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The politics of implementation or why institutional interaction matters: The role of traditional authorities in delivering pro-poor social policies in Kenya


  • Barbara Rohregger

    (International Centre for Sustainable Development, Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences)

  • Katja Bender
  • Bethuel Kinuthia
  • Esther Schüring
  • Grace Ikua
  • Nicky Pouw


The paper contributes to the debate on the political economy of implementation of propoor social policy. It argues for a broadening of the debate, which is dominated by technocratic arguments, emphasizing the lack of financial resources, technology or skills as the major barriers for effective implementation. Describing the dynamic interplay of ‘formal’ operational programme structures and ‘informal’ traditional institutions in delivering the CT-OVC – the largest and oldest cash transfer programme in Kenya – it argues for the need to look more closely into the local political economy as an important mediating arena for implementing social policies. Implementation is heavily contingent upon the local social, political and institutional context that influences and shapes its outcomes. These processes are highly dynamic and ambivalent evolving between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ structures and institutions. They may change over time and place, challenging the implicit assumption that programmes are evenly implemented across geographic and political entities.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara Rohregger & Katja Bender & Bethuel Kinuthia & Esther Schüring & Grace Ikua & Nicky Pouw, 2018. "The politics of implementation or why institutional interaction matters: The role of traditional authorities in delivering pro-poor social policies in Kenya," IZNE Working Paper Series 18/2, International Centre for Sustainable Development (IZNE), Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:sau:iznews:1802
    DOI: 10.18418/978-3-96043-036-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Voigt, Stefan, 2013. "How (Not) to measure institutions," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(01), pages 1-26, March.
    2. Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai & David Hulme, 2014. "The politics of regional inequality in Ghana: State elites, donors and PRSPs," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-041-14, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    3. Tom Lavers & Sam Hickey, 2015. "Investigating the political economy of social protection expansion in Africa: At the intersection of transnational ideas and domestic politics," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-047-15, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    4. Fredrick O. Wanyama & Anna McCord, 2017. "The politics of scaling up social protection in Kenya," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-087-17, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    5. repec:ilo:ilowps:487627 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Shylashri Shankar & Raghav Gaiha & Raghbendra Jha, 2011. "Information, Access and Targeting: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 69-95.
    7. Casson, Mark C. & Della Giusta, Marina & Kambhampati, Uma S., 2010. "Formal and Informal Institutions and Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 137-141, February.
    8. Crost, Benjamin & Kambhampati, Uma S., 2010. "Political Market Characteristics and the Provision of Educational Infrastructure in North India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 195-204, February.
    9. Raabe, Katharina & Birner, Regina & Sekher, Madhushree & Gayathridevi, K.G. & Shilpi, Amrita & Schiffer, Eva, 2010. "How to overcome the governance challenges of implementing NREGA," IFPRI discussion papers 963, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    10. Rutger J.G. Claassen, 2009. "Institutional pluralism and the limits of the market," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 8(4), pages 420-447, November.
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    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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