Ph.D. Spotlight: Understanding Factors that Increase Citizens’ Participation in Community Development Projects in Lagos, Nigeria

Despite billions of dollars spent and hundreds of studies conducted, there seems to have been little progress made in meeting the housing and infrastructures shortages in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). Theoretical constructs such as culture, geography and institutions have not been able to explain this deficit. Few studies have provided empirical evidence of factors that encourage citizens of LDCs to participate in community development projects. The objective of this study is therefore to identify such key factors and use them to develop policy recommendations that, when correctly applied, would give citizens of marginalized communities more autonomy in the design and implementation of fiscally and environmentally sustainable community redevelopment projects.

Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods research design—beginning with a quantitative survey of 1,202 residents of Lagos, Nigeria and followed by an in-depth qualitative interview of a subset of these residents and other stakeholders—this study has determined which of eleven independent variables significantly affect the willingness of residents to participate in self-help community development projects.

The quantitative study found that when a citizen group is in charge, age, home’s physical condition, and inclusion of homes and roadways in the work being done are positively correlated with willingness to participate in self-help community development projects. The number of years of residence is negatively correlated with willingness to participate. Education level, home ownership and inclusion of drainage systems in the work being done show no association to willingness to participate in this procurement modality. The study further found that the aforementioned willingness to participate is increased when community elders express support for, corporations donate money to, or government encourages citizens to participate in the project. When the government is in charge, the result is similar for most of the explanatory variables, except homeownership is now slightly positively correlated, and education is now negatively correlated; road improvement, age, elder support and corporate donation now show no association to willingness to participate.

The subsequent qualitative study offered further explanations in support of the above findings, as well as clarified anomalous findings of the quantitative study. Grounded theory application in the qualitative study found water, electricity, and security provisions as additional factors that affect residents’ willingness to participate. The overarching conclusion of this research is that while residents are willing (to varying degrees) to participate in community redevelopment projects in all three procurement modalities examined (i.e. Citizen Group, Government, or NGO in charge), they are more eager to do so when they are given significant control over the management and ownership of the project (i.e. Citizen group in charge).

This conclusion and associated findings helped develop a conceptual framework for a transformational approach to community development in LDCs. The two key tenants of this conceptual policy framework are: a) A collaborative planning approach with pivotal roles for community elders; and b) Alternative funding sources that include leveraging residents’ buying power. These tenets could be a foundation for the development of a new paradigm for procuring community development projects, but it does require further study. Successful implementation of this study’s policy recommendations would empower communities in LDCs to self-initiate, self-fund, and self-implement holistic redevelopment of their homes and surroundings, thereby creating jobs, improving health, and, in the process, improving the trajectory of their lives.

Dr. Akinyemi is a graduate of Florida State University’s Urban and Regional Planning doctoral program. You can connect with Dr. Akinyemi on LinkedIn.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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