SITE research explores whether poor communities can be organized
New working paper reports findings from a unique combination of a village-randomized controlled trial and a lab-in-the-field experiment.
In this paper, Anders Olofsgård, deputy director at SITE, Raj M. Desai from Georgetown University and the Brookings institution and Shareen Joshi from Georgetown University study a so called self-help group intervention conducted by the grassroots movement SEWA among women in rural Rajasthan, India’s most water-scarce state. Using a combination of a randomized controlled trial and lab-in-the-field experiments, the authors in particular focus on the impact on public service provision in the area of water and sanitation.
The research was conducted in Dungarpur district, a rural district of 1.1 million people located in the “tribal belt” in southern Rajasthan, and one of the poorest districts in the country. In this district twenty-one percent of the population lives below the rural poverty line (Government of India, 2009). Literacy levels are only 66 percent among men and 31 percent among women, and 76 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture (Census of India, 2001). SEWA rolled out their self-help group intervention in 32 randomly picked villages, and the research team surveyed 1,410 women in these villages and 1,795 women in a set of 48 control villages just before the intervention (the baseline) and then 18 months after the intervention (the end line).
The surveys revealed three principal village-level effects.
- Women in treatment villages (where self-help groups were started) possess greater knowledge of how to address problems of water supply and water deficiency.
- Women in treatment villages are more likely to contact local authorities regarding their grievances with respect to water service.
- Women in treatment villages report greater improvements in water access and infrastructure compared to their counterparts in control villages.
The authors also found evidence that these effects are common to all women in self-help group villages suggesting strong spillovers from members to non-members in villages were these groups were established.
The authors then followed up the impact evaluation by playing repeated provision-point public goods games in both treatment and control villages to assess the mechanisms that lead to cooperation among women in self-help group villages. Read more about the results of the public goods game, research methods and results in the research paper “Can the Poor be Organized?” here or read it on our SlideShare channel.