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An Inquiry into the Sustainability of Village Institutions

A study of the factors facilitating sustainability of village institutions promoted by NGOs in different Natural Resources Management contexts

Multi-Location Studies Partnering NGOs Working in Different Resource Stressed Locations in India


Study Supported by  Sir Dorabji Tata Trust & Aga Khan Rural Support Programme ( India )


Principal Investigator: Dr. C P Geevan, CESC (cpgeevan@cesc-india.org

Work Started in March 2007; Project Launch Workshop - 9 April 2007, Ahmedabad


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The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme has completed nearly two decades of its work in India , during which period there have been many paradigm shifts in developmental interventions and within the voluntary sector.  The experience of civil society initiatives in the development sector in the last few decades has underlined the importance of the sustainability of village institutions and the need for a better understanding of the sustainability question in the context of Village Institutions (VI) and Village Level Organisations (VLO).


As a follow-up to the discussions on this question, AKRSP(I) initiated a study of sustainability in the context of natural resources management partnering several NGOs. Seven NGO partners, including AKRSP, with a credible track record in development work spanning more than a decade has agreed to participate in this study. One case study has been carried out to strengthen the investigation framework, test the approach, and establish the feasibility and utility of such a study. The preliminary study has given valuable insights into the post-exit functioning of several Village Level Organisations promoted by the AKRSP(I) in the tribal areas in Gujarat falling within the Netrang Spear Head Team (SHT) of the AKRSP(I).



Many NGO’s promote Village Level Organisations (VLO) as a key part of their strategy for empowering communities to manage natural resources and improve livelihoods. Sustainability of these VLO’s is an issue, which has received considerable attention from development thinkers and researchers. Much of relevant research is in the realm of institutional sustainability (Brinkerhoff and Goldsmith 1992, Carpenter 1993) and many studies are available on the role of collective action in crafting institutions (Olson 1971, Ostrom 1990, Platteau 2004). Wade’s (1988) research deals primarily with the collective action in common property resource management in villages in South India , and touches upon factors affecting their sustainability. However, there has been very little in-depth research on the sustainability of village institutions crafted or promoted in response to development needs by NGO’s, often catalysed by time-bound project funds. This research, thus, hopes to fill a gap in the understanding by drawing upon empirical evidence to analyse the processes operating around the sustainability of village institutions and organisations promoted by NGO’s.



Dilemmas of Definition & Measurement


Sustainability has emerged has a major concern in shaping strategies in development action at different levels – donors, multi-lateral agencies, Non-Government Organisations, policy makers, etc (Chambers, 1983; Ostrom, 2000, 2001; Uphoff, 1983, 1985; Wade, 1988; Rasmussen and Meinzen-Dick,1995). However, there is no universally agreed definition or widely accepted working guideline or evaluation framework for this. The concept itself has one connotation when it occurs in the environment and development discourse, and numerous interpretations in the context of alleviating poverty, regenerating natural resources and ensuring livelihoods. Despite the lack of agreement on what is in fact entailed or implied by sustainability in operational terms, there is an overriding emphasis on the need for achieving sustainability as a normative principle in development action, particularly in the planning and implementation of medium to long-term projects. Often this is seen in terms of the capacity to ensure a continuing stream of benefits (Honadle and VanSant, 1985) and/or the increase in social welfare (Eckman 1993).


Measurement of sustainability, however, is widely recognised as an immensely difficult problem, as conventional monitoring and evaluation methods, mostly using economic analysis, are considered insufficient to detect or quantify sustainability (Brown et al., 1987; Carpenter, 1993; Chopra, 1998; Landell-Mills, 1998). The sustainability question, therefore, poses a huge dilemma: on one hand, of whether a particular definition ought to be adopted and used in a normative sense and, on the other, after having adopted one definition or another, whether adequate and agreed measures or evaluation frameworks are, indeed, available to test it. Empirical evidence also raises several questions such as:


        i)            Is the limited success on account of some inherent structural limitations and, if so, is sustainability, defined in a particular way, valid as a normative principle in different situations? Or,

      ii)            Is it reasonable and valid to expect a diversity of visions to converge on a single definition and adopt it as a normative principle? Or,

    iii)            If sustainability is not used in a normative sense, as prescribed by donors or external agencies, is it not to be expected that given the diversity of visions in the development sector, a definition that conforms to a particular vision is more likely to be preferred over others?


This study recognises these dilemmas and the existence of certain pluralism within the NGO sector in defining and measuring sustainability and deems it necessary to incorporate such pluralism into the study by keeping the door open to examine different visions of sustainability.



Institutional Issues


The importance of institutions in sustainable development has led NGO’s and donor agencies to make institutional sustainability itself a consideration in the projects they design. For example, the concept of watershed development hinges on the need for enhancing the productivity of resources in ways that are ecologically and institutionally sustainable (Farrington et al, 1999). At the same time, watershed rehabilitation is also viewed as “essentially a resource-based approach to livelihood enhancement” particularly of the poorer sections in ways that are “institutionally sustainable” (Farrington et al, 1999). Thus, in the development sector, the challenge of sustainability is often perceived more as a challenge of perpetuating appropriate institutional arrangements both by theorists and practitioners.


Pilot Study - Reflections at Review Workshop


A review workshop was organised on 4th March 2006 at Ahmedabad with the participation of most study partners and several experts to review the pilot studies on some of the Village Institutions promoted by AKRSP(I)  falling under its Bharuch – Narmada – Surat programme area.  The emphasis in the pilot study was to develop and test the approach developed for examining the sustainability of village institutions promoted by NGOs. The workshop helped to strengthen the study framework and make appropriate mid-course corrections as well as to sharpen the focus of the study. The major suggestion that emerged was to re-orient the study so as to provide a set of clearly defined outcomes that are of direct relevance to development interventions. The approach adopted in the pilot study was found to be very pertinent and there were suggestions to reduce ambiguity regarding the term “exit” or “withdrawal”.


Withdrawal as a Role Shift


The term “exit” or “withdrawal” of an NGO from a VI could be one of role change significantly reducing the role of the NGO from the day-to-day guidance of the VI promoted by it without a complete exit of the NGO from the village. However, the change in role necessarily implies end of direct guidance, funding, monitoring, etc, while the continuance of the NGO’s presence in the village could indirectly influence the VI either positively or negatively. One of the suggestions was to include in the study specific cases where the NGO has made a “complete exit”, i.e., a “geographic exit”, by not having any kind of presence in the village. However, it was also felt that these might not be easy to find, as many of the NGOs with high credibility and long track record tend to continue their association with the villages almost indefinitely. Considering all this, the consensus was that the term ‘exit’ in this study should be understood as applicable to all those cases where the NGO that promoted the VLO has carried out a ‘role shift’ in its relation with the VLO without necessarily exiting or withdrawing completely from the village.


 VI Organizational Life Cycle


Since it would not be possible to always get cases of complete withdrawal as the influence of the NGO may exist in some form or the other, the study would look at the life cycle or relationship between NGOs and institutions promoted by NGOs. There exists a whole spectrum consisting of stages in the life cycle of village institutions promoted by NGOs – completely dependent, relatively independent and even completely independent.   This study would try and locate cases of village institutions/organisations where complete withdrawal has taken place. The sample selected would be inclusive of relatively dependent, relatively independent and the fully independent cases.


Need for Practical Outputs


The workshop discussions emphasised that besides the theoretical dimensions expected in a study of this nature, it must also attempt to provide some practical and pragmatic outputs that will help to ‘reshape’ the contours of thinking and action on different aspects of the sustainability of village institutions promoted in the course of development interventions. One view was that the study must consider situations where certain VIs could have become obsolete, as the development scenarios in which they are initiated have changed or the very functions for which they were created in the first place have become irrelevant. Also, it was felt that some of the key elements that enhance the sustainability are the very processes of organisational development including the investments made in capacity building and the path adopted for the withdrawal of the NGO from the VI. In particular, it was felt that the study ought to look at the organisational development strategies in greater detail and pay more attention to the exit of the NGO from the VI.


Another aspect of direct practical relevance that was discussed was of the systemic constraints or the real-world boundaries within which the sustainability of a VI must be understood. The access rights regime, policy environment and the specific NRM challenges define these bounds. The discussions also emphasised the importance of issues of VI such as their governance, financial viability in cases where it is particularly pertinent, leadership and relations with other agencies.


Recognizing the Emerging Best Practices


While sustainability is considered desirable in a normative sense, it was felt that this study ought to help unravel the complexity of the problem and discuss how time-bound projects could promote or ‘mentor’ the transition to sustainability, as the situations can vary drastically even between two villages in the same region. A countervailing point of view that was expressed in the workshop questioned the very rationality of insisting on sustainability as a normative principle in time-bound projects, particularly in the case of development interventions covering marginalized communities, under conditions where the external environment remain by and large unaltered within and beyond the duration of such projects. This study hopes to make a significant contribution by addressing some of these complex issues and undertaking proper case studies of some of the best practices emerging from the past decade or more of experience of several NGOs working with different visions of development.




The objectives of the study have been ‘refined’ on the basis of the deliberations at the review workshop. The sustainability as envisaged in this study refers to the effective functioning of the VLO after the withdrawal of the NGO that promoted it. The exit or the ‘role shift’ is measurable by the absence of explicit and implicit direct involvement, support or guidance of the NGO in the day-to-day running of the VLO. The study will include VLO from which the NGO has made a ‘role shift’ but may continue to have some kind of presence in the village without ‘active’ support to the concerned VLO.


As long as the NGO has a presence in the village, there will be some influence – positive or negative – on the different village organisations. Ideally, we must have cases where the NGO is not present. However, in most of the cases where a credible NGO is functioning with a long-term commitment, they rarely exit completely from the village. This study should ideally be based only on such cases where there is absolutely no NGO presence after the exit. We will make extra efforts to capture such cases.


The specific objectives of the study are:


  • Examine and document in detail examples of VI that continue to function after the ‘role shift’ of NGO in terms of its internal governance and relationship with members after such “exit”

  • Analyse the factors that appear to have facilitated the functioning of VIs after the ‘role shift’ of the NGO in order to draw out the factors internal and external to the VLO associated with sustainability

  • Undertake a comparative study of the different organisational development (OD) strategies in different development contexts so as to understand the role of such efforts in facilitating sustainability

  • Examine aspects of exit strategies and processes adopted for the ‘role shift’ that appear to facilitate sustainability of the VI

  • Analyse the emerging policy and programming implications for practitioners, donors, policy-makers in addressing sustainability of VIs promoted through development interventions


In light of the dilemmas associated with sustainability, it must be understood that these objectives are not subject to a pre-defined definition or measure. On the contrary, the research objectives are to be met using an agreed set of criteria that is deemed most appropriate to the vision of sustainability adopted by each NGO. Despite many variations, institutional sustainability is a common concern and will be a focal theme in this study.


Institutions & Organizations


The fundamental difficulties in the sound management of natural resources are rooted in the social, economic, institutional and/or political conditions. The sustainability question is embedded in the ownership and property rights (rights of access, control and management) over the resources and to a great degree the challenge of organisational models and institutional frameworks are associated with the resources perceived as common or considered as “local commons” or required to be managed as some form of common property, be it pastures, forest, water harvesting structures or canal irrigation systems. Therefore, successful institutions for governing them have emerged as crucial to solving the sustainability puzzle. Institution, in this context, is defined as a set of rules, eligibility criteria, decision-making arrangements, punishment structures, and action assignments (see Ostrom, 1990).


Institutional arrangements operate and change in given organisational and socio-economic settings, often leading to the confusing synonymous use of the terms institution and organisation (Dangbégnon, 2000). North (1990) takes the help of certain metaphors and parables to differentiate between these two concepts. He defines institutions (formal or informal) as the ‘rules of the game in a society, the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction’. He adds that like institutions, organisations provide a structure to these interactions, and conceptually what must be clearly differentiated are the rules from the players. Institutions can be visualised as rules within which organisations work.


The traditional institutional arrangements that governed common resources of all kinds through intricate web of norms, conventions, rules and sanctions, however, tended to breakdown with the enforced structural changes in ownership and rights regimes. They have witnessed systematic breakdown in recent history, particularly after the changes in land rights introduced in the colonial period. Some scholars go to the extent of stating that the central challenge of NRM is to make the CPR management work (Shah, 2003), where CPR covers also resources that are currently under open access. He points out that considerable social research has concentrated on the problem of “how to make communities make a reverse transition from open access to common property management”.


Village Institutions & NGO Interventions


NGOs working in the rural areas have often catalysed institutional innovation or have been prime movers for putting in place new institutional arrangements in NRM. Much of the NGO efforts have attempted to bring about greater people’s involvement and participation in the NRM. Promoting village-based organizations is one among many ways of involving people in developmental activity and eliciting their participation. Village Level Organizations (VLOs), as representative bodies of people residing in the same village, are often initiated as part of project implementation or as part of the entry-level activity (ELA) by NGOs. In some cases, the ‘representative’ character of such VLOs is ensured through a people’s mandate, obtained through a resolution passed by the local body such as the Gram Panchayat (GP) or through a village general body (Gram Sabha).


The purpose of forming VLOs, as expressed in project documents, is to provide people ownership of the project by making them an integral part of decision-making, giving them control over their resources, autonomy to implement the project, take over the assets created through the project, and carry on the process in common interest even after the completion of the project. The institutional innovations and organizational models used in these efforts have tried to address complex issues of property rights or promote alternative property rights regimes over natural resources, especially on land and water. An important point of departure while examining the sustainability question concerns how a shift is brought about from ownership over the project to that of defining rights over the use and management of resources.


Scope of the Study


The focus of this study is on the resource stressed regions or locations where the natural resource management, livelihood sustainability and institutional sustainability pose particularly difficult challenges. The locations that are currently included in the study are drawn from such NRM contexts and could provide useful insights. However, within the limitations of this effort, it is not possible to include a representative sample of all resource stressed regions or locales. Nevertheless, changes in the proposed list of locales could be considered to include alternate cases from other regions and this option could be kept open till a mid-term review of work progress is undertaken.


NRM Sectors



This study will attempt to understand the factors responsible for sustainability of village institutions and organisations relevant to different NRM sectors such as: 


  • Water Resource Management

  • Watershed Development

  • Common Property Land Resources[1]

  • Forest Resources


While many NGO interventions exhibit “sectoral” approaches, there are also some that actively pursue holistic approach. This study would cover both. This study proposes to examine how over a long period, the institutional and organisational models have functioned with little or no support from the NGO that promoted or nurtured the village organisations.


The study also takes specific note of certain ‘turning points’ in this period occasioned by the change in the legal or policy environments such as the introduction of Panchayat Raj, JFM policy, adoption of watershed development guidelines and the adoption of participatory irrigation management as official policy. The study would examine the implications of such ‘terrain’ changes on the functioning and evolution of VI models.


Exploring the Diversity of Visions


The study recognizes that the approaches and visions of different partner NGOs could be different and, therefore, there may not be a common or shared interpretation of sustainability. This study assumes that, in general, there are multiple interpretations of the term sustainability each of which could be internally consistent. For some, sustainability question is rooted in the discourse on ecological sustainability and relates to resources, while for many others the question may be of sustainable rural livelihoods. For some it could be the challenge of sustaining community-based organizations. And, yet another point of view could focus on sustainability of the institutional arrangements. There may also be also approaches centered on sustaining the human and civic rights of the marginalized communities rooted in an empowerment framework of institutional arrangements and organizations.


This study, from its very outset, recognizes as one of its defining characteristics the need to recognize the diversity of views and adopt analytic approaches that can accommodate such pluralism in strategic thinking on the part of partner NGOs. Therefore, it does not begin with a single rigid definition of sustainability or with a normative view stating that a certain kind of sustainability is necessary and desirable. On the other hand, it will adopt the approach the partner NGO has and, then attempt to locate the sustainability question within a logical framework that must be internally consistent with the goals set for sustainability within that framework.


Theoretical Framework


Frameworks such as the sustainable livelihoods or Prof Tushaar Shah’s emphasis on membership centrality, or Kellogg’s approach would be employed, according to the appropriateness and relevancy in particular contexts, besides drawing on the rich body of work on institutional analysis and social capital development alluded to earlier. Since a study of this magnitude has few precedents, if any, and this study is exploratory in nature we are not rigid about following a single framework. In particular, we are of the view that the pertinence of the framework is context dependent, by which we mean that even within a single locale, within the life cycle of a VI, context transformations would imply that “core interests” of the group or the community or the membership could significantly change. For instance, starting with an initial preoccupation with management of common resources, the same group could have traversed a path to market oriented economic activities resulting in a significant change of the core interests and necessitating change in the sustainability framework. It is also hoped that by the end of the study it would be possible to develop a different framework for looking at issues of this kind. 


Despite what would appear to be the obvious advantages of using a rigorous quantitative approach, there are limitations in adopting such an analytical framework to understand institutional change, because conventional economic analysis has tended to ignore the institutional aspects such as norms and conventions of society that explicitly allocates resources, or establishes processes for making such decisions (Ray, 2000). Since these are issues central to or at the very ‘core’ of the sustainability of VLO/VI in NRM, it is necessary to adopt an approach that is more appropriate to understanding institutional change, which accords centrality to these questions. Also, importantly, even while measuring many tangible effects, it is also necessary to incorporate an approach that examines the sustainability question within the framework that the NGO itself has tried to promote or is committed to promote, beyond the time-bound project or donor-driven guidelines.


The study will focus on the following aspects of institutional change: 1) Expected Benefits, 2) Expected Costs (transformation and monitoring/ enforcement costs), 3) Shared Norms & Other Opportunities 4) Process of institutional change. In this context, the study will also examine the following:


  • NGO’s vision of sustainability & role in institution building (conceptualising, organising, managing, negotiating with external agents, etc)

  • Institutional model: incentive structures, evolution (growth and maturity), perpetuation of norms, etc.

  • Organisational model used for facilitating the changes

  • NGO’s perspective on “withdrawal” or “exit” process versus community’s perception

  • Operational issues in withdrawal or exit, particularly in respect to the “principal agent” problems or the likelihood of a divergence of interests between NGO and principal stakeholders


Multi-Location Studies & Partner NGOs


The study is envisaged as a pro-active partnership with the partner NGO playing an active role in the study, so that the outputs are helpful to shaping the sustainability strategy of the organisation. The study would be based on a case study format to capture the rich experiences in building village institutions. The salient features of this partnership are enunciated below:


·        Approach and the study process will be shaped through a consultative process in which each partner can play a proactive role in refining the methods

·        Study team will work in the spirit of partnership

·        Study team will be open to suggestions and views from partner organisations and the nodal person deputed by the partner organisation to facilitate the study

·        At each stage, the study team will share views and summaries with the partner organisation through briefings, notes, summaries, etc.

·        Study process will have a large inter-active component giving chance to different layers of the partner organisation to put across and discuss views, experiences, etc.

·        The partner organisations will depute the one nodal person each at the top and field level

·        The location and NRM sector to be covered by the study would be decided in consultation with the partner organisation


This proposal seeks to significantly scale up the ongoing study initiated by the AKRSP(I) and include several NGOs engaged in NRM related interventions from different parts of the country. Only those NGO with a credible track record consistently working for more than a decade will be invited to participate in the study. Several NGOs have been consulted as part of buying in partners to this study and seven NGOs have wholeheartedly agreed to participate. Extensive preliminary discussions have also been held with each of these NGOs and a few more could be included.


It will retain the approach used in the preliminary studies in Netrang and refine it further based on the feedbacks received on the Netrang Study from different quarters. The approach will also be discussed in a preparatory workshop before initiation of the detailed studies. The work will be carried out as three cohorts of case studies. Each cohort of case studies covering 2 to three NGOs) will be followed by a review workshop. After completion of all the case studies a final report will be prepared as a synthesis of all the case studies. This will be prepared so that it can be published as a book. These are outlined below:


Multi-Track Approach


The analytical framework proposed is this firmly grounded in the institutional analysis, drawing heavily upon the work of several scholars. As mentioned earlier, we do anticipate difficulties in compiling detailed quantitative data, since sufficient documentation may not be available for the older periods. In this regard, it may be noted that case studies, review reports, and internal reports will be able provide significant insights. The secondary information gathered from such documentation will be supplemented by group discussions with the leadership and field workers of the NGO. Additionally, Focussed Group Discussions with the village communities will also be conducted. The group discussions will be based on systematic checklists that will cover the complex terrain of institutional change and organisational models that facilitate collective action. The approach will use a case study format for each partner NGO, envisaged as a right mix of documentation and critical understanding of success stories in order to abstract the lessons.


The study will follow a multi-track, participatory approach by raising the relevant questions at three key levels of shaping development action (schematic diagram Fig.1):



Figure 1 : Schematic diagram of the approach


1)      Strategy & planning team or the senior/executive leadership of the NGO (strategic view)

2)      Field experiences drawn from field units of the NGO and village communities associated with the intervention (grassroots view)

3)      Independent experts involved in monitoring and evaluation of the particular case, i.e., those associated with the partner organisation’s reviews (expert view)


Study Process


The discussions at these different levels would be separately summarised and become working papers of the study, as a prelude to the preparation of the final synthesis document. Since this study also includes considerable component of what could be called process documentation of the institution building and critical reviews, the study places as much emphasis on the process as on the soundness of the approach. The process involved in the study and the nature of probing envisaged is described below:


·        Review of literature on the analysis of sustainability of institutions

·        Preliminary discussions with the NGO top leadership for properly bounding the study

·        Sessions with each partner NGO to bound the study, identify NRM sectors, discuss appropriate VLOs or organisational models, select villages or sites where the NGO has largely reduced its role

·        Structured group discussions with the NGO’s middle/ intermediate leadership

·        Discussions/ interviews with the field workers, cluster level team leaders, etc

·        FDG with village communities, user groups, women’s groups, different occupational groups, hamlets, etc

·        Discussions with members and/or leaders local bodies/ other VLOs (panchayat members, sarpanch, heads of traditional VI, etc)

·        Interviews with village leaders

·        Discussions with government departments (forest department, DRDA officials, etc)

·        Feedback sessions with the NGO

·        Preparation of case studies based on villages selected by the partner NGO


Structuring the Discussions & Field Studies


The study examines institutional change and functioning of VLO/VI promoted by the NGO, after the so-called ‘role shift’ or ‘withdrawal’ of the NGO from active involvement in the day-to-day functioning of the village organisations. The study can be visualised as a mapping of institutional change before intervention and after exit/withdrawal.


The discussions will be based on prepared checklists dealing with different aspects of the NRM issues, property rights regime, institutional changes, organisational development, changes in organisational models, consensus building around norms, functioning of committees, user groups, benefits sharing, costs of monitoring/ enforcement of norms, role of and NGO across different periods. Detailed (generic) checklists designed for the study will be ‘customised’ for each NGO incorporating the organisation’s vision, field situations and type of NRM activities. The generic checklists prepared for the study cover the following themes:


      1.            Institution building effort by the NGO, its role in the functioning of the VLO/VI during different phases

      2.            Functioning of the VLO/VI, particularly the committees, leadership, user groups, etc in different periods and its adaptability to changes

      3.            Village level indicators of benefits and adherence to norms, perceptions of change, etc

      4.            Coping with difficult or crisis situations (management & preparedness)

      5.            Sector-specific issues in NRM (water resources, forest resources, pastureland, watershed, farmland, etc.) centred on norms and the role of VLO/VI


Expected Reports/ Outputs


The outputs from each of the different levels will be juxtaposed with the contemporary theoretical discourse on village institutions and their sustainability, which has been discussed under different theoretical perspectives. The synthesis will integrate different perspectives and examine the relevance of various constructs against the backdrop of diverse field experiences. There are also several distinct approaches to the very goals of natural resources management such as optimising harvests at one end and ensuring the co-sustainability of both ecological systems and livelihoods at the other end, with many areas of overlapping concerns across the different schools of thought.  The synthesis of varied experiences in intervention and the working of diverse village institutions will help to arrive at defining sustainability challenge in practical, operational terms in a manner that can re-shape the strategies in development interventions. The study will attempt an in-depth analysis of the problems, constraints, prospects and opportunities ingrained in village institutions. Analysis of both empirical evidence as well as perceptions at different levels will be undertaken to achieve this.


The synthesis of varied experiences in intervention and the working of diverse village institutions will help to arrive at defining sustainability challenges in practical, operational terms in a manner that can re-shape the strategies in development interventions. The study will focus on the following aspects of institutional change: 1) Expected Benefits, 2) Expected Costs (transformation and monitoring/ enforcement costs), 3) Shared Norms & Other Opportunities 4) Process of institutional change. In this context, the study will also examine the following:


  • NGO’s vision of sustainability & role in institution building (conceptualising, organising, managing, negotiating with external agents, etc)

  • Institutional model: incentive structures, evolution (growth and maturity), perpetuation of norms, relation with existing formal/informal/ dormant/ active systems

  • Organisational model used for facilitating the changes

  • NGO’s perspective on “withdrawal” or “exit” process versus community’s perception

  • Operational issues in withdrawal or exit, particularly in respect to the “principal agent” problems or the likelihood of a divergence of interests between NGO and principal stakeholders


The study will provide in-depth analysis of problems, constraints, prospects and opportunities ingrained in village institutions. It will submit a complete report dwelling on the following:


  • Lessons from multiple case studies

  • Thematic discussions in the context of different NRM challenges

  • Sustainability question under different institution building strategies

  • Sustainability under different organisational development models

  • Systemic or structural constraints or limits to sustainability

  • Policy and programming implications



The outputs from the study would be:


  1. Case studies on different village institutional models

  2. Thematic working papers on some of the key issues such as approach to the study, exit/ withdrawal strategy, tracking/ measuring institutional development, some NRM specific challenges such as that of JFM and Watershed Development, etc

  3. Proceedings and thematic papers of interim and final workshops

  4. Final Report summarising case studies and thematic findings

  5. Executive summary highlighting the crucial findings, issues and suggestions addressing concerns of Community, NGOs and Donors

  6. A tool-kit for practitioners containing guidelines and key conclusions aimed at donors, NGOs, Government and those involved in Capacity Building activities for village institutions

  7. Inputs for national and regional Workshops on policy and program implications



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Advisory Committee



Institutional Affiliation


Mr. Tushar Shah

IWMI-TATA, Anand, Gujarat


Mr. K. V. Raju

IRMA, Anand, Gujarat


Sushma Iyenger

Executive Trustee, Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan


Sharad Lele

Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development


Ram Prasad

Formerly of Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal



  • Head/CEO from each NGO

  • Somnath Bandyopadhyay, Senior Programme Officer, Aga Khan Foundation ( India )

  • Bhaskar Mittra, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust

  • Vasant Sabarawal, Ford Foundation

  • Others who may be invited by mutual agreement


[1]     CPLR in the context of this study will cover land resources used mostly as pastures and also land owned by the revenue department, but used, de facto, as a common property or as open access resource.



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Last modified: August 10, 2007