Formal and informal institutions structure the distribution of opportunities, assets and resources in society. For example, political settlements (usually an agreement among elites) establish the formal rules for managing political and economic relations (such as electoral processes, constitutions, and market regulations), as well as the informal division of power and resources (DFID, 2010a: 22). Powerful people and groups can shape institutions, making them inclusive or exclusive, for their own benefit and to maintain power (Jones, 2009: 11; World Bank, 2013a: 13; Goetz, 1997: 14; Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 24). In this way, institutions are both shaped by power relations and in turn act as ‘bottlenecks’ on acceptable forms of governance and the exercise of power (Wilson, 1997: 17).
Communities, families, economic relations and political governance are key institutional domains influencing development outcomes. Together, these institutions determine the degree to which social relations are inclusive.
- Communities and families: Rules and norms structuring the distribution of authority, assets and labour within the community and family, including rules on marriage, procreation, inheritance and parenting, and local decision-making and accountability.
- Economic relations:Rules and norms determining the degree of regulation, rent-seeking and corruption in economic relations, shaping access to assets, property, employment and credit.
- Political governance: Rules and norms shaping access to and participation in political structures and processes, including parliaments, public sector organisations, electoral processes and legal systems.
- Acemoglu, D. & Robinson, J. (2012). Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty. New York: Crown Publishers. See document online
- DFID (2010a). Building peaceful states and societies. A DFID Practice Paper. London: Department for International Development. See document online
- Goetz, A.M. (1997). Getting institutions right for women in development. London: Zed Books.
- Jones, H. (2009). Equity in development. Why it is important and how to achieve it. London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Jütting, J., Drechsler D., Bartsch, S. & de Soysa, I. (eds.) (2007). Informal institutions: How social norms help or hinder development. Paris: OECD. See document online
- Kabeer, N. (1994). Reversed realities: Gender hierarchies in development thought. London and New York: Verso.
- Leftwich, A. & Sen, K. (2010). Beyond institutions: Institutions and organizations in the politics and economics of poverty reduction – Thematic synthesis of research evidence. DFID-funded Research Programme Consortium on Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth (IPPG). Manchester: University of Manchester. See document online
- Unsworth, S. (2010). An upside down view of governance. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. See document online
- Wilson, R. (Ed.) (1997). Human rights, culture & context. Anthropological perspectives. London: Pluto Press.
- World Bank (2013a). Inclusion matters: The foundation for shared prosperity. Washington D.C.: World Bank. See document online