By Neeta Saraogi
Dasra Philanthropy Week (DPW) is a collaborative platform to bring philanthropists, corporates and foundations together to discuss some of India’s critical development challenges. This year, the final day of DPW was intended to deconstruct the issue of good governance in India and inspire philanthropic action and support for organizations that are addressing the governance deficit.
For India, addressing the governance deficit is especially critical because despite being the world’s largest democracy, it lags on all aspects of the human development index and has dismal ratings on the Worldwide Governance Indicators. The objective of the event was to illustrate through stories and examples, organizations that are addressing various aspects of governance, and how citizens can participate in driving good governance.
It was interesting to hear an MLA talk about how social audits and performance reports of elected government officials (like those published by Praja) are driving better performance and efficiency. Another story took us to media dark zones in rural India with Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper run by women journalists who hold the government accountable by publishing stories about government inaction and lack of public services – resulting in repaired roads and completed school buildings. We also met an inspiring woman leader who despite all her challenges, defied social norms and family pressure to be elected and re-elected as the village sarpanch.
Also highlighted was the need for judicial reforms and how inefficient and stretched the current judiciary system is. It also recognized how a lack of access to justice denies people the ability to protect their fundamental rights and seek redressal when they are wronged or oppressed.
The key message of both the event and Dasra’s research report, Good to Great, is the urgent need for philanthropists to take responsibility and start participating in the process of nation-building along with the government and civil society organizations. Philanthropic investment in improving governance is a lever to bring large-scale improvements to education, health care, livelihoods, access to justice and many other public services.
Dasra has been working with philanthropists, corporates and foundations to address some of the critical problems plaguing India in education, health care, sanitation and women’s empowerment. But these efforts will only come to bear when the public delivery systems are improved, when citizens have access to justice and unbiased news and information, and when the government is as driven by efficiency as the private sector currently is. To this end, Dasra is creating an INR 50 crore collaborative fund, to fund and support governance related organizations that are working with the government to improve and strengthen governance in India. Prominent Indian philanthropists like Rohini Nilekani, Azim Premj and Anu Aga have already joined this collaborative platform to put their weight behind a concerted effort to address the governance gap and improve life chances of 800 million people in India who are currently living below the poverty line.
To learn what you can do to support Governance in India, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neeta Saraogi is a Fundraising manager at Dasra, where she engages individuals in philanthropy to create social change.
Correction, 24 April 2015: An earlier version of this article listed the author as Evans Rebello, digital communication strategist at Dasra. The post has been updated to reflect the actual author.