Misaligned Public Policy?

Understanding the disconnect between popular demands and the orientations of domestic policy-makers in Post-revolutionary Sudan.

Hosted by LSE’s Centre for Public Authority and International Development

Researchers: Dr Muez Ali 
                         Dr Laura Mann

We want to understand the degree of alignment between popular perceptions and demands and professional orientations

Dr Laura Mann


In the first project, Understanding Legitimacy in Post-Revolutionary Sudan, Dr Muez Ali and Dr Laura Mann set out to understand the extent of Western donor influence on social policy during the political transition in Sudan by looking at how Sudan's cash transfer programme was conceptualised. They found that the cash transfer programme was a Sudanese idea for which the government then rallied support from donors. The findings pointed to deeper, historical processes of cognitive dissonance and ideological assimilation among Sudan's professional elite. 

Given these findings, it seems natural to investigate one of the consequences of the gap between the Sudanese professional elite and the realities on the ground. One major consequence has been an increase in the activity and influence of neighbourhood resistance committees. These committees, identified by journalists and political analysts as a new source of public authority operating at the neighbourhood level, play an essential role in many aspects of everyday life. They organise queues at petrol stations and source and distribute bread and cooking gas during shortages. They also played a role in registering people for Sudan's most recent cash transfer programme (the subject of the first project). In addition to organising and sustaining a relentless opposition to the October 25th coup through weekly protests across the country, their recent endeavour into politics through the Charter for the Establishment of the People's Authority makes them the most influential player in Sudanese politics.

And yet, neighbourhood resistance committees have not been studied in a systematic way. These academics hope to move this research forward in two inter-connected ways: 

  • First, they will scrutinise how these resistance committees were formed (across neighbourhoods and cities), the motivations of members of these committees, the variations in their understanding of social policy priorities across neighbourhoods and states, and how their environments (both natural and social) shape their priorities and activities.
  • Second, they will build a database of domestic policymakers, specifically capturing data about their education and career backgrounds, through a combination of LinkedIn surveying and other sources. A second round of interviews will then be carried out, with selected policymakers comparing how their understandings and priorities compare with those expressed by resistance committees. This will probe how their educational training and professional incentives have contributed to their beliefs and approaches to public policy.

Overall, the aim is to understand the degree of alignment between popular perceptions and demands and professional orientations. 


  • The project aims to understand the degree to which domestic Sudanese policy-makers are able to understand and respond to popular pressures for change. In the first part of the research program, we focused on social protection programs, focusing on the evolution of the cash transfer program. We hope to widen the scope of our project in the second phase.

Findings, reports and publications

  • Based on the first stage of the project, we have one peer reviewed paper coming out with Development and Change. This paper was presented at the Social Policy in Africa Conference (in honour of Thandika Mkandawire) on November 22nd 2021, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Sudan Study Day, University of Durham, September 12th and 13th, 2022 and at the University of Michigan’s Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS), October 24th, 2022.


Laura Mann

Dr Laura Mann

Laura Mann is an associate professor interested in the emergence and developmental benefits of ‘markets’ in low- and middle-income countries and how technological changes are restructuring markets and requiring policy-makers to re-imagine their developmental strategies. She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh and then worked as a postdoctoral research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford and the Centre of African Studies at the University of Leiden, before joining LSE as an Assistant Professor in 2014. 

Email: L.E.Mann@lse.ac.uk


Dr Muez Ali 

Dr Muez Ali is a development economist interested in energy and economic development, the political economy of climate change and knowledge production in developing countries, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa. He completed his PhD at UCL's Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources. While doing his PhD, he was a Researcher at the Ministry of Finance in Sudan and a Research Associate at CPAID. He is currently a Research Associate at Earthna: Center for a Sustainable Future in Doha, Qatar.

Thumbnail image: Francisco Anzola, Walking home from work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.