Queen's University

Municipal Services Project

logo for Municipal Services Project, founded by Queen's researcher Dr. David Mcdonald.

The Municipal Services Project (MSP) is a global research network that explores and critically investigates alternatives to the privatization and commercialization of essential service provision, with a focus on the electricity, health, water, and sanitation sectors. Our aim is to identify and document successful ‘public’ service delivery models and the conditions required for their sustainability and reproducibility. Much of our work has been on Africa, Asia and Latin America, but we have also been engaged in research in Europe and North America.

The MSP is composed of academics, labour unions, non-governmental organizations, social movements, and activists from around the globe. It is coordinated by a Steering Committee of project partners worldwide, with the majority of funding in the past coming from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Our research starts from the premise that privatization has failed to deliver on its promise of effective and affordable service delivery, particularly in the global South. Our focus, however, is on existing public service alternatives, developed by a wide variety of actors, from governments to civil society groups to frontline workers. We develop tools for researchers and practitioners to better understand historical, contemporary, and future alternatives to commercialized service delivery, investigating models such as public-public partnerships, worker cooperatives, community-owned systems, progressive financing schemes, and rights-based approaches. The first two phases of the project (2000-2007) focused on critiques of privatization, while the latest phase (2008-2014) focused on analyzing successful public service delivery models to understand the conditions required for their sustainability and reproducibility.