The authors explore how climate-compatible development design processes reconcile stakeholder preferences and procedural justice, using a case study analysis of two donor-funded projects in Malawi.
power cube approach
Benjamin T. Wood, Andrew J. Dougill, Claire H. Quinn, Lindsay C. Stringer
Journal of Environment & Development
Academic/research institution or journal
The authors explore procedural justice and power in project design through a case study analysis of two donor-funded projects in Malawi. They find that “top-down” and “expert-led” design processes and hidden power dynamics often result in the selective involvement of stakeholders, and that over time, the dependency on funding has led to the institutionalization of the donor project design preferences in the practices of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While a considerable overlap exists between the stakeholders’ “revealed” priorities, invisible power dynamics encourage the suppression of “true” preferences. Therefore, visible, hidden, and invisible forms of power create barriers to procedural justice in climate-compatible development design in these projects.
The authors also present a theoretical framework that is meant to facilitate a holistic exploration of power and procedural justice in project design. Specifically, they used the “power cube” approach as a starting point to facilitate the understanding of participatory and procedural justice “spaces”, through which stakeholders can meaningfully engage with governance systems, along with the visible, hidden, and invisible power dynamics that delimit these spaces. The framework facilitates multilevel analyses, thereby enabling the investigation of whether and how the procedural justice spaces, open to stakeholders, differ across these dimensions.
The authors suggest that policymakers and practitioners can facilitate the patterns of procedural justice, if they put local priorities first, make participatory assessments robust and reflexive, take steps to reconcile worldviews, and harness co-production between professional stakeholders. Furthermore, to create pathways toward procedural justice, policymakers must avoid making design decisions on the basis of epistemological certainties and embrace discursive solutions.
Academic paper/Case Study; Definitions and Concepts
This paper explores different theories of power to determine if, how, and where local power relations are disrupted or stabilized when renewable energy systems and their related institutional arrangements are introduced in rural communities.
Inequality and/or poverty > Gender inequality
Social and/or cultural impacts > Other
power dynamics decentralized electrification
(de)stabilization of social hierarchies
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Academic/research institution or journal
The author develops a conceptualization of power to examine if, how, and where power relations—specifically those related to gender and class—are disrupted or stabilized when renewable energy systems and their new institutional arrangements are introduced in rural communities. The author then seeks to determine the overall impact of these disruptions or stabilizations on social equality.
Based on the empirical study of a small-scale hydropower project implemented by an international development organization in Mawengi, Tanzania, the author theorizes how electrification processes and power relations are mutually constituted. This paper illustrates seven steps in the process of rural electrification and their effects on local society, revealing a range of interfaces, interactions, and feedbacks that have material and social effects. Using extensive interview data, the author examines the steps of the Mawengi hydropower project, with the goal of understanding: (1) the relationship between actors involved and how they exercised power in the process, (2) the role of non-human agents, and (3) sources of stabilization and destabilization of social hierarchies.
The author found that the introduction of electricity services resulted in growing social inequality in parallel with enhanced social mobility at an individual level. The author discusses how purposeful acts to limit the influence of local elites in the electrification process destabilized the community further even as electricity consumers and utility members became more important social actors. The author suggests these new actors can use their position to promote or prevent local socioeconomic inclusion in future utility projects.