Now in its fourth year, the Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGA), an experiential learning programme run in partnership by the state government of Haryana and Ashoka University provides young aspirants from across the country an opportunity to work with local government bodies on the ground to bring about change.
The Associates are placed in all 22 districts of Haryana and work directly under Deputy Commissioners with regular check-ins with the Chief Minister (CM). They work on pre-decided issues, in alignment with the CM’s Office, such as women’s safety, property tax, higher education, sanitation, digitisation of services and schemes for citizens etc. as well as have the opportunity to innovate, which is applicable for scale if successful. The Associates present the work they are doing on different issues along with their innovative pilots directly to the Chief Minister every two – three months.
The programme has already seen considerable success with pilots being launched on themes such as women’s empowerment, social audits, plastic free campaign, digitisation of education in government schools, modernisation of public libraries, among others. Four of these have been scaled up by the state government.
The state government has also been greatly appreciative of the value-add the Associates provided through their fresh perspective, enthusiasm and perseverance to achieve positive results. The Chief Minister, in particular, has said that as a result of new ideas brought in by the CMGGA Associates combined with the consistent rigour of departments across districts, Haryana has attained landmark milestones in e-governance, service-scheme delivery, geo-governance and the education sector.
‘Our vision of minimum government, maximum governance has been fast-tracked with the support of CMGGAs and we will continue to work for the people of Haryana with renewed energy in the future,' said the CM.
The key to the success lies in the process by which the young Associates are selected, trained, given the opportunity to cross-learn, and supported by the programme team at Ashoka University. This gives them the confidence to apply their passion to find solutions to complicated and inter-connected issues.
The programme team comprising in-house specialised staff from the University along with consultants from Samagra – Transforming Governance (a governance consultancy firm)has developed the ‘Field to Forum’ approach, where Associates from all districts return to Ashoka University every six weeks from the field to reflect, deliberate, cross-learn and fine-tune their approach throughout the year.
Four Associates from the current batch (2019-2020) who participated in the Forum in mid-September, having returned from their first field experience of six weeks, share how Ashoka’s approach has enabled them to face challenges and inspired them to impact lives.
"Through CMGGA I had full ownership over my work" - Chahat Sanghvi
"This programme bridges the gap between issues we face in our everyday lives and the inside workings of the government. When I was in the field of finance, I felt I had no ownership over my work. Here, I have end-to-end ownership and feel I can really make a difference."
The 15-day-long boot-camp organised by Ashoka at the start of the programme was very helpful. We had a chance to interact with IAS officials from various ranks and learn from their experience, which prepared us for the field. However, when as a youngster, I went to work at the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, I faced resistance from experienced officials. The programme team at Ashoka helped in finding a solution through facilitating a cross-learning experience from the district of Panchkula where best practices were shared, which led to positive change among the Gurugram officials. Such solutions have been particularly enabled by the Field to Forum approach of the programme where every six weeks, we get the opportunity to learn from the experiences of our peers in other districts, allowing for both collaboration and innovation at the same time.
"What Ashoka really brings to this Fellowship is structure" - Swati Rajmohan
"Ever since college, I have been interested in public policy and public administration but was always confused about which to pick. In that sense the CMGGA programme has made the distinction very clear and been very helpful. We primarily work on public administration and so far it has been great. CMGGA gives young people an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to how government works - to understand and contribute at the same time, which is very rare"
What Ashoka really brings to this fellowship is structure, which is critical, and the cross-learning, in particular, has been significant in understanding contextual differences between different districts in the same state. It provides very clear-cut, direction based objectives for each term of six weeks while also allowing us to innovate. We take a macro perspective and work to solve micro issues. I work on women’s safety in Gurugram for instance and am specifically looking at the one-stop-centres being developed for distressed women to provide counselling, medical help and legal aid, post the Nirbhaya case. In the next term, we will be running campaigns for women’s safety and also improving the efficiency of the 1091 helpline number in the state. I found the district administration very supportive, and in particular the Deputy Commissioner was vital in driving the programme. This has been made feasible by the credibility that CMGGA has already established over the last three years.
"Ashoka helped me transition from Lutyens' Delhi to rural Haryana" - Praneet Jaswani
‘After completing my undergraduate degree in Economics, I worked with a member of parliament and had the opportunity to understand the legislative process at the highest level. But at the end of it, I felt that I was not making an impact on the ground. I now wanted to understand the executive aspect of the government by working at the bottom level. Through the CMGGA programme, I have had the chance to work in Nuh in Haryana, which is known to be among the most backward districts of the country. Although a couple of hours away from Lutyens’ Delhi, it is a different world altogether and has been a transformational journey for me'
Ashoka really helped me in my transitioning phase through the induction it provided, where theoretical understanding of how district administration works was complemented by visits to different districts to help us understand how the hierarchy plays out on the ground. This really helped me acquire a clear picture of how I was expected to work. The training modules are also very specific and targeted aimed at making an impact on scale. For instance, I have been working on Saksham, which is an initiative of the Haryana government, launched in 2015, to test and build grade level competencies of school children. I was involved in conducting the largest Saksham Ghoshna (examination) last week where I worked on multiple facets – from organising reviews to motivating teachers and students; from proving data analytics to micro-managing logistical challenges.
I really gained perspective on my experience in the field through the forum facilitated by Ashoka, which is a confidential and safe space for us to learn from our peers and also share feedback with the administration. For instance, I could be honest about the logistical challenges we faced with senior officials from the Chief Minister’s Office, specifically with the team working with the Saksham Haryana cell, and they were very positive in their approach. This will help streamline the process for the next round. We also get the opportunity to shape our own initiatives at these forums. I want to work with the health department and the Ministry of Women and Child Development to address the issue of anaemia in Nuh, which is a major challenge, with 23 percent of women being severely anaemic.
"Ashoka made me realise gender does not matter" - Alina Masoodi
‘I am from Lucknow and pursued my undergraduate degree in Economics from Delhi followed by a three-year law course. That itself was a big cultural shift for me having grown up in the city of Nawabs. Transitioning to a rural setting in Haryana, and being a young woman, often among a room full of men, was challenging at times. This is where Ashoka really helped me through the training it provided, where I felt so confident in my content that gender did not matter. A lot of pre-conceived notions were dispelled. I realised what matters at the end is that I am a confident, competent individual. The CMGGA programme has helped me understand the critical distinction between good governance and government.’
My interest in the development sector was peaked as a result of being involved with a student initiative that worked with the transgender population. I wanted to pursue a fellowship, which helped me understand how the government functions and the way law plays a role in this, rather than be a mere spectator. At Hisar, I have worked with the Saksham programme, and Swachh Survekshan (similar to the Swachh Bharat Mission for ensuring sanitation), and this was the first time I actually visited government schools. After a six week long field immersion, the opportunity to ideate at the forum with peers and government officials to learn how to make the implementation on the ground more effective is crucial.
For instance, I learnt from the districts of Karnal and Rohtak how the garbage collection process in Hisar can be improved. It is not just the comfort of knowing that you have an entire cohort with you but the fact that the programme team at Ashoka is behind us to ensure our well-being on the ground is what makes this fellowship experience truly enriching. I know that someone from the programme team is always a call away. We have regular weekly buddy calls and conference calls. It is this support, which enables me to work better.
Written by Richa Bansal