Rebuilding Institutions through Diaspora Engagement: The Impact of Skilled Migration on Domestic Change


  • Chiara Cancellario Ph.D. Candidate in Political Theory and Political Science LUISS – Department of Political Science, Rome



Diaspora, Development, Democratization, Social remittances, Legitimacy, Effectiveness


The paper – based on a wider Ph.D. research - wants to provide an analysis of the contribution of skilled migrants in the processes of institutional strengthening and institutional rebuilding through the employment of “social remittances” (Levitt, 1998) and to find out to what extent skilled diaspora may act as an international anchoring actor (Morlino, 2011). The analysis is conducted in the attempt to interpret the results according the “diaspora perspective”. The focus on diaspora actors aims to provide a cognitive model on the topic different from the current in use, influenced by International Organisations, NGOs, and Governments.
The research is organised as a qualitative case study analysis assisted by process tracing. It has a double focus: together with the data collection about the interventions of organisations on home country context, it tries to capture behaves, motivation and frameworks influencing any of the intervention in object. To do so, the objects of the analysis are specific projects, which involve skilled diaspora currently resident in the UK, leaded by international organisation or civil society associations and implemented in the Horn of Africa. The research looks at the of diaspora action at a “micro level”, working on the factors of contribution of social development which are, according to Wescott and Brinekerhoff (2006), “mobilisation”, “opportunities” and “motivations”. Furthermore, the analysis refers to the variables of “legitimacy” and “effectiveness”, which definition is borrowed from Lipset’s “Some social requisites of Democracy: economic development and Political Legitimacy” (1959).
The case study analysis is conducted through a semi - structured interview based on two questionnaires, which slightly differ according to the nature of the engagement (from above/from below). The main difference in the questionnaires regards the starting point of the case study: in the “from above” cases, the respondents will refer to the experience for which they have been ask to participate. In the “from below” cases, the respondent will have as a starting point an initiative of their choice chosen from the one of the organisation they belong to.

The organisation which participated at the research were 15, mostly based within UK and Italy, and the IOM Somalia, for the “QUESTS MIDA” case.
The findings have revealed that the inclusion of local civil society is a key determinant, because is the turning point to evaluate the level of legitimacy of the initiatives of “change”, being the principal concern of single diaspora members and organisations. This element has a direct impact also on “effectiveness” which emerged to be mainly based on the ability of inclusion of different levels of society. In this framework the “mediation” of the international organisation is not always so sensitive to that need, and it may cause tensions and mistrust towards the whole processes in place. If it true that the institutions in the processes described as “international anchoring” develop through social learning and rule adoption, it is also true that the process has to be framed adding a reference to the “development framework” in which diaspora operates which represent the privileged ground of action for the establishment of good governance seeds.


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