ACTION RESEARCH ON STRENGTHENING DELIVERY FOR THE POOREST
A joint project of the Commissioners of the Supreme Court (in the Right to Food case), Planning Commission and Action Aid India and implemented in 3 poorest districts (Banda in UP, Palamu in Jharkhand and East Champaran in Bihar) in partnership with Local Administrations and community-based organisations (CBO) of the poor, to develop models of effective programme delivery for the poorest and most excluded, that could be scaled up nationally.
Specifically, the effort is to see how food security programmes, as well as those for livelihood security, pensions, and rights to forest, agriculture and homestead land, among others, can be delivered effectively. We hope findings of the research, from the three sites, when compared between themselves will provide lessons to help us overcome nationally, legal, structural and procedural constraints, as well as those to capacity and attitudes, to enable better delivery for excluded communities.
The rationale for project is the persistence of poverty and deprivation, especially amongst certain groups and communities, and our inability to deliver on the mantra of ‘inclusive development’ for them. We believe this is as much on account of ‘social exclusion’, as of poor resources and management capacity, among others. We also believe that the solution must be sought through providing greater spaces for the poor in decision making processes affecting their lives.
The project, accordingly, is set up to focus directly on results for the most excluded sections – typically dalits, adivasis, poor Muslims, and the destitute among them. And it seeks to bring poor’s voices centre-stage by enabling close collaboration between local administrations and CBOs of the poor, to plan and deliver results. A change in approach and attitudes among duty bearers, then, is as much the goal, as more technical concerns of performance management and capacity building. Our partner CBOs are: Samajik Shodh Evam Vikas Kendra in East Champaran, Vikas Sahyog Kendra in Palamu and Vidhya Dham Samiti in Banda. The action research methodology allows
The use of action research methodology facilitates ‘learning by doing’. Specific activities envisaged, include: (i) establishing local administration – CBO collaborations, (ii) a baseline survey on wellbeing and programme performance, (iii) diagnostics on barriers to delivery, (iv) village-level planning, (v) reform of policies, structures, and processes, (v) and capacity building of state and society actors for better results, all done collaboratively, (vi) whilst parallelly observing and documenting the change process, to draw lessons from.
While the work is designed to be participatory throughout, to enable poor people’s voices to drive the model-building, it also benefits from expert inputs, as guides, so the analyses and reform ideas draw on mistakes and successes of similar change efforts elsewhere. Particularly relevant here are diagnostics on systems, processes, capacities and practices on (i) Budgets and Financial Management, (ii) Planning and managing, (iii) monitoring and evaluation, including community monitoring, (iv) grievance redressal, and (v) accountability.
The year- long project was launched in December 2012, and is currently at the stage of conducting baseline surveys and diagnostics in the three districts.