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Social Organization, Civic Responsibility and Collective Action: Game Theory Models of Community Participation in Development Projects


  • Howard White


Why do people participate in community projects? Game theory approaches based on the prisoners' dilemma suggest that people will not participate even if they would have been better off had they all done so. This paper adapts an argument of Bates to show how a system of enforceable fines can ensure full participation. It then goes on to present a model in which individuals have differing degrees of civic responsibility, so that some will participate whilst others free-ride. Other idiosyncratic elements in the individual cost-benefit calculation for community projects, such as unequal benefits, can also explain why some participate but others do not. But the size of the initiating group has to be above a threshold level for the project to take place at all. External agents can encourage collective action by lowering the cost-benefit ratio facing individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Howard White, 2003. "Social Organization, Civic Responsibility and Collective Action: Game Theory Models of Community Participation in Development Projects," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(2), pages 149-158.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:31:y:2003:i:2:p:149-158
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810307425

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    Cited by:

    1. Barbara Pozzoni & Nalini Kumar, 2005. "A Review of the Literature on Participatory Approaches to Local Development for an Evaluation of the Effectiveness of World Bank Support for Community-Based and Driven Development Approaches," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 20203, June.

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