Collective action and property rights for poverty reduction

A review of methods and approaches

Esther Mwangi, Helen Markelova
capri working paper

While much attention has been given to examining various aspects of poverty, a number of studies have shown that institutional environment in which the poor exist conditions welfare outcomes, thus highlighting the inherently crucial importance of institutions for poverty reduction. The institutions of property rights and collective action are among those identified as playing a major role in the livelihood strategies of the poor. This paper highlights ways to operationalize the conceptual framework developed by Di Gregorio and colleagues (2008), which provides an analytical tool to study poverty through the institutional lens with a special focus on collective action and property rights. By emphasizing the multidimensionality of poverty, the authors advocate the importance of applying various approaches and tools to conceptualizing and measuring it. They also emphasize the crucial role that institutions of collective action and property rights play in poverty reduction and sketch out theoretical nuances and methods of examining such institutions. In addition, power relations and political context are seen to be of outmost importance in poverty-related studies; the authors provide suggestions on how to understand and operationalize various dimensions of power and institutional environment in research. Outcomes are approached from the evaluative standpoint, which moves beyond straightforward empirical measurement of certain indicators to a comprehensive analysis that would involve a range of methods and approaches to both the definition and measurement of criteria that affect the complex reality of the poor.