Meghalaya sets motion for enhancing State Capability to address complex development issues

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Acclaimed Professor from Oxford University, Mr. Lant Pritchett today spoke at the inaugural session of Meghalaya State Capability Forum that was initiated under the ongoing State Capability Enhancement Project (SCEP). Addressing the event as a keynote speaker, Professor Lant shared his expertise while providing clarity on building State Capability. He shared the unique ‘donut’ principle whereby, oftentimes, organizations tend to lose their ‘core’ and may be unable to achieve the desired results. He threw light on the principle of Problem Driven Iterative Adaptive (PDIA) approach for rebuilding the core values of an organization and to improve delivery mechanisms.

Professor Lant is a Research Director at the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) programme at Oxford University and has also taught at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is one of the pioneering thinkers in the field of state capability and was a co-developer of the Problem-Driven Iterative Approach (PDIA) methodology.

The session was convened by the State Capability Enhancement Project (SCEP) team, led by the Principal Secretary, Mr. Sampath Kumar, IAS. Speaking at the event, he spoke about how Meghalaya has been applying the principles of State Capability to address maternal and infant death, malnutrition, climate change as well as rural development, which has reaped significant results. In the process, the State was able to develop its own unique model comprising six important pillars for enhancing the State capability. These include local leadership, citizen-state relationship, effective use of data, accountability and agency, capability through practice (PDIA) and systems thinking. By applying these principles, the aim is to tackle many more complex issues faced by the State.

Giving an example of how a collaborative effort has reaped good results in the past, the Principal Secretary stated that Meghalaya faced several challenges with respect to achieving full immunization coverage for children. However, between 2020-2021, when the issue was taken up on a mission mode and solved through collaborative and PDIA approach, in just 6 months, the State was able to achieve 90 pc child immunization coverage. The State’s ranking jumped from the bottom to 2nd in the National immunization ranking. He stated that this success model can be emulated on a larger scale to address other development challenges.

Appreciating the launch of the Meghalaya State Capability Forum, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma emphasised on the need to focus on efficient delivery mechanisms. He said that various departments are working towards implementing several programmes with a common goal and it is crucial to take a collaborative approach in such cases. This is where the principles of the State Capability Enhancement Project will prove significant.

He added, “Although we do not know how long the process of building State capacity would take, this is certainly a step in the right direction, provided, a focused approach is adopted and specific programmes are brought under its ambit”.

Health Minister James K. Sangma also appreciated the initiation of Meghalaya State Capability Forum and stated that such sessions should be held frequently in order to invite varied perspectives as well as to enable local solutions to complex issues.

Addressing the participants, Yamini Aiyar, President of Centre for Policy Research (CPR), said that Meghalaya is one of the first states to have set the motion to create a forum for actively discussing as well as tackling 21st century challenges.

The first interactive session of the Meghalaya State Capability Forum witnessed interaction and participation of Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials including Chief Secretary Smt. Rebecca Suchiang, Retd. Chief Secretary Shri. M.S Rao, Dr. Vijay Kumar, other officials from the State, the World Bank, Deputy Commissioners and members of civil society, among others.

Meghalaya State Capability Forum will entail bi-monthly events, attended by public officials, academics and civil society members. Each event will focus on a theme of importance for Meghalaya’s development. A guest speaker, whose work sheds light on the chosen theme, will present and engage in dialogue with practitioners and thought leaders from within Meghalaya and abroad, to exchange ideas and practices for strengthening state capability.

The mission of the Meghalaya State Capability Forum is three-fold:

  • To enable learning and exchange between leaders of Meghalaya, India, and the world on key issues of the public interest, especially regarding the role of the State
  • To share Meghalaya’s experience and learnings from a range of state capability initiatives
  • To develop new models, approaches and initiatives for enhancing state capability and achieving Meghalaya’s vision