That gram panchayats through organization development, including appropriate organization design, incentive structures, and behaviour norms, strengthen and improve local governance and ensure service delivery to citizens at the last mile effectively is being proved in Karnataka and Maharashtra
I It has been over two decades since democratic decentralization was mandated by the Constitution of India. Decentralized governance is a complex interplay of both demand and supply factors. It is as much an outcome of efficient institutional and organizational arrangements as it is about empowering citizens to engage with these institutions and hold these accountable. The Centre for Decentralized Local Governance (CDLG), Avantika Foundation, focuses on strengthening the supply side of local governance, using organization development principles. A strong gram panchayat, we believe, can herald a butterfly effect on the development of villages. Our change management framework was developed in action research mode in two gram panchayats from 2011–15. It is now implemented in nearly 50 gram panchayats across Karnataka and Maharashtra, and is being steadily enhanced through collaborative partnerships, even as we acknowledge that effecting systemic change at the grass-roots is a gradual process fraught with multiple dependencies.
As a first-time member elected to a gram panchayat in Karnataka, Vijayamma’s is a typical story of triumph in the face of adversity. She was elected to the Oorkunte Mittur gram panchayat in 2011, and admits to initially feeling ignorant and under-confident about herself. Being unlettered, she was unable to sign her name and felt intimidated by the citizens and their concerns. She had no inkling as to how she could potentially nudge her village towards any significant development; this would often result in her shying away from the public. Barely aware that gram panchayat members are key potential change-makers, Vijayamma, who was elevated as Adhyaksha (President) in 2013, is unfortunately representative of many elected representatives across India’s six lakh villages.