The Centre for Innovations in Public Services (CIPS), which is a part of the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad, has an important mandate. They are undertaking systematic training of government officers to document their work as a first step to capture “knowledge”.
I was invited as a resource person to the recently concluded three day workshop (6-8 Feb) on “Knowledge Management and Documentation Skills Development” in Kerala to share my experiences and tools that we used for documenting innovations in the health sector with the Center for Health Market Innovations. Highlighting the importance of “capturing data and converting it into wisdom,” Srinivas Josyula, Joint Director of the Centre, quoted M.H. Moore “Each day, their organisations’ (referring to governments) operations consume public resources. Each day these operations produce real consequences for society – intended or not. If the managers cannot account for the value of these efforts with both a story and demonstrated accomplishments, then the legitimacy of their enterprise is undermined and, with that, their capacity to lead.” The workshop was meant for senior government officers from states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala and had representatives from the ministries of health, Indian systems of medicine, rural development and agriculture.
The four south Indian states (including Karnataka) have significant learning to contribute to the country. The health indicators of these states for example are much better than the country averages. Governments in these states have played important roles of provisioning as well as stewardship to result in the overall progress. For the most backward Indian states of India to catch up with these states, it would take many years if it were to follow the same progression, as in the developed states. So, these states need to leapfrog and they need experiential knowledge to do so!
Data Source: National Family Health Survey-3, 2005-06
Hence the importance of getting officers in the progressive states, to begin with, to understand their role in capturing and communicating their wisdom and building skills to do so.
Following The President of India’s declaration of 2010-20 as an “Innovation decade”, CIPS was established in 2010, with funding assistance from Government of India. They have a high powered advisory committee with Chief Secretaries (Chief of all Government staff) from all of India’s 35 states and union territories. CIPS’ objectives are:
- Identifying, recognizing and promoting innovations in public systems
- Catalyzing and triggering lateral learning
- Providing a range of learning opportunities and services
- Facilitating sharing of international experiences
CIPS works across sectors and through state based partners. In Kerala, their partner is the Institute for Management in Government.
CIPS has managed to bring together a set of agencies working on innovations in the course of conducting this workshop. For example- the Kerala training had Aryamala Prasad from the One World Foundation, speaking about their documentation of innovations in public systems, while Dr. Krishna Reddy from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad spoke about the institute’s work on using technology for reaching farmers and creating knowledge management systems that are user friendly. I spoke about our work in documenting innovations through the Centre for Health Market Innovations. It was interesting to see how knowledge management experiences, tools and opportunities for collaboration could be discussed on a platform of this nature.
It was a fairly new experience for the participants to get together from different departments- they were discussing projects of varied nature when they presented their learning from the three day workshop on the third day. The three day event has opened up opportunities for learning and sharing knowledge around innovations, how it would be relevant to the given state and what could be done to bring known innovations to scale on ground. These officers that were trained would play a lead role in bringing the tacit knowledge available in public systems to the fore. Announcing the next steps, Ram Mohan, Associate Director of the Institute of Management in Government mentioned that he welcomed documentation projects from the participants and that his centre would provide all the technical assistance required for documenting interesting public programmes, in addition to the support to be provided by CIPS.
Innovations exist in both the public and private institutions. India on one hand has programs like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the mid-day meal scheme, the cradle baby scheme of Tamil Nadu, Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana of Bihar, etc. driven by the Government. In the private sector, we have initiatives like Ajeevika, Akshaya Patra, ARTH and MV Foundation. If we pair these organizations, the challenges they define to work on are very connected and it is fairly straightforward to see the complementarities. In summary, my suggestion is that to bring innovations to scale in India, we need to work seamlessly both with public and private sector and start with looking at the challenge to which solution is being sought. India is a home to myriad innovations, some of which we know and many of which are possibly waiting to be discovered!