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Collective action and Economic policy: old and new forms of cooperation

Priority areas of development: economics

Goal of Research is to analyze the ability of firms and non-government organizations to cooperate with the state in an imperfect institutional environment.

Empirical Base of Research: this Research is based on several sources of data:

  • a survey of 1013 Russian firms and a survey of 315 Russian business associations that were carried out by NRU HSE in 2010;
  • a survey of 45 Russian think tanks, 12 interviews with think tank managers and 2 extended “expert” interviews with V.M. Polterovich (a head of New Economic Association) and I.V. Zadorin (a head of Zircon Research group) that were carried out by NRU HSE and ARETT in 2012-2013 as a part of a Russian think tanks study;
  • A survey of 45 sociological research centers and 18 interviews with managers of research centers that were organized by NRU HSE in 2013 as a part of a Russian sociological research centers study.

Results of Research:

  • Small regional research centers suffer mostly from their underqualification, and strong metropolitan centers face the problem of limited public orders. Another important problem that is mentioned by the respondents is that graduates are poorly trained (or even aren’t trained at all) how to contract out a study or carry out a research project.
  • Supply concentration takes place in the think tank industry. Strong think tanks get the contracts that smaller centers used to get. The largest and strongest centers acquire smaller ones.
  • In more democratic Russian regions state officials prefer to deal with more encompassing associations, but in less democratic regions officials do not have such preferences.
  • The findings provide the mechanism of a positive feedback loop between “better” political institutions and the popularity of “better” approaches to influencing policy. Transparency and accountability encourage greater use of lobbying channels that will filter out negative-externality-generating policies. Better policies, presumably, would in turn strengthen a proper institutional environment.
  • Firms that get information from business associations appear to be more informed than firms that prefer other sources of information.
  • We considered the different strategies for challenging illegal pressure from law enforcement officers. Collective public strategy that is based on cooperation with de-personalized organizations with a wide membership base appears to be the most efficient, however even this strategy turned out to be not efficient enough. The reason is possibly that such mechanisms would limit the activities of law enforcement officials and some of these officials are not interested in that.
  • Nevertheless collective strategies of firms and non-government organizations appear to be quite a promising mechanism against predatory behavior of corrupt officials.
Recommendations on implementing the Results
  • Proper cooperation of regional think tanks with strong metropolitan think tanks may solve the problems of both kinds of research centers.
  • The state or big business may support the think tank industry by programs of long-term grants. Such grant programs produced good results in developing the think tank industry earlier in Russia and in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The mechanisms that could limit corrupt pressure on business appear to be not effective due to lack of support and cooperation with state bodies. Property rights protection however is needed for business-activity stimulation that would result in economic growth. So we reccommend some support from the authorities for anti-corruption mechanisms of business protection from “violent pressure”.
  • The results present the mechanism of self-reinforcing institutions when political institutions result in the use of particular mechanisms of state-business interactions that in turn influence the institutional environment. So some proper changes in officials’ incentives (e.g. by a better system of evaluation of their performance) may appear to be quite efficient in the medium or long term.

Field of application. The findings of this study may be applied

  • for developing measures to support the Russian think tank industry
  • for developing measures against corruption and violent pressure on business, and for improving conditions for doing business
  • for understanding the behavior of state officials and influencing their motivation


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