Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery

Who we are

As a knowledge hub for high-quality research, DGSD is a key national, regional and global resource for independent strategic policy relevant research. Work produced and outputs generated are of value to national, provincial and local government and to the wider academic community, NGOs and civil society. Through comparative research South African issues are also addressed through continental and global lenses.

The thematic research thrusts of the programme are driven by three pillars: democracy; governance; and service delivery. There is overlap and thematic coherence between the three thrusts; for example, good governance is visible in effective service delivery, and sound democracy is reflected in good governance systems, policies and legislation.

Our research


Through our research on Democracy, Development and Social Cohesion we aim to strengthen our democratic society, its institutions and practices of governance in order to promote well-being, social justice, equality and active engagement between civil society, the state and the private sector. Through engendering a healthy, participatory democracy, South Africa will find ways to address the burning issues of poverty and inequality that threaten to destabilize democracies across the globe.


Governance in broad term means the constitutional, legal, and administrative framework in which organisations or individuals within organisations exercise their powers and authority to achieve a particular goal. It is a complex phenomenon which needs further research through the creation of proper evidence-based conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Governance can be seen as a dynamic system, the components of which interact with and influence one another. Given the conceptual and theoretical framework of governance, systems-thinking, theory of change and complexity theories as well as ethnographic studies could be used as “lenses” through which to analyse governance as a system.

Service delivery

The Constitution mandates government to progressively deliver services as guided by state policies and within the limits of available resources. Levels of service delivery discontent relate to patterns of inequality and poverty in our society. Those with higher levels of deprivation exhibit greater dissatisfaction with service delivery. DGSD will emphasise the importance of investing in pro-poor interventions that address social inequalities in keeping with the spirit of the Freedom Charter and the South African Constitution (1996). Through our research on service delivery we aim to strengthen accountability, responsiveness and clean government, as well as contribute to the improvement of service delivery for maximum benefit of vulnerable groups.

Social cohesion

Social Cohesion has been identified as a key national priority in a number of national policy and strategic documents. Within DGSD it is a cross-cutting research area.

Poverty and inequality are included among a number of different threats to social cohesion. Examining these two challenges through the lens of social cohesion involves exploring the consequences of poverty and inequality for social cohesion and identifying initiatives to reduce poverty and inequality that aim to increase social cohesion in order to achieve sustainability. In particular, emphasis must be placed on putting the achievement of social cohesion at the centre of strategies to reduce poverty and inequality in order to ensure sustained action for improvement. DGSD will focus on the following vulnerable groups in the next three years: women, youth, disabled persons, older persons, migrants / immigrants, the LGBTI community, and military veterans.