Sustainability Science Program

Tara Grillos

Tara Grillos

Tara GrillosMs. Tara Grillos
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 81
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: 502 Rubenstein Building
Tel: (1) 617-496-0739
Personal website:
Group affiliation: Doctoral Research Fellow

Tara Grillos is a Doctoral Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program and a doctoral candidate in the Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her research interests include participatory development, collective action, public goods provision, and community resource management. Tara is a recipient of the the Vicki Norberg-Bohm Doctoral Fellowship (2010), the Giorgio Ruffolo Doctoral Fellowship (2012), and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (2013), which allowed her to spend an entire academic year conducting fieldwork in Kenya. Tara holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School and a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Before beginning her doctoral studies at Harvard, Tara served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. She is fluent in Spanish and has also studied Portuguese and Swahili. In her spare time, Tara is a yoga enthusiast and an amateur ukulele player. Her faculty hosts are Ryan Sheely and William Clark.

Participatory development and capacity for collective action
This research seeks to clarify the relationship between different forms of participatory decision-making and the outcomes of those decisions, in the contexts of local governance, public goods provision and development policy.

Conventional wisdom among practitioners and donor agencies touts beneficiary participation in development projects as both an end in itself and as a means to improving project outcomes. However, there is as yet no clear consensus as to how participation affects outcomes. In practice, participatory processes vary substantially along several dimensions. An important question for the appropriate allocation of donor and government resources is: Which methods of beneficiary participation, if any, improve development outcomes? How and for whom? This research employs a mixed methods approach, combining lab and field experiments with qualitative interviews to explore the relationship between differing forms of participation and the impact, equity and sustainability of development interventions. Resolving these issues could have important implications for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of community development practice.

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