IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Can islands of effectiveness thrive in difficult governance settings ? the political economy of local-level collaborative governance


  • Levy, Brian


Many low-income countries contend with a governance syndrome characterized by a difficult combination of seeming openness, weak institutions, and strong inter-elite contestation for power and resources. In such countries, neither broad-based policy nor public management reforms are likely to be feasible. But are broad-based approaches necessary? Theory and evidence suggest that in such settings progress could be driven by"islands of effectiveness"-- narrowly-focused initiatives that combine high-quality institutional arrangements at the micro-level, plus supportive, narrowly-targeted policy reforms. This paper explores whether and how local-level collaborative governance can provide a platform for these islands of effectiveness. Drawing on the analytical framework developed by the Nobel-prize winning social scientist Elinor Ostrom, the paper reviews the underpinnings of successful collaborative governance. It introduces a simple model for exploring the interactions between collaborative governance and political economy. The model highlights the conditions under which coordination is capable of countering threats from predators seeking to capture the returns from collaborative governance for themselves. The relative strength in the broader environment of two opposing networks emerges as key --"threat networks"to which predators have access, and countervailing"trumping networks"on which protagonists of effective collaborative governance can draw. The paper illustrates the potential practical relevance of the approach with three heuristic examples: the governance of schools, fisheries, and road construction and maintenance. It concludes by laying out an agenda for further empirical research, and suggesting what might be the implications of the approach for future operational practice.

Suggested Citation

  • Levy, Brian, 2011. "Can islands of effectiveness thrive in difficult governance settings ? the political economy of local-level collaborative governance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5842, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5842

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Governance Indicators; National Governance; Public Sector Corruption&Anticorruption Measures; Environmental Economics&Policies; Economic Policy; Institutions and Governance;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5842. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.