Access to Infrastructure Services programme
As part of our international objectives, Practical Action's Access to Infrastructure Services programme aims to encourage the replication of participative practices, demonstrated in our projects, with regional and international agencies responsible for financing infrastructure services.
Recent studies on governance
We want to learn more about the processes for participation and collective decision-making on infrastructure services, and how they work in reality on the ground, so we recently commissioned studies of the municipal governance structures in Bangladesh and Nepal, focusing on the towns of Jessore (Bangladesh), and Bharatpur and Vyas (Nepal). The purpose was to understand how poor people in urban areas can have their say about the way local services are delivered. We looked at the linkages between these processes and the way finances are allocated.
The findings of the studies revealed that in Bangladesh, for example, despite having supportive policies in place such as a Citizens Charter that guarantees service provision, these are not reaching the majority of slum dwellers. People have lost faith now in official systems, and levels of participation in ward committees are relatively low. The Municipality is also restricted by the high proportion of its budget which is allocated for already-specified work by the national government. The studies therefore helped to identify issues we might need to tackle in future project work.
We also conducted studies of the activities of large donor-led infrastructure programmes in four cities: Nairobi (Kenya), Kathmandu (Nepal), Dhaka (Bangladesh), and Bhubaneswar (Orissa, India). These asked similar questions about the extent to which poor people had a say in the way infrastructure was being delivered, and the how they were expected to pay for it. Again, we hoped to learn more about how NGOs like Practical Action can use their experience of demonstrating viable solutions on the ground to engage with, and influence, these large-scale programmes.
We are still analysing the results of the studies, but they represent a clear intention to explore the question of 'scaling up' and achieving impact at scale as part of Practical Action's strategy.