Agency and opportunity structure
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Agency and Opportunity Structure. Hario Megatsari. Agency. Defined as an actor’s or group’s ability to make purposeful choices—that is, the actor is able to envisage and purposively choose options .

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Agency and Opportunity Structure

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Agency and opportunity structure

Agency and Opportunity Structure

Hario Megatsari


Agency

Agency

  • Defined as an actor’s or group’s ability to make purposeful choices—that is, the actor is able to envisage and purposively choose options.

  • In terms of both measurement of and action to enhance empowerment, a person or group’s agency can be largely predicted by their asset endowment


Agency1

Agency

  • Assets are the stocks of resources that equip actors to use economic, social, and political opportunities, to be productive, and to protect themselves from shocks

  • The assets requiring measurement (for monitoring or analysis) or consideration in operational work,someare easier to measure than others.


Agency2

Agency

  • Psychological assets are particularly crucial both to interventions and to measurement of asset-based agency.

  • Actors with low levels of psychological assets are also less likely to make choices that can build or strengthen the other assets that form the basis of their agency.


Case study

Case Study


Agency and opportunity structure

The Institute for Adult Education (INEA) in Mexico provides literacy training and basic education to disadvantaged young adults who have not attended or have dropped out of the formal school system. Students’ testimony indicates that enrollment in INEA programs has not only improved their education levels but has also provided them with other skills and assets. They state that being able to read and write has enhanced their self-confidence, and that, as a result, they are less hesitant to voice opinions and speak in public.

INEA courses also give students access to information. Women learn, for example, that domestic violence is an infringement of their rights and that they are entitled to seek help or redress. Coupled with increased selfconfidence, such information might lead an INEA student to take action to stop abuse. INEA schools also provide an arena for interaction that contributes to a community’s level of social capital. Studying together, students learn to trust each other and develop friendships and networks of support.


Agency and opportunity structure

INEA courses also give students access to information. Women learn, for example, that domestic violence is an infringement of their rights and that they are entitled to seek help or redress. Coupled with increased selfconfidence, such information might lead an INEA student to take action to stop abuse. INEA schools also provide an arena for interaction that contributes to a community’s level of social capital. Studying together, students learn to trust each other and develop friendships and networks of support.


Opportunity structure

Opportunity structure

  • An actor may be able to choose options, but the effective realization of those choices will largely depend upon the institutional context within which the actor lives and works.

  • The opportunity structure comprises these institutions that govern people’s behavior and that influence the success or failure of the choices that they make.


Opportunity structure1

Opportunity structure

  • Formal institutions include the sets of rules, laws, and regulatory frameworks that govern the operation of political processes, public services, private organizations, and markets.

  • Informal institutions include the “unofficial” rules that structure incentives and govern relationships within organizations such as bureaucracies, firms, or industries, as well as the informal cultural practices, value systems, and norms of behavior that operate in households or among social groups or communities.


Opportunity structure2

Opportunity structure

  • Utilitarian, preference-based approaches to analysis of choice assume that choice is a straightforward process in which actors make rational selectionsdesigned to maximize utility.

  • Increases in agency, through the accumulation of assets such as education, information, psychological consciousness, and income or consumption wealth, have been shown to associate with changes in traditional informal institutions

  • Formal institutions touch the lives of most people. Common examples include a country’s legal framework, tax regulations, and local governance rules


Case study1

Case Study


Agency and opportunity structure

Most rural people in Ethiopia continue to apply customary laws to their economic and social relationships. This is most apparent, and perhaps most damaging, in the ways in which customary conflict resolution mechanisms and the civil courts are legally integrated. While in theory this integration was meant to enable citizens to retain their ethnic and religious identities, in practice it has reinforced damaging attitudes and customs toward women.


Agency and opportunity structure

Article 34(7) of the Constitution reserves the option to adjudicate disputes related to personal matters in accordance with religious or customary laws, rather than under the civil code, if the parties to the disputes agree. In practice, personal disputes, particularly between men and women, are frequently directed to traditional adjudication mechanisms by the choice of men, without the consent of women. In Muslim areas, if a husband goes to the Sharia court first to institute divorce proceedings, the wife often does not have recourse to the civil court (World Bank 2004b). Focus group discussions among Orthodox Christians in Addis Ketama reported that if there is a conflict between husband and wife, the case is first handled by a traditional court, and noted that even if a formal court was approached directly, the case would be passed to traditional courts (Legovini 2004).


Case study2

Case Study

  • Relationship between Agency, Structure and Empowerment


Agency and opportunity structure

A study of local government in India finds that elected representatives who are landless participate in the meetings of local elected bodies, or panchayats, to a significantly lesser extent than those who own some land. As the landless are dependent economically, they are less likely to raise dissenting opinions against their potential employers in the village. Education and access to information also significantly associate with participation among elected representatives. Every additional year of education, on average, raises a representative’s participation by more than two and a half percentage points. A representative who has 10 years of education scores on average 27 percentage points higher on this scale than one who has no formal education. Similarly, more access to information is associated with greater participation among representatives by almost 3 percentage points, on average, for each additional source of information that they consult.


Agency and opportunity structure

Respondents in the study stated that individual benefits from the panchayat could be accessed only by people who had a relationship with the family of the sarpanch, orpanchayatpresident. Such relationships were based on performing frequent labor for the sarpanchand his or her kin, purchasing goods from shops owned by them, and voting in their favor. An elected representative, or wardpanch, from a low-status tribe said that he had no powers, but that he and other wardpanches“have to go along with whatever thepatidars[the caste group of the sarpanch] decide in thepanchayat,” as many of the wardpanchesare dependent on the patidarsfor labor and therefore for their livelihoods.The people who feel that they are excluded from the individual benefits of the panchayat say they lack the awareness of what to do to change the situation and do not know to whom they should turn outside the panchayat.


Thank you

Thank You


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