Fostering Peer Learning Among Local Elected Representatives
India’s success in broadening political representation – through decentralization and political reservations for disadvantaged groups – has brought in new leaders. However, many of these leaders may be unfamiliar with how government works and lack the networks to navigate bureaucratic processes. Peer networks are an important source of information in such contexts. In this project, we study how peer networks among village leaders in Bihar impact local governance. In partnership with Bihar’s Department of Panchayati Raj, we organize peer groups for (randomly selected) newly-elected ward members. Results from a (virtual, COVID-era) pilot involving 3,928 ward members suggest that peer networks facilitate information diffusion and help ward members implement welfare schemes better. Learning from our pilot, we propose to evaluate a larger-scale, better-designed peer networks intervention with an in-person component. We will also study the mechanisms through which peer networks affect politician behavior, examining whether “best practices” in governance diffuse through peer networks.