What is the “sandwich strategy”?
The “sandwich strategy” describes an interactive process in which reformers in government encourage citizen action from below, driving virtuous circles of mutual empowerment between pro-accountability actors in both state and society.
Sandwich strategies relies on state-society synergy, not just initiatives from one or the other arena. The hypothesis is that when reformers in government tangibly reduce the risks/costs of collective action, that process can bolster state-society pro-reform coalitions that collaborate for change. While this process makes intuitive sense, it can follow diverse pathways and encounter many roadblocks. The dynamics, strengths and limitations of sandwich strategies have not been documented and analyzed systematically. The figure below shows a possible pathway of convergence and conflict between actors for and against change in both state and society.
Comparative Research Method
This project carried out a comparative study of whether and how sandwich strategy initiatives drive pro-accountability institutional change, both in Nigeria and in the global South more broadly. To make a broader contribution to understanding of the dynamics of accountability reforms, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s On Nigeria program funded ARC to carry out an ambitious “medium N” comparative study of 20 sandwich strategy cases, from: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, The Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The diverse thematic focus of the cases includes education, health, gender, housing, social protection, electoral reform, and environmental protection.
“Medium N” Comparative Method
A “medium N” approach is based on analyzing approximately 10-20 cases to make comparative methods more robust. While often used by scholars in practice, the “medium N” approach is not yet widely recognized as a rigorous way to identify change pathways. The sandwich strategy research contributes to learning about the strengths and limitations of this method and its relevance to transparency, participation, and accountability research.
Jonathan Fox and Rachel Sullivan Robinson, from the faculty of the American University School of International Service, were the principal investigators on this project. Naomi Hossain gave additional analytical support. ARC partnered with the Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria and research consultant Oladeji Olaore.
Read Pathways Towards Power Shifts: State-Society Synergy, an article in World Development by Jonathan Fox, Rachel Sullivan Robinson, and Naomi Hossain
Read a blog by Rachel Sullivan Robinson and Jonathan Fox, with six propositions for funders distilled from the Sandwich Strategy research.
Watch a presentation of the sandwich strategy research by Rachel Sullivan Robinson and Jonathan Fox, part of USAID’s Evidence and Learning seminar series (20-minute presentation, followed by Q&A)
Sandwich strategy case studies published
Enabling Citizens’ Collective Actions towards Improving Transparency and Accountability through the District Health System in Enugu State (Chijioke Kelechi Iwuamadi and Rowland Chukwuma Okoli)
Square-rule Paper Engineers: People, Power, and Participation in Sri Lanka’s Million Houses Programme (Asha L. Abeyasekera and Vagisha Gunasekara)
Jointly Promoting Accountability in Health Care: Strategic Alliances Between Citizen Monitors and the Human Rights Ombuds Office in Southern Peru (Jeannie Samuels and Ariel Frisancho)
La promoción conjunta la rendición de cuentas en salud: Alianzas estratégicas entre monitores ciudadanos y la Defensoría del Pueblo en el sur del Perú (Jeannie Samuels and Ariel Frisancho)
Delivering Collective Afrodescendant Land Rights: Mutual Empowerment in Colombian State-Society Coalitions 1995-2003 (Noah Rosen, Jonathan Fox, Helmer Quiñones)
Top Down, Ground Up: Creating Accountability with Sandwich Strategies (MacArthur Foundation On Nigeria Program 2021)
Bibingka Strategy: A Conceptual Summary (Francis Isaac and Joy Aceron 2021)
Author Guidance for Sandwich Strategy Case Research (Accountability Research Center 2019)
“Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?” (Jonathan Fox 2015)
“State–Society Relations in Land Reform Implementation in the Philippines” (S.M. Borras 2002)
The Politics of Food in Mexico: State Power and Social Mobilization (Jonathan Fox 1992)