International Innovation Corps, University of Chicago aims to accelerate social development by bringing together private public enterprises

New Delhi: The University of Chicago’s International Innovation Corps (IIC) organized a three-day conference at their center in Delhi. The event featured panel discussions on creating participatory spaces in public policy, innovations in development finance, filling data gaps and fuelling data governance. The emerging theme from the deliberations was the role of public private partnerships in scaling and accelerating social development initiatives and creating an ecosystem which would help enable this.

Stalwarts from the NITI Aayog, the Rajasthan Education Department, organizations such as Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Dasra, Villgro India, SEWA, Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence, IDInsight, Data{Meet}, SocialCops, X Billion Labs, Saajha, Aranya Agricultural Alternatives came together to discuss their learnings and observations on the need to involve communities in the creation and delivery of policy initiatives; the significance of participation of private funding, philanthropic giving and impact investing to accelerate the development process; and overcoming gaps in data collection, management and analytics. A keynote lecture by Naresh Pal Gangwar, Secretary of Education, Government of Rajasthan, on systemic transformations in education, was also able to bring these different themes together. The Secretary’s lecture highlighted how Rajasthan’s School Education Department has been able to combine data systems, community engagement, and partnerships with NGOs and foundations, to bring about large-scale change in education governance. While learning outcomes will take many years to improve, putting in place the right governance structures is a critical first step.

Panel discussions highlighted that lack of ownership is a challenge when it comes to scaling social initiatives. Creating communitarian organizations with participation from all sectors could help build holistic programs and address challenges with existing initiatives. Information sharing and building capacity at the official level, as well as community level, would help accelerate this.

Prachi Jain Windlass, India Education Director, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, shared “When it comes to achieving scale and making social development initiatives sustainable, it cannot be achieved in isolation by education technology companies, or NGOs. Working closely with the government and facilitating community involvement is what will make these initiatives a success.”

IIC’s education programs in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are helping build formal and informal channels to encourage community participation, designing tools to collect data at the village level, and building capacity to scale such interventions, by ensuring that local governance structures in each state are kept in mind and proper feedback mechanisms are developed. All of this is being enabled through collaborations with state governments.

Throwing light on the recently launched Gyan Sankalp Education Funding Portal designed by the Government of Rajasthan and the IIC, Tullika Saini, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Education, Rajasthan shared “There is a 5000+crore infrastructure financing gap in Rajasthan schools. A larger vision is required to connect potential funders with on-ground projects which have been identified after careful observation of needs of people on the ground, which the Gyan Sankalp portal aims at enabling. There is an opportunity for every organization to be a part of education initiatives in the country and the portal is a tool to connect the two.”

Avik Sarkar, Incharge, Data Analytics Cell, Energy Modeling Unit, NITI Aayog, who engaged with an IIC team to work on data systems, said “Gaps in data analysis and effective utilization of data, to implement impactful initiatives, exist because of lack of digitization of data. Data needs to be seen as a tool that empowers people and proper governance mechanisms need to be put in place to collect and digitize relevant data. Partnerships with private organizations for capacity building to impart necessary skills to accelerate digitization of data can help take this forward.”

Avik Sarkar, Incharge, Data Analytics Cell, Energy Modeling Unit, NITI Aayog; Tullika Saini, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Education, Rajasthan; Prachi Jain Windlass, Director, India Education, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation; Megha Jain, Associate Director, Strategic Philanthropy, Dasra, leaders of NGOs and social enterprises, and government officials attended the conference.