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Engagement of CSOs in the Collaborative Governance of Education Policy Process in Cabo Verde

Envolvimento das OSC na governação colaborativa do processo de política educacional em Cabo Verde
José Lopes
p. 91-117


Este artigo analisa o envolvimento das Organizações da Sociedade Civil (OSC) na governação colaborativa das políticas educacionais em Cabo Verde. Em contraste com a visão dominante das OSC como grupos de oposição separados do Estado, o artigo enquadra-as como partes integrantes do processo de governação colaborativa. A colaboração das OSC com o Governo na formulação de políticas educacionais gera um capital social (ligação societal) sob a forma de entendimento, normas partilhadas e confiança mútua entre os vários intervenientes no sistema educacional. Esse capital é um recurso importante para garantir a proficiência e eficiência das políticas educacionais.

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1Cabo Verde has made outstanding socioeconomic and political progress since its independence from Portugal in 1975. Devoid of any sort of natural tradable commodities, some described it as an “economically unviable country” at the time of its independence. Nevertheless, against all the odds, Cabo Verde ascended to the middle-income country group in 2008, and now it is depicted as a “story of success” in Africa (African Development Bank, 2012). Cabo Verde’s exceptional achievement over quite a short period of time is often attributed to its relative political stability (Riedl, 2016), its investment in human capital, and the cooperation from friendly countries, among others. However, an unaccounted key factor for that success has been the institutional engagement of the country’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the collaborative governance of public policies. CSOs’ participation along with public and private stakeholders “in collective forums with public agencies to engage in consensus-oriented decision-making” (Ansell & Gash, 2008, p. 1), a key description of collaborative governance, has accounted not only for the country’s political stability and social peace but also leveraged its socioeconomic development (Santos, 2017) since its independence. Cape Verdean CSOs have been active actors, which, along with state institutions, complement and supplement the government’s work to promote socioeconomic development.

2This paper thus seeks to comprehend how CSOs engage and the role they play in the collaborative governance of the education sector in Cabo Verde, by analyzing a specific policy: “Plano Nacional de Educação para Todos”. CSOs, as structures of civil society in Cabo Verde, have been described as “lethargic”, “co-opted” or “functionalized” institutions (Costa, 2013) to serve state or political parties’ particularistic interests rather than being citizens autonomous organizations working for their common good. On the other hand, they are depicted as independent “developmental partners” (Azevedo, 1995) whose work complements and supplements the government’s efforts in promoting development. Nevertheless, the fundamental issue involving CSOs in public policy debate is neither their political instrumentalization nor their independence from the state, but how they engage with state institutions in “collaborative governance” to design and implement policies that serve the country’s “universal interests”. That is the focus of this paper. Rather than taking part in the debate over the nature and perceptions of civil society/CSOs, this paper posits that these organizations and state institutions are integrating parts of political and societal governance structures that design and implement education policies in Cabo Verde. This governance perspective determines the success or failure of a public policy as “social actors” (Coleman, 1988) generate stock of the “social capital” responsible for the efficiency and efficacy of education policies. This social capital, which is described in this paper as “societal linking social capital” and manifested in the form of trust, shared norms, and understanding among the various stakeholders involved, is critical in explaining the efficiency of the Education for All policy and its outcomes goals.

3The paper’s layout is as follows: it starts by presenting the theoretical framework of CSOs as stakeholders in a collaborative governance structure. Then it describes the emergence and evolution of the pattern of CSOs engagement in the collaborative governance process in Cabo Verde, before and after independence. Thirdly, the paper analyses and seeks to enlighten the influence of collaborative governance on education outcomes. Finally, a conclusion is presented, highlighting the main findings and possible policy implications.

Engagement of CSOs in collaborative governance, and the generation of (societal linking) social capital

4Civil society has been the object of a wide variety of conceptual understandings and definitions in the field of social sciences, from the early social theorists up to the present day. Contractualists such as Locke and Rousseau (Morris, 1999) conceived of civil society as the space where independent men consent to live in harmony under a set of agreed rules and norms so that they could pursue their own goodness and common purposes. Thus, the government is a creation of free men united in civil society, or political society, to help them achieve their common purposes. This perspective on civil society and government was later taken up by Thomas Paine in his classic Rights of Man by stating that “government is nothing more than a national association acting on the principle of society” (Paine, 1996, p. 125). In both the contractualists and Thomas Paine, civil society, as men living under their own consented rules, takes, or is expected to take, an agency role in the design and functioning of the government/the state, which is nothing more than an instrument to serve their purposes. Thus, Paine (1996) argues that government is a rational creation, rather than an inherited institution, which could be timely recreated or reformulated to fit the interests of men.

5Contemporary analyses of civil society focus more on its “empirical” and “observational” dimensions (Bratton, 1989), the civic communities, or the CSOs. This dimensional concept of civil society refers to the “institutions, organizations and individuals located between the family, the state and the market” (Anheier, 2004, p. 22), where “particular” and “universal” interests contend (Hegel, 2001) and are mediated by the state. Montesquieu refers to it as the space where disputes between political powers and entrenched group rights “find an equilibrium” (Richter, 2009).

6Thus, civic communities are not only the locus of citizens’ private interests and concerns in opposition to the state and market forces (Ferguson, 1995; Habermas, 1996), but also the space of interest reconciliation. In civic communities, the two streams of particular and universal interests are inseparable, as when one seeks to look after their interests, they also promote the universal interests of the state. As Hegel states, “the particular purpose cannot be carried out apart from the universal […] as when I promote my end, I promote the universal, and the universal in turn promotes my end” (Hegel, 2001, p. 156). Thus, as individuals gather in communities and groups outside their family and the state spheres to stand for common causes and interests, they are engaging themselves in a “moral call” to promote not only their particular interests but also universal interests.

7Hegel’s perspective on civic communities as spaces where particular and universal interests contend is at the root-base of “collaborative governance”, reinforcing the contractualists’ and Paine’s perspective on society’s role in setting up the government. Cohen and Arato (1992), following Montesquieu, Paine, and the Hegelian views on the role of civic communities within the state as described above, propose a convergent perspective, or cooperation between CSOs, the state, and the market to address public concerns. This intertwining, Cohen and Arato (1992) argue, “represents the values and interests of social autonomy in face of both the modern state and the capitalist economy” (p. 30). Collaborative governance represents a middle ground where different actors – CSOs, the state, and the market – are linked to one another through a “symbiotic relationship” (Buttigieg, 2005, p. 37) in the production and distribution of public goods. Strong and antagonistic CSOs may be efficient in congregating interests and mobilizing resistance and pressures against the state, but they do not necessarily contribute to effective government responses to the demands made as they lack the “political power” to influence government decisions (Habermas,1996). Even in a thick civil society (Fox, 1997), characterized by the presence of a dense civic community and horizontal social capital but with a weak linkage to government and other elite organizations, there would still be something amiss to guarantee efficient government responses to issues raised by civic communities. The consensus drawn from the diversity of the different actors’ values and interests, and their acting together to achieve common purposes, is the key to government performance success.

8Thus, to understand the role of CSOs in the public policy process, one needs to consider them as part of the collaborative governance structure (Kooiman, 1993; Salamon, 1995; Stoker, 1998; Ansell & Gash, 2008) that runs the public policy process. A community’s or a country’s development does not depend on either the fierceness or the agglomeration of their CSOs, but most importantly, on the nature of their linkage among themselves and with the state institutions in the design and implementation of policies. This linkage operates through either formal or informal collaborative governance that brings the state, market, and CSOs together to “work collectively in distinctive ways, using particular processes, to establish laws and rules for the provision of public goods” (Ansell & Gash, 2008, p. 3). CSOs engage in “joint activities” with other social actors and contribute with their “structures and resources” (Walter & Petr, 2000, p. 495) to generate demands, lobby government, and design and implement policies in this collaborative process.

9Collaboration between CSOs, the government, and market actors through a “synergistic relationship” (Evans, 1997) generates a social capital dimension, described here as a “societal linking social capital” responsible for the policy efficiency and achievement of desirable collective outcomes. Building on the notion of linking social capital (Woolcock, 1998, 2000, 2001) and “synergistic relationship” (Evans, 1997), societal linking social capital refers to the benefits and advantages generated from the linkage among CSOs, public entities (central departments, local governments, public regulators, etc.), business organizations, media, and other social actors over the policy process (Lopes, 2019). Such benefits are the resources manifested as mutual trust, team spirit, norms, and widespread institutional and societal understanding and commitment to accomplish common specific policy goals. Societal linking social capital is the widest possible form of social capital, as it is generated from the network of all the “social corporate actors” (Coleman, 1988) within a polity, including political, religious, and market organizations, multilateral and bilateral organizations, international and national NGOs, local civic groups, and the network of small informal functional associations of people. The linkage of all these organizations through cooperative and collaborative efforts to address public issues creates a generalized sentiment of belonging and trust among them, as institutions and people perceive a societal commitment towards addressing social issues and the promotion of people’s well-being.

10Therefore, societal linking social capital solves the problem of government, market, and civil society failures (Anheier, 2004; Salamon, 1995) as they are unable to answer to societal demands by acting separately. Collaboration brings government, market, and civil society actors face-to-face over common issues, and as they engage with their structures and resources, they share understanding and build trust, increasing the possibility of policy efficiency (Putnam et al., 1993). However, how can such a linkage be observed and grasped? Ansell and Gash (2008), inspired by Stoker (1998), proposed a groundbreaking model for the analysis of collaborative governance of public policies. Their model consists of four key variables, namely “starting conditions”, “institutional design”, “collaborative process” and “facilitative leadership” (Ansell & Gash, 2008). “Starting conditions” refer to resource asymmetries (power, knowledge, or finance) between the stakeholders, the incentives or constraints they receive in their attempt to collaborate, and finally, a history of cooperation or conflict. “Institutional design” refers to the institutional framework, basic protocols, and ground rules that guarantee “participatory inclusiveness” and “process transparency”. These conditions give assurance to different stakeholders that cooperation is based on clear-cut legal mechanisms and not on bare or deceitful promises. The third variable, the “collaborative process”, builds on three key elements: trust-building that is formed through the actors’ joint commitment; face-to-face dialogue, where open and “good faith negotiation” occurs; and finally, the intermediate outcomes shared among all the stakeholders involved. The fourth and final variable, “facilitative leadership”, refers to the capacity of those in charge to initiate and sustain the collaborative process.

11The collaborative model describes not only the elements and the operation of the collaborative process but also presents it as the key variable to explain policy outcomes: the collaborative process influences policy outcomes. It is against this theoretical backdrop that this paper analyzes collaborative governance in the education sector in Cabo Verde, by focusing on the engagement of CSOs in such a process. This analysis is particularly important for the case of Cabo Verde, where the engagement of CSOs has been the object of a fierce intellectual debate over the years. The single-party regime, between 1975 and 1990, mobilized and promoted the engagement of CSOs, then labeled “mass organizations”, in the socio-economic development of the country. Nevertheless, the CSOs during the 15 years of the single-party regime were highly linked to and influenced by the party ideology and enjoyed little freedom to raise and support issues contrary to those of the party (Costa, 2013).

12Apparently, the democratic transition in 1990 brought a new wave of freedom for the emergence and engagement of CSOs in democratic governance. Nevertheless, following the political scenario of the single-party regime, the new ruling party, MPD, kept dominating civil society (Silveira, 1998), and the people’s disbelief in the parties as their intermediary with the state prompted the birth of new CSOs, who by themselves looked to participate in the “configuration of the state” (Fonseca, 1998, p. 118). Other authors (Costa, 2013; Pina, 2020) have been critical of the success of CSOs’ participation in state configuration. For Costa, echoing Silveira (1998), CSOs in Cabo Verde are instrumentalised and coopted by political parties as strategies to pursue their particular interests. This relationship between parties and CSOs is motivated, on the one hand, by a reigning weak culture of civic engagement in collective action in Cabo Verde (Pina, 2020), and on the other hand, to a certain extent, by the state of mind of dependency of CSOs in the country. Nevertheless, over the years, CSOs’ leaders and even government leaders have been emphasizing the contributions of these organizations to the socio-economic development of Cabo Verde, across different sectors (Santos, 2017). Thus, against the theoretical backdrops depicting CSOs in Cabo Verde as politically dominated and coopted spaces on the one hand, and developmental institutions with tried and tested contributions to the country’s socio-economic progress on the other, it is fundamentally important to understand the relationship between them and state actors over the public policy process. This paper, building on the collaborative governance approach, examines how CSOs and public (and private) entities network in the promotion of education policies in Cabo Verde, where both particular and universal interests are enhanced.

Collaborative governance of education in Cabo Verde

13This section analyzes the collaborative governance in the education sector in Cabo Verde, based on the model proposed by Ansell and Gash (2008) as described above. The section first narrates the emergence and engagement of CSOs in the government’s education policy-making process, from the colonial era to the democratic period, and then, based on Ansell and Gash’s (2008) collaborative model, it analyzes the governance process over a specific public policy in the education sector, The Action Plan of Education for All.

The emergence and evolvement of collaborative governance in education in Cabo Verde

14Education, as a system of instruction, was born in Cabo Verde out of the collaboration or the complicity between the imperial government and the church. Since the early days of colonization, the Catholic Church has been charged with “evangelizing souls” and “ladinizing” slaves by teaching them basic Christian principles and rudimentary instruction in “lengua Portuguesa” (Carreira, 2000). This “education” process was an effective mechanism of cultural assimilation and slaves’ valuation in the slavery market (Carreira, 2000, p. 272; Moniz, 2009; Xavier, 2017), with gains for both the state and the church. After the abolition of the slave trade in the 1860s, Cabo Verde became a “training center” for the natives, who were trained as public service workers to be deployed across the Portuguese colonies’ administrative machinery in Africa. Nevertheless, the imperial state kept relying on the church collaboration to train and “educate the natives” (Moniz, 2009, p. 224) for that purpose. The Catholic Church and some of its dependent institutions continue to play an important role in the education sector today, as they own and manage several schools’ establishments in the country (Xavier, 2017). The church’s collaboration goes beyond providing infrastructure, as it also contributes to curriculum development, as seen in the recent implementation of the concordat between the Vatican and the government to introduce Catholic teachings at secondary schools.

15From independence in 1975 until the democratic transition in 1990, the state and society became uno under the single-party regime. The party-state (PAIGC/PAICV) in its third congress of 1977 emphasized the state’s commitment to engage the “autonomous mass organizations” in the “construction of the nation” by promoting and developing an education sector that would support the national economy, social integration, and preservation of the national identity (Afonso, 2002, p. 126). Therefore, mass organizations, party schools, and other civic organizations were involved in “popular education”, a widespread literacy campaign implemented across the country during the single-party regime (Borja, 2008), as “a fundamental strategy [to make] people participate in the redirection of social life” (Azevedo, 2008, p. 86).

16The democratic transition in 1990 brought an extension of both political and social rights to the citizens. Indeed, despite the liberal tendencies of the new ruling party (MPD) in the early 1990s, the government implemented a wide range of social policies supported through taxes. Access to education was extended, and the constitution determined that “all education shall be supported by state taxation” (Const. 1992, art. 75). However, the constitution itself framed the possibilities and the institutional basis for the emergence and participation of non-state actors in the education policy process by determining that “the state shall cooperate with private or cooperative schools to promote and enlarge the educational system” (Const. 1992, art. 75).

17Nevertheless, as neoliberal policies became increasingly established, the state gradually retreated from its social responsibilities (Silva, 2004) and passed part of the buck to social institutions or its “developmental partners”. The constitutional reform of 1999 determines that the “state shall promote the socialization of the costs of education” (Const. 1999, art. 77, No. 3, F), foreseeing the inclusion of other actors in the implementation of education policies. Thus, the democratization of the education sector in the 1990s, in tandem with the state retrenchment, motivated the emergence and engagement of several CSOs in education policy processes, as coping strategies (Bayat, 2010, p. 55) to secure service delivery, but also, as Fonseca affirms, to seek to “participate in the configuration of the state” (1998, p. 118). With the support of international organizations, CSOs gained strength not only as welfare providers for those being unserved by the government but also as recognized “actors of development”. The creation of Plataforma das ONGs (The Platform of Non-Governmental Organizations) in 1995, represented their commitment to stand as important actors in the Cape Verdean political and socioeconomic scenarios.

18Across the country, CSOs, mainly local associations, became increasingly engaged in the implementation of government rural development programs, first as workforce mobilizers and then as “contracted” (Challinor, 2008) agents to help implement these programs. Rural works, such as land restoration programs, were outsourced to local associations and other similar organizations as a “third party government” (Salamon, 1995), which proved effective in carrying out their assigned works. Governance through contractualization might be questioned for its capitalist bias. However, such a process was in the interests of both the state and the CSOs themselves, as both sides gained. The government and the donors noticed great improvement in the work accomplished on land restoration, while the CSOs had active roles in determining the types of construction and the places where they had to be done. Therefore, they were influencers in this contractualization process.

19The support CSOs got from international organizations in the 1990s (ACDI-VOCA, for instance) for their engagement in the government policy process does not diminish, however, the Cape Verdean civil society’s capacity to act per se in its seeking to link and influence state decisions. As Furtado (2014) notes, civil society is aware of the state’s inability to meet some pressing social demands, and its awaking towards such an inability can either result in widespread social discontentment or in the adoption of participative strategies to help alleviate the impact of such inability. It is this second strategy that this paper is concerned about.

20With the change of government in 2001, led by the leftwing party-PAICV, the “incorporation” (Azarya, 1994) of CSOs into the state policy-making and implementation processes regained breath, much due to the new government’s proclivity for expanding social welfare policies and its experience of collaboration with these organizations in policy implementation (Lopes, 2019). As highlighted in the previous section, collaborative governance is influenced by a set of variables, among which institutional mechanisms play an important role. Thus, the relationship between the state and society in Cabo Verde has evolved very much in tandem with the political and institutional conditions implemented over the years since 1975. The next section explores these conditions further by analyzing how the government and non-government actors, national CSOs in particular, have engaged in collaborative governance to develop and implement education policies in the country since independence.

CSOs’ role in the structure of the collaborative governance of education policies in Cabo Verde

  • 1 This figure was calculated based on the analysis of the CSOs Guide Book 2015 (Plataforma das ONG (...)

21There were approximately 50 CSOs specialized in the education sector in Cabo Verde1. They include parents and teachers’ associations, national and international NGOs, foundations, co-ops, and teachers’ unions. In addition to these specialized organizations, there are a number of community-based organizations and other informal networks that provide education services to the disenfranchised groups of the population excluded from the public-sector education programs. According to the 2015 CSOs census (Plataforma das ONGs, 2015a), 7.8% of community-based organizations’ work (ADC) is focused on the education sector. Co-ops dedicate 16.7% of their activities to education, while ONGD and foundations dedicate 10.4% and 9.1%, respectively. Microcredit institutions have a lower percentage, with only 2.1% of their activities devoted to education. All combined, 8% of CSOs’ work in Cabo Verde is in the field of education.

22Specialized CSOs and other nonprofit organizations collaborate in the education policy process and service delivery as complementary, supplementary, and watchdog institutions. Their complementary role has two dimensions. On the one hand, they influence and participate in the elaboration of some major education policies and plans, such as the National Plan of Education for All (2002), the Charter of Education (2015), and the Strategic Plan for Education (2017). On the other hand, CSOs are engaged in market-style “contracts” and partnerships with the government to “co-produce” (Evans, 1997; Ostrom, 1997; Salamon, 1995) and deliver education services. The school established by the Association of Visually Impaired Students is an example of that. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this market-style governance does not strictly follow the capitalist logic, which is based on the private maximization of profits at all costs. The aim is to seek efficiency in policy outputs and outcomes with gains for all the stakeholders.

  • 2 Rede Nacional da Campanha de Educação para Todos.

23Through their mobilization of resources, CSOs’ supplementary role has been particularly remarkable in guaranteeing access to education to the disenfranchised children and young adults excluded from the national education system. One example worth mentioning is the work carried out by the National Network Campaign of Education for All in Cabo Verde2 (RNCEPT) for the handicapped and some community-based associations. The CSOs’ success in establishing specialized schools for the blind, deaf, and people with other learning disabilities in Cabo Verde is a good example of their supplementary role in the education sector (Lopes, 2019).

24Finally, CSOs’ adversarial role consists of “advocating the rights of the neediest people left unserved and under-served by the state” (Anheier, 2005, p. 284). In Cabo Verde, CSOs play that role in tandem with their complementary and supplementary work. When not funded by an international organization or financially self-sustaining, the same organizations that criticize the government and advocate for disenfranchised groups collaborate and seek contracts and financial support from the state. Thus, the line that separates these three roles is very thin, as CSOs may show different faces (Ndegwa, 1996) in the collaboration process, depending on what is at stake. Financially dependent CSOs are less severe in their public criticism and, therefore, are often labeled as government “delegates” rather than voicing civil society concerns (Costa, 2013). On the other hand, bolder CSOs who speak fearlessly in the public sphere are usually labeled as “oppositionists”. Nevertheless, CSOs of both faces get their places at the collaborative governance table, as we will see in the following section, exploring in depth the roles they play in the Local Partners Group of Education, a formal collaborative body that designs and implements education policies in Cabo Verde.

Local Partners Group of Education (LPGE)

25The Local Partners Group of Education (LPGE) was created in 2014 and included all the major stakeholders in the national education sector such as government institutions, multilateral and bilateral organizations, and international and national CSOs (Table 1). As a formalized state and society partnership “based on a complex mutual resource” (Mayntz, 1993, p. 18), LPGE is an epistemic community and a “network of cooperating service providers” (Provan & Milward, 2001, p. 414) that defines and implements major education policy guidelines in the country. Examples of policy documents the LPGE has enacted include Carta da Política Educativa (2015) and the revised Strategic Plan for Education (2017-2021). The former minister of Education, Fernanda Marques, stated at the launching ceremony of LPGE that its underlining rationale “is about developing education in a sustainable way, through the integration of all educational actors” (

Table 1: Members of the Local Partners Group of Education

Source: Website of the Ministry of Education (​projectos_parceriasparceiros)

26The creation of the LPGE is, on the one hand, the climax of a tradition of both formal and informal collaboration between the government and its partners over education policies (a tradition born during the single-party regime), and on the other hand, the result of a coercive diffusion process (Dobbin et al., 2007) triggered by the Global Partnership for Education Funds, which demanded its creation for easy access to the funds it makes available. This outside coercion, nevertheless, does not diminish the voluntary spirit nor the strategic calculation of the national stakeholders to work together. Quite the contrary, it reinforces it, mainly for the CSOs, as they perceive it as an opportunity to strengthen their presence in the policy sphere.

27Thus, LPGE becomes a collaborative platform in which the stakeholders involved share technical expertise, financial resources, and, most importantly, build synergy and trust among themselves. CSOs, in addition to the expertise, financial resources, and social capital they bring to the table, their advocacy work is important to mobilize social pressure from below to lobby other partners to adopt and implement policies ignored or unaddressed by the government. The intervention of the unions, the specialized NGOs for the handicapped, and the RNCEPT in demanding the adoption and implementation of inclusive measures to guarantee access to education to people with physical or learning disabilities is an illustrative example of CSOs’ advocacy work.

28Governance is “a living thing” (Capra, 1996, p. 173) with its own pattern, structure, and procedures. As different actors engage in the structure of the collaborative body, they interact permanently in a “developmental process” and establish their own pattern of relationship-autopoiesis, which gives life to the whole body. This developmental process, as it evolves, becomes a cognition process as well, allowing the actors to learn from one another and therefore feed and improve the whole structure itself. Applying the theory of autopoiesis to the current discussion on the governance of education in Cabo Verde, we see that the different actors in the LPGE trigger reactions from one another. The government and donors are not always apathetic to the CSOs’ demands. For example, the recent measures approved for subsidizing tuition fees for students with physical or other learning disabilities across all levels of instruction, are a response to the aforementioned demands from the Cape Verdean Association of Disabled People, a member of the National Education for All Campaign Network - RNCEPT-CV, which is a member of the LPGE. Nevertheless, the adoption of policies does not derive simply from the fact that demands are made, but from a dialogical process where particular versus universal interests are debated and weighted, with gains for all the involved actors. CSOs, after all, are not “so dangerous to public tranquility” and even though they agitate society for a while, they “may strengthen the state in the end” (Tocqueville, 1998, p. 227). A point also reiterated by Buttigie (2005), who states that civil society, “far from being a threat to political society in a liberal democracy, reinforces it” (p. 41).

Collaborative process on the design and implementation of the National Action Plan of Education for All (PNA-EPT)

  • 3

29The PNA-EPT was drafted by the government and presented publicly in 2002, in the aftermath of the United Nations World Education Forum held in 2000 in Dakar, Senegal.3 The Forum adopted the Dakar Framework for Action, a set of policy guidelines on the main education goals to be achieved in all the signatory countries by 2015. Accordingly, Cabo Verde’s National Action Plan defines the broad guidelines of its education policy as well as the mechanisms for its implementation. In 2015, Cabo Verde reported having achieved Goal 2 of the Millennium Developmental Goals – “universal primary education goal” (Cabo Verde, 2015). This paper suggests that the achievement of that goal is the result of the collaborative governance in the implementation of PNA-EPT, most importantly, the role played by the CSOs. It is the purpose of this section to analyze the operationalization of that collaboration process in light of the collaborative governance model proposed by Ansell and Gash (2008). The figure below is an adapted version of the original model to show how the four collaborative governance variables interconnect with one another to achieve policy efficiency and desired outcomes.

Figure 1: The flow of collaborative governance process on education in Cabo Verde

Source: Prepared by the author, adapted from Ansell and Gash (2007)

The starting conditions

30The starting conditions are defined by three basic indicators: incentives, resources, and a prehistory of cooperation between the institutions. Concerning the first, the PNA-EPT was framed within the context of the Millennium Developmental Goals, for its Goal 2. Therefore, CSOs and the government had incentives to collaborate on the policy formulation: funds to support education policies would be made available by international donors upon the submission of a collaborative plan.

31The resource imbalance between the different stakeholders, rather than being a problem, was an asset as different streams of resources complemented one another: the financial resources of donors would complement the field knowledge and experience of the national stakeholders (government and CSOS). Despite their financial limitations, CSOs contributed with the expertise of their leaders and technicians, as well as social capital from their volunteer members’ networks.

32Concerning the history of collaboration, as mentioned in the previous section, the drafting and the implementation of PNA-EPT were to some extent influenced and facilitated by the former experience of collaboration over the “reconstruction of the nation”, acquired during independence and developed both through voluntary and “contractual” collaboration (Challinor, 2008) in the 1990s. That inherited, in one form or the other, inspired or provided the stakeholders with some comfort to cooperate with one another.

The institutional design

33First of all, the engagement of CSOs in the design and implementation of PNA-EPT is broadly framed within institutional mechanisms such as the constitution, organic laws of the Ministry of Education, and municipalities. More specifically, the rules and strategies of PNA-EPT implementation are defined in the policy paper itself. The General Directorate for Basic and Secondary Education “coordinates and monitors the entire implementation process of the PNA-EPT”. However, the “adoption of measures aimed at involving the stakeholders” is at the discretion of the central body of the Ministry of Education. Nevertheless, regarding the “measures” that rule the engagement of partners, one can hardly find any decrees, laws, or any other formal documents to regulate the collaborative process, which leads to the conclusion that collaboration often happens at the level of informality. This might be a reflection of the aforementioned traditionalism of cooperation.

Leadership and the collaborative process in the design and implementation of PNA-EPT

34The drafting and implementation of PNA-EPT underwent a participative process led by the Ministry of Education, involving face-to-face dialogues and consultation meetings with other stakeholders. The central department of the General Directorate of Basic and Secondary Education defines the guidelines and coordinates all the implementation activities at the top level (MEVRH, 2002, p. 15). CSOs are essentially involved in the implementation phase, and are expected, along with other partners, to contribute to its costs, as it is stated in the policy document: “the financing of PN-EPT will involve multilateral cooperation agencies, particularly UN agencies, [… and] strategic partnerships […] with NGOs” (MEVRH, 2002, p. 15).

35Data on CSOs’ financial contribution to the implementation of education activities in Cabo Verde are unavailable. All we know is that 8% of their activities are related to education (Plataforma das ONGs, 2015a). However, if we take a family’s financial cost of education as “participation of society”, the conclusion is that society’s contribution is quite substantial. Data available for 2009 show that household expenditure on education represents 12.1% of the total government expenses on the sector for that year. In pre-school education, it represents almost 90% and only 4.3% in primary education. The household expenditure represents 9.7%, 12.6%, and 14.2% for the three cycles of secondary education, respectively, and a significant amount of 28.4% in the tertiary education sector. The poorest families bear the brunt of the financial burden, knowing they must forego basic needs such as nutrition to cover the expenses. Other data show that in 2015, families spent 2.3% of their own budget on education (INE, 2015b), compared to 1% in 2000/2001 (INE, 2001). The rising cost of education for families has resulted in the emergence of numerous CSOs that engage in fundraising activities to provide educational services to their constituents, mainly at the primary and secondary levels of education. For instance, in the interview with the leader of a community association in a fishing village in the Municipality of Ribeira Grande de Santiago, the society contribution becomes evident:

Here in the community, back in 2006, hardly anybody held a university degree, and only a few people managed to complete secondary school. We created a group [to mean an “association”], and one day we organized a big community meeting. Many people participated. We invited the president of the City Council, and he showed up. Since then, with the support of some authorities, we have helped many kids go to school. I became a teacher in the adult education sector myself. (Porto Mosquito, February 2018, in Lopes, 2019)

36This local association, as its leader suggests, created a path through which the community connects with the state authorities to make their voice heard and address their community issues. By the same token, the work carried out by the RNCEPT sets a good example to illustrate CSOs’ contribution. RNCEPT is a platform that links all CSOs specialized in the education sector in Cabo Verde, as well as community-based associations that carry out activities in this sector. RNCEPT works in three fronts: with its individual association members to conduct permanent needs assessments in the field and support their advocacy work; it develops “synergistic relationships” (Evans, 1997) with the government as a strategy to deliver education services where the government’s presence is unnoticed or insufficient; and thirdly, it mobilizes resources from its international and private partners to finance its education campaign. The Ministry of Education, in fact, has been keen to work cooperatively with RNCEPT and some of its affiliated organizations by providing them with regular funds to help cover their operational costs.

37Another example of government and CSOs’ collaboration is the allocation of resources in the annual state budget to guarantee a certain level of society co-participation in education policy implementation. For example, as table 2 shows, the funds allocated in the state budget to CSOs between 2012 and 2016 fluctuated mildly between 9% and 12% of the total budget of the Ministry of Education.

Table 2: Budget allotted to CSOs by the Ministry of Education (2012-2016)


Budget allocated to CSOS (CVE)

Total budget of the Ministry of Education

% of budget allocated to CSOs














82, 298,416





10. 486. 717.851


Source: Table prepared by the author based on data available on the State Budgets Reports (2012, 2013, 2014, 2014, 2015, 2016), and Série Cronológica da Educação (2015)

38CSOs also participate in education policies by offering private education services. In the 1990s, private providers emerged across all levels of education, with an emphasis on pre-school. Tables 3 and 4 below show the distribution of classrooms in Cabo Verde from 2000 to 2015, categorized as private and public, covering pre-school and primary levels of education.

Table 3: Evolution of teaching establishments for pre-school education (2000-2015)

Source: MED (2015)

Table 4: Evolution of teaching establishments for basic education (2000-2015)

Source: MED (2015)

39Private teaching establishments grew steadily from 2000 to 2015, mainly in the pre-education sector. However, private establishments for primary education grew slowly, increasing from three (3) in 2007 to eight (8) in 2015, which could be explained by the fact that this level of education is mandatory, and so the state covers most of its expenses. In fact, the private system targets primarily children from the high echelons who can afford its costs.

40In summary, the engagement of CSOs in the collaborative governance of education in Cabo Verde evolved as a strategy of domination in the colonial period, then to a strategy to rebuild the nation during the independence, and finally to a strategy of policy efficiency in the democratic period. The encompassing social capital that collaborative governance generates (the societal linking social capital) in the form of trust, shared norms, and understanding among the involving institutions – CSOs, government, international organizations, and private entities – is thought to positively affect their commitment to work together and achieve common goals. Thus, collaborative governance and the societal linking social capital it generates, as Ansell and Gash (2008) suggest, influence the performance of public policies. The next section analyzes this hypothesis by discussing the influence of CSOs engagement on the education outcomes in Cabo Verde, with a focus on the school population and literacy rate.

The outcomes of collaborative governance

41Collaborative governance matters to the extent that it influences positive policy outcomes. Having discussed the collaborative process in the education sector in Cabo Verde, the analysis now turns to its achieved outcomes. Thus, the question now is how and to what extent has the engagement of CSOs enhanced the achievement of the highly praised indicators of education outcomes in Cabo Verde?

42Researches measuring policy education outcomes have often been based on two indicators: the growth of the student population in the pre-school, primary, and secondary levels of education and the evolution of the literacy rate over the years. Cabo Verde has achieved remarkable results regarding these two indicators since independence in 1975, as Figure 2 shows.

Figure 2: Growth of the student population in Cabo Verde (1975 – 2014)

Source: INE (2015a) - Adapted by the author

43The school population grew substantially from 1975 to 2014 (Figure 2). Despite the increasing trend of primary education attendees in 1975, it took off in 1986 with the approval of the second National Development Plan (PND II). PND II expanded access to both primary and secondary levels of education (Afonso, 2002). Between 1985/86 and 1990/1991, the primary school population increased by 11.759 students, while in secondary education, the population almost doubled from 5.440 to 9.701 students. The school population grew very quickly in the 1990s and early 2000s. Despite its decrease in primary education, it grew quite substantially at the secondary level. The pre-school subsystem only kicked off in the 1990s.

44Thus, the literacy rate, measured in terms of the percentage of the population who could read and write, increased from 44.7% in 1980 to 82.90% in 2010, almost twofold. This linkage is quite easy: as more people went to school, more people were expected to learn how to read and write. However, the truth is that many of those who have learned how to read and write have succeeded not because of the formal system of instruction but because of other social strategies implemented by non-state actors to allow them to do so. These strategies are the complementary, supplementary, and advocacy roles CSOs play in the collaborative process of policy implementation. Thus, by analyzing the outcomes of the collaborative governance in the education sector in Cabo Verde, the focus is on the social capital generated as the explanatory variable.

(Societal linking) social capital and the growth of the school population and literacy rate

45I have elsewhere presented a model for measuring the societal linking social capital (Lopes, 2019), which is based on the CSOs’ linkages with other surrounding public, private, and civil society institutions. However, I take it for granted here that, as it has been discussed so far, the fact that there is an institutional engagement of CSOs in collaborative governance in the education sector means that capital is already latent in such a process. Thus, I take the density of CSOs as an indicator of social capital stock to be the explanatory variable for the growth of the school population (Figure 3) and the evolution of the literacy rate (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Growth of student population vs. growth of CSOs

Source: Graph elaborated by the author

46A visual look at the graph above allows us to see some kind of correlation between the growth of CSOs and the growth of the student population. Both indicators grew substantially from 1980 to 2010. However, the decrease in the school population after 2010 had much to do with the decrease in the birth rate, which went down from 29.3% in 2000 to 21.7% in 2010 (INE, 2010). Therefore, the question is whether there is any “causal explanation” (Little, 2005) between the two variables. The collaborative governance hypothesis takes the engagement of CSOs (along with other stakeholders) as the explanatory variable, however, without running the risk of making it the “causal mechanism” (Little, 2005) for the growth of the student population observed from 1975 to 2015. It is not simply the existence of CSOs that justifies the increasing number of students. It is their complementarity, supplementary, and advocacy roles that matter as they lobby and mobilize social and political pressures on the state to increase “policy activism” and responses (Tavits, 2006; Putnam et al., 1993). The democratization of education and many of the specialized programs developed and implemented (Afonso, 2002, p. 123) in the 1990s, the construction of educational infrastructures in the 2000s across the country, and other service provisions could be understood as “policy activism” (Tavits, 2006), or the outcomes of the aforementioned advocacy and demands from civil society.

47Literacy rates are also important indicators of educational policy outcomes. Explaining that growth from the perspective of (societal linking) social capital, Figure 4 portrays a visual representation of the percentage growth of CSOs versus the literacy rate in Cabo Verde from 1980 to 2010.

Figure 4: Literacy rate evolution vs. CSOs growth (1980-2010)

Source: Graph elaborated by the author

48The literacy rate grew in tandem with the growth of CSOs from 1980 onwards, despite the slower growth of the latter in the 1980s. CSOs’ engagement in education in Cabo Verde, as mentioned earlier, gained stronger momentum in the first decade of the 2000s as they became more vibrant (both in numbers and demands) across the country. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of CSOs grew by 57%. In the same period, the literacy rate increased by 8.10%. Along with government policies, CSOs’ capacity to mobilize financial and human resources to implement community education projects, such as community libraries, school material distributions, life skills training, voluntary adult education programs, etc., has contributed to helping the most underprivileged get access to education over the years, and so, contributing to the increase in the literacy rate.

49Throughout the years, CSOs have been depicted as “levers for development” in Cabo Verde (Santos, 2017), as they liberate civil society from social apathy and conquer their space in the “new dynamics imposed by the historical [democratization] process” of education (Borja, 2008, p. 74). The emerging CSOs in the 1980s and 1990s strongly committed themselves to help change the cultural level of Cape Verdeans by actively engaging in the “popular education” movement through mobilization and education of communities (Borja, 2008). That commitment has been a fundamental strategy adopted by CSOs (Azevedo, 2008, p. 86) and their partners in trying to accomplish the goals of education for all. As CSOs bridge with other institutions (state and private) in the governance process, they mobilize valuable resources to be employed in education service delivery. It is the linkage of CSOs with the societal “corporate actors” (Coleman, 1988) in collaborative governance, responsible for generating societal linking social capital, that guarantees the critical improvement of the “overall successes in education” (Acar, 2011, p. 457) for all.

Conclusion: Collaborative governance, societal trust, education outcomes – So what?

50The Cape Verdeans have had a history of collaboration. Their cultural practice of djunta mo (collaboration) has been described as a strategy and a resource to help them get through and overcome natural, economic, and political obstacles over the years. The experience of government mass mobilization during the first years of independence pioneered collaboration between the state and society in addressing public policy issues. In the case of education policies analyzed in this paper, collaborative governance, a process that brings together various stakeholders over the planning and delivery of education services, relies primarily on the cooperation of corporate actors (Coleman, 1988), including CSOs, the state, private sector, and multilateral and bilateral organizations.

51The paper shows that when government djunta mo (joins hands or links) with other institutions-CSOs to implement education policies, as in the case of LPEG, they generate societal linking social capital, widespread institutional mutual trust, shared understanding, and norms, which are responsible for their commitment to work together and achieve common policy goals. Thus, societal linking social capital, as a shared resource employed in the education policy process, influences its outcomes. That is what this paper showed with the performance of two education outcome indicators: the evolution of the school population and the literacy rate in Cabo Verde.

52The results of collaborative governance on education in Cabo Verde represent a new promise for the functioning of the government system and our democracy. If “we the people”, through their organizations-CSOs, can work collaboratively with government and other institutions, either by complementing, supplementing, or monitoring policies, institutional reforms to strengthen their inclusion in a more comprehensive collaborative governance structure will yield even more promising results.

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1 This figure was calculated based on the analysis of the CSOs Guide Book 2015 (Plataforma das ONGs, 2015b).

2 Rede Nacional da Campanha de Educação para Todos.


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Créditos Source: Website of the Ministry of Education (​projectos_parceriasparceiros)
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Créditos Source: Prepared by the author, adapted from Ansell and Gash (2007)
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Créditos Source: MED (2015)
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Créditos Source: MED (2015)
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Créditos Source: INE (2015a) - Adapted by the author
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Créditos Source: Graph elaborated by the author
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Créditos Source: Graph elaborated by the author
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José Lopes, «Engagement of CSOs in the Collaborative Governance of Education Policy Process in Cabo Verde»Cadernos de Estudos Africanos, 41 | -1, 91-117.

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José Lopes, «Engagement of CSOs in the Collaborative Governance of Education Policy Process in Cabo Verde»Cadernos de Estudos Africanos [Online], 41 | 2021, posto online no dia 08 fevereiro 2022, consultado o 21 maio 2022. URL:; DOI:

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José Lopes

Instituto Superior de Ciências Económicas e Empresariais, Pólo Universitário da Praia, Zona Industrial Tira-Chapéu, C.P. 131, Cidade da Praia, Cabo Verde,

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