Decentralization, Local Governance, and Inequality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Co-Principal Investigator, (2018-2023)


Photo Source: MEI

This book project aims to create a better understanding of local governance in the MENA region. It brings together scholars from Europe, the MENA region, and the United States to explore a diverse set of issues including service provision, conflict resolution, and environmental issues. It will further investigate how authority and governance procedures vary across space and time within the same region. At a time when the discourse on the region focuses on national and international forces affecting refugee crises and terrorism, it reminds us that individuals ‘live locally’ and of the substantial subnational governance variations. The collaborators employ a wide range of methodological and theoretical approaches and examine a diverse set of cases.

Status: The book proposal and chapters are under review by publishers and are available upon request.

Funded by: Hicham al Alaoui Foundation

Related Publications:

Kao, Kristen. With Ellen Lust. Local Governance in the Middle East and North Africa. Edited volume. Draft available upon request.

Kao, Kristen, with Ellen Lust, Chagai Weiss, Marwa Shalaby, Eric Vollmann, Sylvia, Bergh, Sylvia I., E.J. Karmel, Miriam Bohn, Intissar Kherigi, and Zeynap Kadirbeyoglu (2020). The Dynamics of Decentralization in the MENA: Processes, Outcomes, and Obstacles. The Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper No. 31, University of Gothenburg. (full paper).

Related Presentations and Workshops:

Co-Leader of “Governance and Local Development in the Middle East and North Africa” weekly seminar series with Ellen Lust. September 22 – December 15, 2021.

Presentations from: Christina Parreira (Harvard University); Steven Brooke with Monica Komer (University of Wisconsin, Madison); Aytug Sasmaz (Harvard University) with Julia Clark (World Bank) and Alexandra Blackman (NYU Abu Dhabi); Prisca Jöst (University of Gothenburg); Marika Sosnowski (University of Melbourne), Intissar Kherigi (Jasmine Foundation); Ahmed Al Mukheini (Independent Researcher – Oman); Kristen Kao (University of Gothenburg) and Salma Mousa (Yale University) and Ala’ Alrababa’h (Stanford University); Marwa Shalaby (University of Wisconsin, Madison) with Carolyn Barnett (Princeton University); Lindsay Benstead (Portland State University); Matt Buehler (University of Tennessee); Sylvia Bergh (International Institute of Social Sciences) with Francesco Colin (Erasmus University).

Kristen Kao, Salma Mousa, and Ala’ Alrababa’h, “Building Bridges? Intergroup Contact, Power Status, and Coexistence in Jordan,” Fall 2020 Weekly Seminar Series for the GLD in the MENA Edited Volume, 27 October.

Co-Leader of “Dynamics of Decentralization” workshop March 2-3, 2020

Inputs from: Ellen Lust (UG), Marwa Shalaby (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Chagai Weiss (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Erik Vollman (Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg), Sylvia I. Bergh (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Ezra Karmel (University of Guelph), Miriam Bohn (Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg), Intissar Kherigi (Sciences Po Paris), and Zeynep Kadirbeyoglu (Bogazici University).

Co-Organized Panel: “Local governance, service provision and social cohesion: Lessons from the Arab World” APSA, 2020

Participants: Alexandra Blackman, New York University – Abu Dhabi, Julia Clark, University of California, San Diego, Aytug Sasmaz, Harvard University, Prisca Jost (Mannheim University). Christiana Parreira, Stanford University, and Salma Mousa, Stanford University, Steven Brooke (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Melani Cammett (Harvard University)

Organized Panel: “Power and Promotion: Local Governance in the MENA” APSA, 2020,

Participants: Steven Brooke (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Monica Komer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Marwa Shalaby (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Sylvia Bergh (Erasmus University of Rotterdam), Francesco Colin (Erasmus University of Rotterdam), Matthew Buehler (University of Tennessee), Freddy Gerges (University of Tennessee), Scott Williamson (Stanford University), and Allison Hartnett (Harvard University)

Co-Leader of Governance and Local Development in the MENA – GLD/HAF Workshop, Sarajevo, August 7-9, 2019.

Participants: Ellen Lust (UG), Julia Choucair-Vizoso (Arab Reform Initiative), Marwa Shalaby (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Lindsay Benstead (Portland State University), Robert Parks (Centre d’Études Maghrébines en Algérie), Laryssa Chomiak (Centre d’Etudes Maghrébines à Tunis), Jacob Mundy (Colgate University), Rabab El Mahdi (American University in Cairo), Prisca Jost (Mannheim University), and Intissar Kherigi (Sciences Po Paris).

Social pressure, information, and recycling: Experimental evidence from Lebanon (2020-2022)

Can a program that makes citizens accountable for, and knowledgable about, the quality of their waste sorting improve environmentally-conscious behaviors? We leverage a field experiment among roughly 1000 Lebanese households in the northern town of Bickfaya to answer these questions. Partnering with the local municipality and a grassroots environmental organization, we randomly assign neighborhoods to enlist in a program that encourages individuals to reduce, reuse, and correctly sort waste. The Nadeera program encourages residents to tag their waste bags with QR code stickers that both identify their contents (recyclables, organics, and other waste) and tie the bag to a particular household. Nadeera staff then inspect these bags at a local sorting facility, rate the quality of residents’ waste sorting, and send personalized feedback on the residents’ sorting quality via a mobile app. The app further allows participants to accumulate points that can be traded in for coupons to redeem at local businesses.

We estimate the effects of Nadeera on three real-world behaviors measured two to four months after the treatment begins: the quality of waste sorting, registering as a volunteer for a local en- vironmental initiative, and applying to a raffle to win ‘green’ prizes.

We also use a pre- and post-survey to test five major mechanisms through which the program is likely to change behaviors: (1) increased intrinsic motivation to sort waste, (2) increased knowl- edge of how to sort waste correctly, (3) strengthened social norms around waste sorting, (4) in- creased self-efficacy, (5) increased perceived efficacy of community organizations, and (6) enjoy- ability of sorting. Overall, this project seeks to shed light on effective strategies for improving environmentally-conscious behaviors in contexts with low social and institutional trust.

Funded by: Hicham al Alaoui Foundation and others

Find our publicly posted experimental pre-analysis plan here


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