A prerequisite for institutional development is that citizens prefer the new institutions to the old ones. In this paper, I advance our understanding of institutional development by investigating how citizens value inclusive institutional arrangements and how these values evolve. Using a novel lab-in-the-field experiment, I provide the first incentivized measure of the value that citizens place on taking collective decisions via a participatory process. Then, exploiting randomly assigned exposure to inclusive institutions through a Community-Driven Development (CDD) program, I provide causal evidence of whether experiencing such institutions changes citizens’ evaluations of participatory governance. My results indicate that citizens prefer taking collective decisions by an inclusive process, and these positive evaluations are reinforced by the exposure to the CDD program. The overall effect is primarily driven by an increase in the value that citizens attach to inclusive decision-making practices per se, above and beyond instrumental considerations. Consistent with the previous literature, changes in citizens’ values of participatory practices do not translate into changes in real-world participation behaviors or increased adoption of inclusive institutions. I discuss potential reasons for these results, and their implications for interventions aimed at fostering institutional development.
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