Information and Collective Action in the Community Monitoring of Schools
Field and lab experimental evidence from Uganda
Community-based monitoring of public services provides a possible solution to accountability problems when state oversight is limited. However, the mechanisms through which such policies can be effective are not well understood. Are community-monitoring interventions successful because they improve information alone, or do they also need to overcome collective action problems?
This paper investigates this question by implementing a combined field and lab experiment in 100 Ugandan primary schools, which randomly assigns schools and their Management Committees (SMCs) either to standard community-based monitoring, to a participatory variation that addresses coordination problems, or to a control group. The authors find substantial impacts of the participatory treatment on pupil test scores as well as pupil and teacher absenteeism, while the standard treatment has small and insignificant effects, and develop a test using randomization inference to show that differences in these outcomes between treated groups are statistically significant. Combining this evidence with SMC member behavior in laboratory games, they find evidence that improved collective action explains these differences. The results have implications for the design of community based monitoring policies, and help to explain their variable effectiveness across contexts.