First in 2005 I spoke about the possibility of Primary Health Centers to be managed by the non-government sector, at least in the then BIMARU states. We had one of the worst indices of IMR, MMR in Odisha and paradoxically, at the same time had blockbuster health programs running in the state with the help of the bilateral and foreign aid agencies. Till recently Odisha had one of the highest concentrations of international aid agencies in India. In FY 11-12, 1,240 NGOs in the state had received Rs 214.32 crore assistance from abroad for activities ranging from child welfare, rural development, construction and maintenance of schools, hospitals, maintenance of priests and preachers to preservation of tribal art forms. With more exposure to market economy, Odisha is now a major business hub in India and corporates have begun to actively complement the governments’ work in social development measures.
Sometime during 2006-7, Odisha government took a landmark decision in handing over the management of PHC (N) s to NGOs and Corporates. This model initiated by the government of Odisha has been lauded as innovative and effective. Innovative because Government handed over the physical infrastructure, equipments, medicines and approved budget while giving the autonomy to the selected agency to recruit personnel as per their terms and conditions but following the government norms. This is the PPP approach which has often faced roadblocks in other states. But in Odisha the Doctors and other staff appointed by the Government in the PHC but managed under PPP were redeployed to nearby PHCs by the CDMO. The NGO/Corporates with the help of District Health Administration appointed the needed staff in the PHCs and budget provision for the same were made in the proposal. The ANMs already working in the sub centre continued to work but reported to PHC (N) managed by NGO/Corporate. The outreach activities at the sub centers level were undertaken by NGOs/Corporates by involving ANMs/AWWs and ASHAs. Thus the focus on preventive health care in the low income communities was greatly improved; gaps in personnel deployment met and the performance of the public health services took a more than incremental jump. In the entire exercise of the conceptualization, policy making to the implementation, the role of the NGOs (as in the nonprofit social organizations) was noticeable. This Model was incubated successfully, notwithstanding the naysayers. Three PHC (N) in Dhenkanal (Khankira), in Jajpur (Atta) and in Bhadrakwere these “Model” Projects to have been conceptualized under PPP,about 7-8 years ago. The funds support for the management of these PHCs came from international NGOs and even corporates. Nayagarh Sugar Complex Ltd., managed a PHC (N) in Nayagarh district under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Government handed over the PHC (N) with the then existing staff and infrastructure to Nayagarh Sugar Complex Ltd. Nayagarh Sugar Complex Ltd., in turn met the operational cost of the PHC (N)under CSR. The above is an example of how innovations could directly impact the lives of people, save children, increase productivity, strengthen citizenry and above all contribute to the enhancement in the quality of life in Odisha, a state where the proportion of people living in poverty is still among the highest in South-East Asia. I believe that public services need to be reformed to meet the demands of the long-term, under the fiscal constraints of today. And that the economic growth needs to bere-kindled – but in a more sustainable form that carries public confidence and delivers fairer returns. CSR carries the potential of filling for the two big policy challenges ofour time, specifically in Odisha, by helping to incubate Innovations in Public Service delivery.
CSR activities help in creating “delivery models” or prototypes in social development, which in an economy and government like Odisha, would be otherwise a tardy process or a process involving intense bureaucracy, making the innovation “out dated” in the rigmarole of being sanctioned. This “delivery model” theory is more pertaining from the society’s perspective. CSR is the concept that organizations have an obligation to consider the interests of their customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment in all aspects of their operations. For it to be truly CSR, it must go beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation. It is also clear that the concept of CSR is closely linked with the principles of Sustainable Development, which calls on corporations not just to look at profits or dividends when making decisions, but also to consider the immediate and long-term social and environmental consequences of their activities. My view would be to consider CSR as a vast scope to introduce innovations in social development and help seed the “model” to eventually make it work and integrate the ‘model’ into the public systems of development. This is a way to complement &create continued human growth in and around the communities. This is a great opportunity to add work of the government and engage the corporations with better access to talent and resources to experiment with much improved efficiencies on the ground, with the communities. I would urge the corporates to design the CSR approaches to help ensure efficiency, stimulate innovation, and value to the social development we aim for.
The trend is that in the coming years the state is increasingly going to pull back funding from services and reducing its direct role in provision. Citizens and civil society organizations would be asked to step up and take more responsibility. In simple terms, the prescription would be less state, more citizen, or as has been the buzz recently “less government, more governance”. Traditionally business has “supposedly” loomed as a threat to traditional public services and social value. But experience proves that business has been efficient and dominant in growing the country back to economic prosperity. The reality on the ground is one of inter-dependence and shared agendas.
The community programs designed and implemented by FIDR in Odisha & elsewhere– jointly led by local government and corporates – are not deemed to get government ‘out of the way’, but precisely to bring government, business and other important civic actors together to generate growth. Our CSR story is that the state, public services and local economic growth can be mutually reinforcing. Today there are increasing efforts by companies to account for their interactions with the governments, to participate in public policy dialogues and advocacy platforms and to assist governments build public capacities, strengthen institutions and increase efficiencies in the delivery of public goods. The tools, methodologies and formats that the corporates innovate and apply in their engagements with the public policy initiatives are encouraging and genuinely innovative. These innovations would not move anywhere if they are not incubated. New ideas, concepts which prompt a corporate to support the program(s) help the idea to see the light of the day. Simply because the CSR program of the corporate gives life to the idea through incubation. Our public management system, due to its complex nature, would find it difficult to seed a completely out-of-the-box idea. However once it is incubated under the CSR, the idea can be scaled up and proliferated across situations, communities and fields. This is the beauty and indispensability of an idea incubated.
Leading corporates of India, under their CSRs have often expressed interest and supported initiatives in Odisha in the realm of Grassroots Governance (strengthening of Urban Local Bodies/Comprehensive Area development Plans). FIDR is currently executing such programs in Odisha. Not only the intent of the programs but the strategies and the tools used to make the programs impactful have demonstrated that innovations work very effectively in economies where public programs have always been the only community mainstay and very less in private efforts. Historically Odisha had not seen much industrialization, few decades ago and hence the social welfare work has been always government-loaded. Nobody can deny a perception that “CSR is mostly driven by concerns of investors, companies, campaign groups based in richer economies.” I have always maintained that the role of making CSR more community specific and need based is the onus of the civil society in Odisha. The perception has largely changed today because, however “pilot’ but passionately innovative community programs have been supported by corporates in areas which are not typically their “catchment areas”, nor are they geographies which give them “ a quid pro quo” in business returns/image enhancement. This has happened in Odisha and needs to be disseminated to dispel the notion that CSR is usually done with “more than sustainability” in view. I state here an example of an innovation in strengthening grassroots democracy in Odisha which is one of the most innovative CSR programs in India so far. Not only innovative in the format but also in providing a “delivery lab” where similar programs could be piloted and subsequently replicated elsewhere with greater government participation.
Incubation under CSR leads to sustainable Social productivity. FIDR works with this concept. This calls for a more balanced relationship between sectors of society. It looks to get beyond ideological debates on the size of the state or the ‘bigness’ of communities, and instead focuses on the social value that can be created through better relationships between citizens, society, business and public services. FIDR, as an organization has learnt through the years that cross-party consensus is emerging around the need to re-think both the role of the state in the market, and the role of the market in delivering public services. With our CSR supported programs in themes like Youth entrepreneurship (Rural BPO), Urban Governance, Women entrepreneurship through ICTs, Technology-centric interventions in Water & Sanitation we have experienced the following:
- Creation of new growth – entrepreneurship and private sector innovations have been key to the government’s goal of ‘rebalancing’ the economy .e.g market linkages, product development, harnessing of ICTs.
- Delivery of public services –the role of private and third sector/social enterprise, and collaboration between them in public service delivery has expanded.
- Behaviour change – the government’s ‘inclusive &responsibility’ deal isencouraging voluntary pledges from business to tackle social problems, going beyond their “business precincts” related to their products or services.
- More ownership & less command and control – a marked shift from aculture of government target-setting and top-down regulation and management to more proactive ownership of the program, innovation and implementation.
With community being the soul of non-profits and FIDR no different, our endeavor has always been to develop partnerships with the private sector for social investment led growth, under CSR, but would always be watchful of greedy corporate efforts to grab resources for cheap, whether natural resources or human capital or cross subsidizing with government budgets to achieve their own corporate fiscal goals.
CSR provides platform for piloting small-is-beautiful themes. During a recently concluded business summit, NassimTaleb, the economist, in an informal discussion suggested that non-profits (like FIDR)should create opportunities where the social equity and access of India’s largest proportion of poor (in Odisha) could be vastly enhanced by strategic deployment of resources to tackle dissonance in primary health care and primary education services. We could build more schools, more primary health centers than tertiary sector institutions like universities medical colleges etc. This is not to undermine the importance of the tertiary institutions but to set the roots stronger. The percentage of 6-14 year old children enrolled in school is 96% and higher (courtesy ASER 2014). But the ability to read continues to be low and only 25% of class III students can read class II text fluently. In Odisha about 25% of class III students were able to solve a two-digit subtraction problem last year. FIDR is working with schools in 5 Panchayats and would urge corporates to set the field and support new tech-based innovations to make classrooms more meaningful, exciting and productive, at least in the middle and senior level school years.
The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan has built schools and hired teachers. But smaller schools (found in remote parts of Odisha), with less than 100 students are gradually spreading. The pupil-teacher ratio for Primary, Upper Primary and Elementary has been in the range of 31.73, 26.55 & 30.03 respectively. But in many places we still struggle to get up dated, fresh data. Teachers’ training is an area where CSR programs could nurture new, low-cost, tech driven approaches. This would have more than incremental impact on the overall SGDP of Odisha.
Incubation under CSRs could be fostered on lines similar to the “Adarsh Gram” scheme launched by the PM of India. It is envisaged that under the leadership and through the efforts of Members of Parliament (MPs), one village would be developed by each MP by 2016. On the basis of the model created by this experience, it is expected that two more villages would be developed by each MP by 2019 and that one village will be developed every year. With nearly 800 MPs nearly 2,500 villages can be developed this way. We could design an ER (Elected representatives)-Corporate-Non Profit axis under the administrative guidance of the Government which could commit to a specific number of Villages or Panchayats in Odisha, delivering integrated development. FIDR volunteers to provide the secretariat and the intellectual/research resource to incubate such an all-encompassing model. This “Model” would aim at providing fillip to holistic growth and not only a “sector-specific myopic prism” of development.
This is an opportune time for CSR Programs to be more scientific, data based and strategic. Because only CSRs can leverage “incubation” without which we would continue struggling to overcome inefficiencies in programs, their reach, costs and quality.