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Design!publiC - News from Livemint

by Prasad Krishna last modified Aug 20, 2011 02:36 PM
The Centre for Internet and Society in partnership with Centre for Knowledge Societies, Venkataramanan Associates, Centre for Law and Policy Research and LiveMint organised Design!publiC in Delhi on March 18, 2011. On the same day, published a series of articles.

Design for the future

Consider this: The Indian government projects a total expenditure of Rs 1,257,728 crore for the year 2011-2012. If proper design thinking was to be applied in governance processes and efficiencies of just 2% annually were achieved through it, the result would be savings of a Rs. 25,000 crore per year or which can pay for almost half of the current government’s flagship gob guarantee scheme the MGNREGA.

Easy it may sound, but the process is a complex one.  There are several challenges such as how the government should effectively control yet ensure privacy of citizens, or how it has to adopt the latest technology or global best practices yet keep a realistic approach considering the cultural diversity, scale and demographics of our country.

A conclave in New Delhi titled Public Design: Design thinking for Governance Innovation of which Mint is one of the organisers along with Centre for Knowledge Societies, The Centre for Internet and Society, MXV Consulting and Venkataramanan associates, is currently addressing some of these issues.

The talk points are varied from how design process can impact everyday lifes of citizens, how can design be effectively implemented in governance and what role can the social media play for ensuring better delivery of government services to citizens and other stakeholders.
Debating the pros and cons are a motley group of people including Younghee Jung, senior designer from Nokia Corporation; Daniela Sanghorgi, Lecturar at Lancaster University; Harsh Shrivastava from the Planning Commission of India; Anant Shah Programme Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Aparna Piramal Raje, Design Thinker, Mint; Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society and Sukumar Ranganathan, Editor, Mint among others. 
Read the above story in Livemint here

Should government be the face of design innovation?


The closing panel of today’s Public Design Conclave brought up an interesting counterpoint to the discussions that had mainly revolved around how to bring innovation into governance and policy: should innovation in fact be the role of the government?

Perhaps not said Arun Maira, member of the Planning Commission and the National Innovation Council. Maira argued that for any system to be innovative it also requires some stability. The role of government is to supply that stability, he said, and for that reason it should not be encouraged to embrace innovation without regard for the consequences that a radical change could bring. “I’m wondering whether government should actually be asked to innovate itself too much or not,” said Maira. “I think government has two roles: one is its policy and
regulatory role and the other is its delivery role.” When it comes to innovation, Maira said, government should step back in its delivery role and let other sectors experiment and provide the change.
Using the example of UID (Aadhaar), Maira noted that the scheme’s success relies on its autonomy from government combined with its partnership with existing system. “If you have to introduce a new idea into an organisation, which part should you put it into?” he asked. “Not into the heart, but into the periphery of the organisation, so that if it doesn’t work you can kill it without damaging the whole.”
“This is where the example of UID works perfectly,” he said, praising the scheme’s independent nature, headed by a charismatic leader, Nandan Nilekani, and celebrated by the larger governance system. Other innovative development schemes should look to UID as a model he said. “Frankly I’m looking for innovation in the way government is not regulating but reducing its role.”
Read the above story in Livemint here

Governance and Design


The terms “government” and “design” have too often proved oxymoronic in India, especially given the vast network of central, state and local bodies that jostle to administrate to a country of over a billion citizens. But at a public design conclave currently being held in New Delhi, titled “Design thinking for Governance Innovation” of which Mint is one of the organisers, exactly this juxtaposition is being debated. “How can governments use designers and design thinking?” asked a panel of speakers including representatives from the Nokia Corporation, Planning Commission of India and the Gates Foundation this morning.
The subject is as complex as the answer is elusive, they conceded. Younghee Jung, a senior designer at Nokia, said an initial hurdle exists in the way, “the word design is being perceived in the Indian environment- it’s very borderline.” One of the reasons, Jung postulated, was that the government sees design purely as an aesthetic discipline and neglects the innovative and economic aspects that should be equally as important.
Harsh Shrivastava from the Planning Commission of India agreed. In redesigning the way government works, he said, an entirely new outlook is needed. In preparing the Approach Paper to the 12th 5 year Plan, he said, the commission has chosen an entirely different tack: involving a far greater number of people, consulting NGOs and businesses as well as state governments. starting Facebook pages for feedback from the public, in an attempt to open up the process. The downside of this new approach, Shrivastava admitted, was that it made a lengthy process longer, and the response from state governments was lacklustre.
There’s still a disconnect, said Aparna Piramal Raje, Design Thinker, Mint, between the way states and national governments think and work. “We have to go from national conception to implementation on the local level,” she said. “I think it’s that last mile user experience and delivery of services that is important, the detail of implementation.” But state governments rarely take planning seriously, noted Srivastava, “you find that people who can’t do anything else are sent there. For state governments, it often boils down to how much honey will you give me next year, when it comes to planning.”
There’s no replacement for doing research in the field, said Anant Shah, a program director at the Gates Foundation, who works on health projects. He cited the example of the new vaccine delivery kits that have been developed by the Delhi-based innovation firm, Centre for Knowledge Sciences, for communities in rural Bihar. After research on the ground, the kits were designed so that even the shape of the vial was taken into account, tailored precisely to requirements for the community. “It’s easy to presume what we think will work,” Shah said, “and it’s easy to present ideas that have been conceived in hotel ballrooms halfway around the world. We should be making those decisions at the last mile. How can the perspectives of users be taken into account? How can we find solutions that are palatable and appropriate?”
Ultimately, Younghee Jung concluded, the answer lies in changing the mindset of governance from a user-designed solution to a benefit-designed one. “Benefits for citizens should translate into benefits for the government,” she said. Unfortunately, the panel’s consensus seemed to be that we are still a long way off.
Read the above story in Livemint here

Implementing Innovation


Conclaves and discussion forums like this one often get accused of throwing up more questions than they answer. That certainly happened in a group discussion on devising ways and means of implementing innovation
in India. “How can these grand ideas actually be put into action?” the group was asked.
 The challenges of making innovative ideas a reality were cited first, and the list was long; from psychological hurdles, like ignorance and fear within existing bureaucracy, to changing the mindset of government workers who are resistant to change and comfortable with the status quo.
 Workers in the field worried about the inherent conflicts between public design and commercial design, the difficulty of “selling” design innovations to government, building persuasive business cases and articulating the value of such schemes while keeping a tight focus on the project. They perceived a general gulf of thought between design-thinkers and the government, a corruption of good intentions, and warned of the difficulty of working with changing governments, who may only be in power for four to five years.
Eventually, however, and amongst much heated debate, some solutions began to emerge from all the challenges. To boost understanding of the uses of design among government workers, design and innovation should be part of the curriculum for Indian public administrators, someone suggested. Equally “design guys” need to understand a bit more about what governance is.
From the government’s position, said Harsh Shrivastava, there’s a frustration that designers don’t understand “the complexity of our country and the complexity of our work. It’s not just about the ministry changing its schemes or having a smarter graphic or logo, the aesthetic design of one agency will not change the government too much.”
An Obama-style branding of “Change” was mooted as a positive idea. Pilot projects in five or six chosen cities that have good business design bases might be a good move, said Shrivastava. “Maybe we should have a central resource centre to record what is happening across the country?”
Niels Hansen, projects manager at MindLab, a cross-ministerial innovation unit in Denmark, said that the emphasis ought to be on delivery. “Our experience from MindLab is that this isn’t about getting the best ideas, it’s also about change management, you have to orchestrate change processes,” he said.
Read the above story in Livemint here

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