Jennifer BrassJennifer Brass

Assistant Professor
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University

“NGOs, Civil Society and Democratic Participation in Kenya”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
12:30 pm - C103 Hesburgh Center

Since Tocqueville wrote about the role of private citizen groups in shaping democratic society in the United States, scholars have been interested in the relationship between civil society and democracy. In advanced economies, a wealth of data and studies show that both greater individual-level participation in membership organizations and a higher density of nonprofit organizations at the community level are associated with more vibrant democracy as well as more effective government performance. In less-developed countries, however, data is sparse. While international development banks and donors emphasize the need for civil society—in which they include NGOs—they present little quantitative evidence from developing countries to reinforce the point. This article addresses this shortcoming, testing the relationship between individual-level access to NGOs and political participation in voting and protests and raising issues locally in one developing country, Kenya. We find a significant relationship between direct contact with NGOs and political action, as well as between favorable perceptions of NGOs and these same activities.