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Does informal participation improve environmental sanitation? An exploration of the everyday tactics adopted by low-income urban communities in Accra, Ghana.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Ella Foggitt
Publication date2023
Number of pages233
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


With the number of people living in informal settlements due to reach three billion by 2030, the challenge of how best to deliver basic services, such as environmental sanitation, in these contexts is of paramount importance. Citizen participation is increasingly proposed as part of the solution with a focus on either highly organised communities who self-mobilise, or citizens being invited to participate in time-bound projects designed by external actors. These forms of participation do not reflect the reality of most poor urban dwellers. Therefore, this study investigated the role that informal, everyday participation plays in advancing environmental sanitation in lowincome urban settlements. It did this through an analysis of two communities in Accra, Ghana: an ethnically diverse, migrant community and an indigenous community. This study applied a mixed-methods approach across three phases from 2019 – 2021 using
semi-structured interviews, household surveys and community mapping. Data were analysed using both statistical and qualitative thematic analyses resulting in three standout findings. Firstly, it showed that informal participation was a political act whereby citizens contest the poor environmental sanitation of their locality. This study revealed four distinct tactics of contestation that citizens pragmatically adopted. Secondly, the results highlighted the importance of contextual factors, with incidences of participation being 413% higher in the indigenous community and proxies of sociability, trust, solidarity, and cooperation being associated with collective informal participation. Thirdly, contestation-based informal participation was not sustainably
improving environmental sanitation, nor did it exert sufficient pressure on the
authorities to achieve structural change. This study showed that outcomes were
constrained by factors including political cleavages and lack of resources. Implications for policy and practice include the need for policies promoting everyday citizen participation to account for context-specific factors.