Policymakers in Sierra Leone have identified recently established local councils as the main vehicles for delivering on commitments to improve local public goods provision, but little is known about which strategies work for councils as public goods providers, and why. I compare two cases of public goods provision led by a single urban council, one relatively successful, another less so. I find that both are examples of co-production of public goods by the council and interest-based associations and that the dynamics of the relationships between these actors strongly influence the quality of public goods outcomes. I argue that the presence of a pattern of reciprocal exchange is the most significant determinant of success in co-production. I conclude by considering the conditions under which reciprocity is most likely to emerge in the context of co-productive relationships between local councils and interest-based associations.
IDS Bulletin (2011) 42 (2) 53-63 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2011.00211.x]