The objective of the Municipal Services Project (MSP) is to critically investigate alternatives to the privatization of essential services, with a focus on the electricity, health, water and sanitation sectors. Much of our work has been on Africa, Asia and Latin America, but we have also been engaged in research in Europe and North America. Our aim is to identify and document successful ‘public’ service delivery models and the conditions required for their sustainability and reproducibility.
Our research starts from the premise that privatization has failed to deliver on its promise of effective and affordable service delivery, particularly in the global South. Our focus, however, is on existing public service alternatives, developed by a wide variety of actors, from governments to civil society groups to frontline workers. We develop tools for researchers and practitioners to better understand historical, contemporary and future alternatives to commercialized service delivery, investigating models such as public-public partnerships, worker cooperatives, community-owned systems, progressive financing schemes and rights-based approaches.
Finding recipes for success
The MSP has established a set of norms to evaluate public service delivery, including equity, accountability and solidarity (read more about our Methodology). There is no singular way to evaluate these norms – and no public service is ‘perfect’ – but it is an attempt to establish explicit and measurable criteria against which public models can be gauged, and which allow for reasonable comparisons across sectors and regions.
Encouraging participatory research
We are committed to broad-based participation and knowledge sharing. We have built a wide network of researchers, social activists and organizations involved in alternatives to privatization, including academics, NGOs and trade unions. Our objective has been to conduct research that is relevant and useful to communities and organizations on the ground. For this reason, we seek the participation of service users, front-line service workers, managers and other parties involved in the delivery or consumption of services. This enables us to build research capacity and insights at the grassroots level.
Advocating for reforms
The project advocates for progressive service delivery reforms to generate more equitable and sustainable outcomes. Building progressive public delivery will require both reclaiming and transforming the state. We engage from the local to the multilateral level, sharing promising alternatives with government officials, labour unions, NGOs, social movements, donor agencies, development banks and other policy makers.