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Varieties of Governance: Improving Public Service Delivery

Photo by Theen Moy/Flickr


GDN's three-year Global Research Project, Varieties of Governance: Effective Public Service Delivery, explored the role of formal and informal institutions, at both country and sector level, in the effectiveness (or lack) of public service delivery in the areas of basic education, water supply and transport infrastructure (roads).

Sixteen multidisciplinary research teams covering 30 countries analyzed the effects of governance mechanisms on service delivery through a political economy lens. These teams studied the effects of decentralization, citizen participation and participatory budgeting on the quality, costs and availability of education, water and roads in selected countries through a comparative perspective. The use of both quantitative and qualitative data and mixed methods aimed to capitalize on the ‘Varieties of Governance’ in each particular context.


  • Contributing to the understanding of the interplay of political and sectoral institutions and incentives, formal and informal institutions, actors and information flows in determining the structure and operation of delivery systems;
  • Supporting the development of methodological approaches adequate to data availability and supplementing data collection where needed;
  • Analyzing the impact of differences in delivery systems and forms of governance within countries (i.e. different delivery systems and institutional set-ups across states or municipalities in a given country), across countries and over time (major institutional changes); and
  • Suggesting the best feasible institutional and policy options for improving public service delivery under different country and institutional contexts.

Find out about the research teams and program activities here.


The three-year, US$2.16 million project was generously funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Department for International Development (DFID), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Open Society Institute (OSI), the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, The Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and The World Bank.


Armenia, Hungary and Romania | ​Effects of Governance Models in Transition Countries​ 
Colombia |  Decentralization, Fiscal Effort and Social Progress in Colombia at the Municipal Level, 1994-2009: Why Does National Politics Matter?
Developing Countries | GDN Education Issues Paper
Developing Countries | Governance in Water Supply 
India | Varieties of Governance, Varying Outcomes
India |  Managing Healthcare Provision and Health Outcomes through Local Governance
India | Access to Water, Time Allocation and Income in Rural India
Latin America |  Markets and Hierarchies in Social Services in Latin America: Incentives, Institutions, and Politics
Latin America |  On the Efficient Provision of Roads
Peru |  Does Participatory Budgeting have an Effect on the Quality of Public Services? The Case of Peru’s Water and Sanitation Sector
Senegal | Effect of Governance on Public Service Delivery in the Water Sector in Senegal

Find out more

To find the studies completed under this program, please go to the Research section of this website, and check back frequently for updates.