The UNRISD research project New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South examines the emergence, nature and effectiveness of recent developments in social policy in emerging economies and developing countries. Public employment schemes are an important element in many of these policies, and the involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the development and implementation of new social policies is a reoccurring theme in the New Directions project. This research note supports this ongoing UNRISD work by looking at the role of CSOs in two public employment schemes in major emerging economies: the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India and the Community Works Programme (CWP) in South Africa.
Of special interest in this research note is how CSOs engage with and positively impact these public schemes. Evidence shows that the institutional environment that governments have established in and around these schemes, and in particular, the extent of government efforts to involve CSOs as genuine partners at various stages of the policy process, makes a difference. Meaningful participation of CSOs in social audits (a monitoring and evaluation tool to assess the impact of the programme on social development) and in the planning process is a crucial element in the partnership for public works. Public employment schemes with these features are argued to have better outcomes than those that do not.