Social Institutions and Governance

This project aims to develop a unified theory of social institutions in order to understand how, when and where they promote good governance and improve daily lives. Efforts to design political institutions and economic policies that promote good governance and development frequently fail and are rarely uniformly successful at the subnational level. This suggests that local norms and rules within societies affect governance and development. However, social institutions -- or the rules establishing how authority is exercised, actors constrained, and transgressors sanctioned -- are poorly measured, insufficiently theorized, and their consequences often overlooked. This study will conceptualize and measure social institutions, focusing on the strength, nature and content of the norms and rules governing social interactions. Focusing on social institutions governing gender and ethnic relations, it takes a multi-method approach, leveraging surveys, experiments, focus groups and stakeholder interviewers in Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia (data collection in one country per year 2016-2019) to examine the links between social institutions and governance. The study will yield important new datasets that not only allow researchers to examine theoretical questions regarding governance and development outcomes, but also aids policymakers, development specialists and citizens in assessing needs across communities, establishing baselines for measuring change during policy reforms.