With over Rs 20 lakh crores (USD 300 billion) announced by the Union government alone as part of COVID-19 relief measures, the crisis has not only increased but also laid bare the number of citizens dependent on government relief measures. As we await the short and long term effects of the pandemic, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are already playing a critical role in ensuring that the vulnerable communities are identified and reached. In fact, India is estimated to have over 3.3 million Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), many of whom work at the last mile.
Critical in the ability of CSOs to effectively engage with government authorities and serve vulnerable communities is for them to have the right tools and information.
Why are we doing this?
A pan India survey of over 160 CSOs conducted by PRIA about their upcoming interventions and challenges, revealed that: 30% CSOs would be involved in enabling access to government schemes; 26% would be involved in advocacy with government agencies; and 15% would monitor government programmes. One of the biggest challenges, however, faced by a majority (93%) was coordinating with the government. Importantly, 58% asked for access to knowledge as a crucial capacity need.
The Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research has been researching and studying the nuts and bolts of government functioning for over 10 years. In the current context, it is imperative that accessible, relevant and applicable information on government functioning is available to all CSOs who are either directly engaging with the government or working to complement government efforts in ensuring access.
There are three critical interrelated pieces of information on government functioning that all development professionals should know. These are:
- Information on flow of funds in government programmes.
- Information on administrative structure across levels of government.
- An understanding of the local self-government itself, which is usually the first point of contact for most citizens
The centrepiece of Arthan‘s Governance track, The Future of Governance virtual conference will not only engage with the WHY of government engagement, but also talk about HOW this can be made possible.
The importance of understanding the nuts and bolts of government functioning
While it has been generally accepted that collaboration between civil society and the government is critical for the delivery of quality public services, there still exist challenges on both sides to make this relationship strike. One challenge for the development sector is the lack of understanding of government systems and processes.
With this panel, we aim to bring together professionals to talk about why the development sector needs to lay more emphasis on understanding the ‘nuts and bolt of government functioning’ to be able to engage with the government more effectively.
Building knowledge, skills and attitudes for effective government engagement
There are three critical interrelated pieces of information on government functioning that all development professionals should know- information on the flow of funds in government programmes; information on administrative structure across levels of government; and an understanding of the local self-government itself, which is usually the first point of contact for most citizens.
This panel will address specific capacity gaps in engaging with the government with respect to the above-mentioned points. It will also breakdown the different stakeholders in the development ecosystem, their specific challenges and capacity requirements.
Deep Dive: How can grassroots field workers engage with local administration effectively?
In combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of grassroots organisations has been key in ensuring that vulnerable communities are able to access government services. It is these grassroots professionals, often known as our ‘field workers’, whose skills and ability to navigate government systems have been put to test.
Recognising the urgent need to empower these last-mile soldiers, this panel will discuss how to ensure our professionals have the right tools and information to effectively engage with government authorities and serve vulnerable communities.
Union, State, District, Block and Villages: Disentangling decentralised governance in India
Launch of Understanding State Capabilities, a course on understanding the nuts and bolts of government functioning
A Delicate Thread: Government perception of citizen participation
Is government perception of citizen participation open or closed? Real or fake? Invited or claimed? What challenges of citizen engagement do they foresee?
The government in the past many years has opened many channels for citizens to engage with government processes from adopting successful citizen-led pilots to introducing more formal structures of engagement like social audits. The recently released National Education Policy had also solicited suggestions from citizens.
This panel will discuss the extent to which these doors of engagement are accessed by citizens focussing on capacity (ability and attitude) of government functionaries to leverage citizen participation.
Grantmaking as an enabler of citizen-state engagement
This includes building trust, collaboration, and capacity among citizens/civil society organisations as well as the government machinery to be able to engage with each other more effectively.
The truth lies where the money hides: Identifying fiscal roadblocks in India’s welfare programmes
Everything you wanted to know about the bureaucracy but were afraid to ask?
A stand up act by former IAS officer TR Raghunandan to take you deeper into the world of bureaucrats and bureaucratic functioning.
- What the government system looks like from the inside.
- The role citizens can play in the government system.
- Roadblocks in the intended purpose and structure of welfare schemes.
- Knowledge, skills and attitudes required to engage with the government more effectively