A seminar with Ellen Lust, Founding Director of the Programs on Governance and Local Development at Yale University and at the University of Gothenburg, and Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg.

Moderated by Tarek Masoud, Sultan of Oman Associate Professor of International Relations, HKS.

Why do some communities provide secure environments, good education, adequate health care, and other factors that promote human development, while others fail to do so? What determines whether or not decision-making is transparent, leaders are accountable, and citizens enjoy good governance? These questions are key for policy makers, development specialists, and others who seek to improve the lives of millions who suffer from violence, poor education, unattended illnesses, and a lack of opportunity at the hands of corrupt leaders. The search for answers to these questions has tended to focus on political and administrative institutions, the impact of which has been examined largely at the national level; however, social institutions play a critical role in shaping outcomes. As Elinor Ostrom (1990, 1992) points out, community norms, or local social institutions, combine with broader political institutions to determine when communities can overcome collective-action problems. Social structures can help overcome typical common-pool resource problems, helping to explain when communities can join together to foster service provision, resolve disputes, or hold a government accountable. This talk discusses how research across disciplines and geographies highlights the impact of social institutions, the formal and informal rules governing social relationships between individuals within the community, on governance and development, and presents an initial framework that allows us to go beyond individual studies and toward a unified theory of social institutions.

About Ellen Lust:
Ellen Lust is a professor in the department of political science at the University of Gothenburg and Founding Director of the Programs on Governance and Local Development at the University of Gothenburg and Yale University. Her publications include Structuring Conflict in the Arab World, and numerous volumes, including most recently Taking to the Streets: The Transformation of Arab Activism, co-edited with Lina Khatib.  She has also published articles in such journals as Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Politics and Society. She was an associate founding editor of the newly interdisciplinary journal, Middle East Law and Governance, and now chairs its board of directors.

For more on Professor Masoud, click here.