Benefits to society of an inclusive societies approach


What is the evidence for the benefits to society of an inclusive societies approach?


There are many claims for the benefits to society of an inclusive societies approach across a broad range of societal outcomes. The anticipated development benefits of inclusive societies are increasingly present in donor policy thinking and global dialogues, including the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal framework. The desired impacts range from economic benefits to other development goals, social cohesion and sustainable peace.

The key findings on the state of the evidence uncovered by this include:

Economic growth, productivity and employment

  • There is mounting evidence of the impact of inclusive growth approaches on reducing poverty and inequality, when excluded groups gain greater access to education, employment and business opportunities.
  • There is evidence gender equality can promote economic growth, with positive impacts on macro-level growth, human capital and labour agricultural productivity.
  • Some quantitative evidence indicates that extending services may boost economic growth but few in-depth case studies look at this. A small evidence base shows that participatory development projects more broadly have limited impact on income poverty.

Other development outcomes, including wellbeing

  • Limited and inconsistent evidence exists on the impact of voice, empowerment and accountability approaches on broad development outcomes.
  • There is evidence of cases where women and girls’ education and economic empowerment has contributed to postponed marriage, lower fertility and improved health and education outcomes for future children.
  • In-depth qualitative case studies demonstrate strong positive effect of efforts to make services more inclusive and improve progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, benefiting broader society.

Social cohesion, peace and state-building

  • There is research pointing to the positive relationship between peaceful societies and more inclusive states with state-society relations based on legitimacy rather than coercion, and greater associational life that generates trust and inter-group cohesion.
  • Evidence suggests inclusive political settlements and broader political processes are essential for fostering peaceful societies. Inconclusive evidence exists on whether more inclusive peace processes and agreements make political settlements more inclusive and/or more sustainable.
  • There is little robust evidence of the causal connections between gender-inclusive interventions and peacebuilding and state-building goals.


Suggested citation

Carter, B. (2015). Benefits to society of an inclusive societies approach (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1232). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.