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Research | Restoring Agency: Modified Choice Approach

Organisations in the development sector are increasingly realising the need to move from working in silos to solving together. With the complexity of problems, as seen in the COVID pandemic situation, restoring agency of every relevant individual and organisation is fundamental to responding together. Societal Thinking is rooted in the value of restoring agency — focused on how we can create an enabling environment that nurtures freedom of choice for all individuals and organisations. It is in this vein, Societal Platform and eGovernments Foundation partnered and commissioned Aapti Institute to research on the idea of restoring agency and arrive at principles that could help the Societal Platform missions design for it. 

The phase 1 research report explores the notion of agency, the barriers to it, and the broad principles that are critical in restoration of agency. The report is produced based on interviews with several development practitioners and experts such as academicians, technologists, activists and platform thinkers.

Key Takeaways

  • Agency is defined through a modified choice approach — agency as ultimately enabling choice, constrained by control (or maneuvering power structures) and restored by unlocking ability (instruments and capacity)
  • Breakdown of agency is due to lack of access (to information, resources, etc.), institutional barriers (due to bureaucratic structure, employment constraints, etc.), loss of rights, and loss of trust.
  • Some of the ways to restore agency for the breakdowns are: establish pathways of access to information, capital and infrastructure, build accountability in processes, design and index for rights/legal framework, and have processes that enhance trust.

A 2-pager summary of the research & the deck can be downloaded from the links below.

For more such resources, login to SPace.

A 2-page summary of the research findings. This document provides insights about mapping agency breakdowns and overview of potential design principles to restore agency.

Detailed presentation that gives insights into the notion of agency + modified choice approach + findings & design principles.

The recording of the discussion we had with our community members, along with the presentation of the research findings.