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Kees Blokland and Jur Schuurman

This contribution differs from most other chapters. First, the authors are practitioners in a development cooperation. Their organization, Agriterra, is a Dutch agency working with membership-based rural organizations: cooperatives and farmers’ organizations. In their chapter they state that the presence and strength of such organizations has a positive influence beyond their own membership. The authors claim that it is also the general development process (growth, democratization, increasing equality) that benefits from the presence and actions of membership organizations, since they contribute to the checks and balances that are indispensable for social and economic progress in any society. This is explained by certain mechanisms inherent to these organizations, in addition to their general nature as ‘schools of democracy’ in the Tocquevillian sense. Some evidence of this more general impact is provided but remains anecdotal; hence, the authors call for ambitious research to pinpoint with more precision the way this relationship works.