What triggers increased citizen demand for democratic reforms in a relatively rich authoritarian regime? What elements contribute to the rapid breakdown of a relatively stable democracy? What accounts for the marked differences in authoritarian regime change from one country to the next, from Asia to Africa to Latin America?
These are some of the questions to be addressed in a major new research project to enhance the positive impact of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Center of Excellence in Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center).
Researchers and academic experts are invited to inform an upcoming research grant opportunity on Theories of Change (TOC) in Democratization to support the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Center of Excellence in Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center), based in Washington, DC.
The TOC Research Grant Project is intended to 1) improve the DRG Center’s capacity to assist USAID Bureaus and Missions to conduct strategic planning and develop programming recommendations, and 2) strengthen the DRG Center’s ability to advocate for sound country strategies, justify DRG budget requests, and engage in policy discussions. The DRG Center has chosen this research project to help answer questions it regularly faces, such as:
The TOC Research Grant Project will build off of the seminal 2008 National Research Council (NRC) report Improving Democracy Assistance that recommended, among other things, doing a better job of grounding USAID’s DRG learning in existing academic research and analysis. The project will examine the factors that promote change—both positive and negative—along the continuum of authoritarian rule to consolidated democracy, over a timeframe of a couple of decades. It will consider:
Broad trajectories of political change.
Dynamics of varieties of political change, such as the collapse of authoritarian rule, backsliding, democratic breakdown, and democratic consolidation
Additional varieties of changes or subsets of specific varieties of political change—e.g., “democratic breakdown” may examine breakdown in resource-rich countries, post-Soviet countries, ethnically divided countries, or post-conflict countries.
USAID seeks input on the specific questions listed below to inform the upcoming Request for Applications (RFA) for the TOC Research Grant Project. USAID also is looking for open-ended feedback, which may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question 1: What are the principal varieties of change that occur in shifting between authoritarian rule and consolidated democracy? What are the most and least common?
Question 2: Which of these varieties of change should be the focus of the DRG Center’s TOC research?
Question 3: What varieties of change have the most/best/worst research currently available? What are the greatest gaps in the current research?
Question 4: What research opportunities present the most promising approaches to understanding why these varieties of political change happen and how they can be influenced?
Question 5: How should this research project be framed or designed differently to help USAID support DRG programs that are best-suited to respond effectively to changes when they occur, mitigate negative consequences of certain varieties of change, or even help facilitate change? Should USAID prioritize other research questions and, if so, what questions?
Responses are due Friday, August 23, 2013 (5pm EST). IIE will provide all responses to USAID without attribution, so giving feedback will not preclude you from applying to the later grant.