chapter  3
22 Pages

Community-Based Organizations and the State: Five Case Studies

The efforts of CBOs to exercise influence in political decision-making processes

have been marked by both successes and failures. In studies of state-CBO relations,

therefore, the theoretical positions of researchers have often been colored by the case

studies they choose to focus on, and vice-versa. Thus advocates of policy changes

for decentralization and participation, most notably those working for international

aid and lending organizations that support such initiatives, tend to focus on ‘best

practices’ of state-CBO collaboration. Schubeler (1996), for example, examines

a variety of successes in participation, most notably the Kampung Improvement

Program in Indonesia, and the Orangi Pilot Project in Pakistan, and argues that these

cases demonstrate the potential for CBOs and government to find common goals

and work together. Conversely, political economists who are skeptical of the ability

of CBOs to overcome entrenched political and economic interests focus on the

numerous failures in community participation. Thus Desai (1995) examines the case

of Bombay (currently Mumbai), and finds that formal mechanisms for community

participation developed by the city government are subverted by patron-client links

that have long defined state-community relations. She concludes that “the very idea

of participation is the language of planners, bureaucrats, developers, and other state-

aligned elites” who manipulate community organizations through patronage, while

continuing to monopolize meaningful policy and program decision-making.