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An Exploratory Analysis of Self-help Groups: An Alternative Mode of Public Service Delivery in High Density Rural Areas in India? Open Access


Other title
Participatory development
Rural development
Service delivery
Self-help groups
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Brady, Nurmaiya K
Supervisor and department
Agrawal, Sandeep (Human Geography and Planning)
Examining committee member and department
John, Parkins (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Summers, Robert (Human Geography and Planning)
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Human Geography
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
Self-help groups (SHGs) as a mode of community-based participatory development has been increasingly adopted within international development practice as a platform for broader community engagement. These voluntary, membership-based organizations of 10 to 20 women have been mobilized in developing regions to promote government programs and local development initiatives because of their perceived ability to empower participants in ways that externally implemented programs cannot. In India, SHGs have been actively utilized by various levels of government to promote rural microfinancing and microenterprise initiatives with the intent of improving economic empowerment, livelihood creation, and gender empowerment. The existing literature on SHGs is dominated by case studies focusing on the financial and economic outcomes of SHG activities, but little examination exists on the function of these groups in a service delivery function. This research explores the role of SHGs as an alternative mechanism for the delivery of public services, specifically in the context of high-density rural communities that suffer from service deficits and institutional constraints. It asks if SHGs can help bridge existing gaps in service delivery. What are the associated benefits and challenges surrounding this approach? The results of this study seek to contribute to the knowledge gap that exists on the service delivery role of SHGs while considering outcomes beyond traditional economic variables. To address this, a qualitative analysis was conducted with 172 SHG members, policy makers, and key informants through focus group and individual interviews in two high-density districts in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The findings support the functioning role of SHGs as an effective delivery mechanism for rural services and government poverty alleviation schemes within communities. Potential for exploitation and the emphasis on supply driven activities, however, should be addressed when scaling up service delivery activities.
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