Type: Seminar

Traditional Leadership, Social Networks, and Collective Action in Northern Ghana


Paul Atwell , 2018-2019 International Policy Center Research Scholar

Date & time

Apr 1, 2019, 11:30 am-1:00 pm EDT

Traditional Leadership, Social Networks, and Collective Action in Northern Ghana

Abstract: Under low state capacity, communities frequently cooperate to self-provide local public goods. Their capacity to solve these collective action problems is thought to depend on several factors, including the ability of grassroots authority figures, such as traditional leaders, to compel cooperation and the ability of ordinary community members to sanction and reward through social network ties. We evaluate these expectations through an original survey across six remote communities in Northern Ghana which vary in the nature of traditional leadership institutions.  We collect detailed household-level social network data and implement an original lab-in-the-field experiment embedded in a public goods game. We test observationally how positions in the community social network and proximity to coordinating agents, such as traditional leaders, affect cooperation. We then leverage an experimental intervention manipulating the amount of time participants are subject to social influence to measure the extent of coordination, as well as whether leaders differentially influence behavior based on social proximity.  We shed light on the role of preference coordination dynamics and traditional leadership institutions in determining the community-level provision of local public goods, and, to our knowledge, conduct one of the first field-based studies in the developing world exploring how real-life cooperative behavior varies with the location of subjects in social networks.


Please contact [email protected] if you are interested in attending.