak effects.
For the economic outcomes, the low per capita investments and the quick measurement timeline may plausibly account for the results. Although the temporal and spatial coverage is great, the per capita investments both in terms of finances and training are small.
The simplest explanation for the weak effects on governance outcomes is that existing structures are resilient and that while behavior may change temporarily to meet the conditions of development actors, more fundamental change is not being achieved.
Another possibility is that the scale of the project was too small to affect governance: few were directly engaged in training and project management and the grants may have been too small to ensure broad engagement.
A third possibility is that the program is pitched at the wrong level to effect change in governance structures and social cohesion; Tuungane has focused on the most local levels which may not display the same problems of cohesion and weak governance that are so visible in Congo at the macro level.
In short, coupled with negative evidence from related studies our findings present a challenge to the CDR model and its ability to produce the social and economic impacts that advocates attribute to it.
Reflections on the Tuungane Project (Trudeau Lecture by Macartan Humphreys starting at minute 31):