Exploring the Dynamics between Economic and Political Citizenship
Alison Mathie from the COADY Institute in Nova Scotia, Canada, reflects on the discussions that took place around Economic and Political Citizenship during a workshop at COADY in June 2014.
Development practice has often been artificially separated into economic and political strategies to bring about change. Yet in practice, these strategies are interlinked or sequenced intentionally. At a time of democratic deficit and deepening inequalities, the nature of this “chicken-egg” relationship is important to understand.
Co-hosted by IDRC, HIVOS, IAF, the CORD network and the Coady International Institute, and held at the COADY Institute in June 2014, the “Exploring the Dynamic between Economic and Political Citizenship” workshop brought together 28 invited participants from South Asia, South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America.
Participants each drew on their own work experience and presented cases that were discussed and analysed in small groups. Cases included examples of:
- Women’s economic and political empowerment in a micro-finance program in Indonesia;
- The role of cooperatives in shaping participation in economic and political spheres in Uganda, Nepal and Bhutan;
- The solidarity economy in Mexico and its relationship to the banking sector in North East Brazil;
- Women and the informal economy in Ghana, India and South Africa;
- The land reform movement in Nepal;
- The experience of indigenous peoples, new immigrants, urban migrants and people in post-conflict situations as they assert their claim on an economic livelihood.
A key insight included the importance of environmental and agrarian forms of citizenship, introducing environmental stewardship to questions of political and economic empowerment. Warranting further study are pathways for achieving citizenship in all these forms. Often designed by civil society organizations or coalitions of actors, these strategies challenge development models that allow economic and political actors to shirk from responsibilities for social equality and environmental sustainability.
Core questions to ask about such strategies include:
- What can we learn about the effective sequencing of strategies for achieving empowerment and acting as citizens?
- How are these pathways, linking economic and political strategies, influenced by horizontal forms of citizenship embedded in local cultural and social practice?
- In the informal economy how do gender, education, religion, culture, identity and size of community (of informal economic actors) shape political participation?
- With regard to women’s participation, what can we learn about the exercise of power (“p”) in the household or at the local community level and how this translates into the big “P” political agency? How does the degree of economic agency influence this?
- Under what conditions do micro-economic and political strategies influence policy and shift the macro context in favor of equitable and sustainable development? What types of coalitions and collaborations have been effective?
Members of the workshop were very enthusiastic in their desire to pursue these questions through ongoing conversation in a community of practice, as well as more in-depth, structured case study research. Discussions are under way among the co-hosts to develop a proposal for consideration by IDRC and other potential donors.
For a full version of the workshop report held at COADY, please see here.
By: Alison Mathie, COADY Institute