Michael Woolcock Photo

Michael Woolcock

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy


Most people for most of history have depended upon various types of social institutions -- i.e. kinship systems, community organizations, and social networks -- as their primarily resource for both survival ("getting by") and mobility ("getting ahead"). Social institutions are also a central basis of identity, meaning, and aspiration, even as they can be altered by the development process in quite contentious ways; as such, the broader policy challenge remains one of discerning how to sustain effective complementary relationships between social and 'formal' institutions as they change over time. This course explores the various ways in which social institutions have evolved historically in different contexts and uses this knowledge as a basis on which to better incorporate social institutions into the design, implementation, and assessment of development strategies. Our particular focus will be on strategies seeking to improve risk management, dispute resolution, service delivery, effective governance, and the extension of markets. A strong emphasis is placed on -- and assessment is geared towards -- developing the ability to: (a) analyze, integrate, and interpret data from different sources and levels of quality; (b) communicate with diverse audiences (scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and the general public); and (c) understand how coalitions of actors, organizational imperatives, and political forces shape the nature and extent of support for (and/or resistance to) reform.