Dissertation Abstracts

Co-producing Development: Participation, Power and Conflict in the Upgrading of Informal Settlements in Nairobi

Author: Rigon, Andrea , andrea.rigon@ucl.ac.uk
Department: Sociology
University: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Supervisor: Dr. Barbara Bradby
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: participation , conflict , informal settlements , co-production
Areas of Research: Social Transformations and Sociology of Development , Political Sociology , Regional and Urban Development


This thesis analyses how social and political conflicts among different social actors shape the implementation of slum-upgrading programmes. The research focuses on the first two years of the implementation of an internationally-funded slum-upgrading programme in Nairobi. In particular, the thesis explores the internal dynamics of the residents of one slum settlement and how they interact with the development programme and with the complex range of actors involved. The study examines the effects of discourses of ‘participation’ and ‘community’ and the problematic management of participation in a conflict-ridden context, with a focus on the creation of local structures of governance. In the case study, community actors displayed varying forms of agency and were able to substantially reshape the planned intervention. These findings confirm that development outcomes can be conceptualised in terms of 'co-production’ and call for an exploration of community agency by looking at intra-community dynamics and the distribution of power.

The thesis explores the relationship between ‘participation’ and ‘elite capture’. In the context of established imbalances of power, participation requires external agency and careful management to avoid exacerbating inequalities and worsening the lives of many residents, particularly in the context of the allocation of key public assets such as land. This thesis also argues that such management of participation is costly and requires both economic resources and political legitimacy. The thesis also discusses the process of the social construction of ‘development success’, revealing the delicate, fragile character of planned interventions, which rely on legitimacy from a wide range of internal and external actors.

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