Collab: Increase citizen engagement in panchayats

Co-creating a digital public infrastructure to drive greater citizen engagement in local governance.
**Context** The team at Anode Governance Lab has been working with Gram Panchayats since 2009. With three decades of passing of the 73rd CAA, 1992, government agencies have taken several steps, including enabling legislations and programmes to bring panchayats operationally into planning and implementation processes. However, the widespread feeling among government and non-government organisations is that of distrust of capacities of these institutions, the core of which maybe distrust of village people to self-govern. If we go back to the debates which took place during drafting of the Constitution, the key thought behind the village panchayat was first, to engage and enrol the villages of India, and is therefore different from the concept of local government in different parts of the world, where it is the lowest tier of public administration responsible for local people. The difference is nuanced, but impacts government policy and programmes. With the 73rd CAA, panchayats became the third tier of governance, but the realities of villages are changing only marginally and gradually. If we view panchayats from the lens of the Constituent assembly, we have a different empathy and approach to building these institutions. Our first job then is to enrol rural citizens and elected members into the concepts of democracy and its institutions. If we just focus on them being local governments, we want to equip them with knowledge and skills for service delivery, which maybe a premature if not an inappropriate intervention. From this perspective, Anode’s focus has been to build the institutions of panchayats, redefine relationships between panchayats and their citizens, and handhold them to deliver their priorities. Given this agenda, our work requires building close relationships with elected members, and an intensive handholding process. **Anode's efforts in technology** Over the last 13 years, Anode has gained a deeper understanding of panchayats and their ecosystem, and has been exploring impact in larger geographies, which is much required. Towards this, one of the mechanisms is to leverage technology. Towards this, Anode has been working on a self-assessment and reflection process, which is to enable panchayat members and its key stakeholders, starting with citizens, to understand their institution, its powers, functions and roles, and basis that, arrive at some actions which they would like to focus on. Starting with excel sheets and facilitated processes at GPs, we have now digitised the self-assessment and reflection process, naming it as GP Organisation Mapping tool. The process is presently designed for elected members, who can rate their GP, individually and as a collective. It has been deployed in over 25 Gram Panchayats across 4 states. In order to enrol citizens, which is key to redefining relationships between them and panchayats, we have been exploring ways and means to enable citizens to interact and engage with their panchayats, leveraging technology. Can they also use this tool, albeit in different shape and size? Or do we need to work on different methods, such as IVR etc. **T4G Labs & Anode partnership goals** - T4G Labs understands the complexities of the social impact and recognize that technology is not a driver, but an enabler to social processes. - While Anode has invested in the initial development of its GP Organisation mapping tool, we recognize it needs further contextualization and grounding to serve the purpose which we hope it will. Our experience across states has provided us with learnings which we can leverage as we move forward. - How to enrol citizens so that they engage with panchayats in a mutually respectful and productive manner, is yet to be concretized. A small pilot on an IVR based system has been initiated with the support of T4G. - Anode’s understanding of technology is limited. For e.g., there is openness to explore the narratives of open source, while securing some methods of revenue generation to sustain the organisation. - Anode understands that their work is to be designed for scale, and hence needs investment. Anode and T4G Labs will work together to develop ideas and methods for scale, consolidating them into proposals, and share with potential funders/investors. ![[email protected](11).png]( Progress so far: Anode Governance Labs & T4G Labs were recently at Gonur Gram Panchayat in Chitradurga for a workshop with Gram Panchayat members and guiding them to co-create solutions to increase citizen engagement in gram sabha activities. We trained Anode team members on our co-creation methodologies and were happy to see the engagement Pre workshop with 3 Anode team members and leadership [5 sessions of 2 hours each online/offline] - Stakeholder mapping - Power mapping - benefits vs features mapping - Assumptions - high level ideas on what the broad tech solution could look like (demo of existing tools, training) - Preparation for workshop to co-create, flow, agenda and facilitator notes, test/refine solutions During workshop with Anode Team, 18 Gram Panchayat Members, Panchayat Development Officer, other stakeholders. [1 workshop of 4 hours at Panchayat office] The objective was to activate co-creation in a multi stakeholder group. ![eed2c46ff1f386e32bcd512d532cc6847f9f94ea_2_1380x628.jpeg]( - Empathy Talk (Appreciative inquiry to ice break and help them build trust and respect for each other) - Reconfirm Intent (Is there really a problem) - Work in groups to draw/show what the current flow of information about gramsabha activities/schemes is. Each group shares and takes inputs - What could a solution look like - Work in groups to come up with how information flows can be unblocked, amplfied, how can we change formats of gramsabha meetings, etc. present to the group - Each group asked to Record a “Information Snippet” on phone and send. Demo of IVR with their own voice. All tech work was done by Anode (non tech staff). We were on standby - Agreement on next steps Interested to see how the group moved around during the session? :slight_smile: We have mapped it for you [Draft - The Path to getting everyone to high engagement, deep Co-creation Zone - Google Docs]( Let us know what you thought and share your insights too. ![26f816e3714cdf981637db2c76e8e018a796379f_2_1250x1000.jpeg]( Some Insights from participants - “never have i seen so many panchayat members so engaged and speak so much!” ~ Panchayat Development Officer - Broken & Boring Dialogues - current structure of dialogue between stakeholders of gram sabhas in the panchayat are broken. Gram Sabha meetings are boring. Making them more interesting will also draw more people into it. - Focus on process and not product - tech again is only 2% of the solution. The idea needs to be co created by the community. takes time and effort. Next Steps: Deeper co-creation workshop to include frontline workers & more from vulnerable communities in the pachayat, Follow up with Panchayat Development Officer to build their capacity to do co-creation workshops like these for other engagements/solution also > Tech4Good understands the complexities of the social impact and recognize that technology is not a driver, but an enabler to social processes. I really like the concept of Tech4Good Fellows who will be identified from different backgrounds, and trained on technology....youngsters who have lived experiences of the problems they are trying to solve. Look forward to our partnership to leverage technology for strengthening the institutions of panchayats and redefining their relationship with citizens. ~ Sonali Srivastava, Founder, Anode Governance Lab Credits: We are inspired by the work of Societal Platforms, Fields Of View, FOSS United.
Anode & T4G Labs partnership established
Our goals are aligned and we believe that increasing participation of citizens in constitutional processes and systems is an important lever.
Prototyping Citizen Engagement Tools
Anode has completed this. T4G Labs will review and co-create methods to integrate their various tools & proecsses
Stakeholder consultations, Training and Support to Anode team on co-creation
1 Stateholder consultation with various stakeholders from panchayats completed. Ongoing support and training to Anode staff on the tech co-creation in progress
Identify & train Tech4Good Fellow
Hire and train a dedicated resource who will be a dedicated resource for the project and later be hired by Anode post training and onboarding.