Hail the Street-level Bureaucrat

Street-level bureaucracy – one of my favourite agencies ever! During their effort to institute community-level action plans in Hyderabad, Accountability Initiative finds some more (not surprising) evidence.

First, the roadblock…

The Pratham and PAISA teams arrived at the meeting armed with their formats and the government orders. But once the conversation began things started falling apart. The officials, particularly the Head Masters were simply not interested in the proceedings – they had to be there because of the government orders but they really didn’t see the need to engage the parents, most of whom for them were not aware of how to do complex administrative tasks like make plans.

…followed by the diagnosis

The problem however is that the frontline officials remain unconvinced. And this is why we don’t see effective change on the ground. On paper, India looks like the most participatory democracy in the world. Scheme after scheme, government order after order mandate that people –whether through organized community groups or other means – must make plans and audit programs. The reality of course, is completely different. A good administrator will pass a progressive order but she will never spend time motivating her team to implement the order. This is exactly what is happening in Hyderabad. The  collector seems to believe that his problems will be solved if his team implements his orders. But he doesn’t see the need to work with his team convincing them of his mission and carrying them with him. For me the greatest learning from Hyderabad PAISA is that change can only come if the foot soldiers, those on the frontlines are convinced of the  need to for change and motivated to implement it.


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