Journal Article

Testing multi-stakeholder dialogue for better local governance in Niger: An experiment. Can we talk our way out of development problems?

Date Published

Oct 12, 2021


Ariel BenYishay, Lisa Mueller, Katherine Nolan, Philip Roessler


Development Policy Review


BenYishay, A., Mueller, L., Nolan, K., & Roessler, P. (2021). Testing multi-stakeholder dialogue for better local governance in Niger: An experiment. Can we talk our way out of development problems? Development Policy Review.



Multi-stakeholder dialogues (MSDs) are a popular tool to promote good governance in the global south, but it remains unclear whether they actually bring about the deeper benefits they are designed to achieve, namely better government responsiveness and higher public confidence in political institutions.

Niger is one of the least developed countries in the world and one where citizens consistently report low confidence in government.


We test the impact of MSDs on government responsiveness and public confidence in political institutions in Niger.

Specifically, we test whether MSDs in communes focused on education and health improve relations between citizens and leaders, make processes more representative, and increase resources for local service delivery.

We test whether MSDs improve citizen perceptions of government: legitimacy, responsiveness, democracy, and honesty. We test whether they increase citizen participation, including through petitions and messaging.

Methods and approach

Randomized controlled trial and surveys.


MSDs had virtually no positive impact on any of the 10 tests we conducted, with no appreciable improvements in local political leadership or in citizen engagement with, and confidence in, the state and its services.

The null results may arise from the limited time the MSDs were run, or they may reflect the extremely difficult conditions for better local governance seen in Niger.

Policy implications

The findings, though possibly discouraging for policy implementers, provide a valuable opportunity to contemplate how multi-stakeholder frameworks might be made more effective and whether to prioritize alternative frameworks for democracy and development in countries like Niger.

MSDs may be worth continuing in combination with other interventions, or simply in the interest of an inclusive, ethical approach to development.

Funding Acknowledgement:

Research for this article was supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

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Ariel BenYishay
Research & Evaluation

Ariel BenYishay

Chief Economist, Director of Research and Evaluation

Katherine Nolan
Research & Evaluation

Katherine Nolan

Research Scientist

Philip Roessler

Philip Roessler

Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for African Development (CAD) at the College of William & Mary

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