Co-creating the Way: Government Involvement

Elena  0:00  

Questions are coming in. There is one about governments, which I think governments, of course play a major role in communities as engaged citizens. So the question is what role do you see governments play in the systems change space? And what are the ways to get the government along in this journey? So I’m sure both Sybil and Sanjay have wonderful, you know, interesting perspectives. So, Sybil, would you like to go first?

Sybil  0:30  

Sure. Yeah, I think this is an excellent question. And it actually fits squarely in the journey that I’ve taken in my professional experience from being a practitioner on the ground, as I mentioned earlier, working with savings groups to then my role at the foundation where we are largely working with the public sector in key countries across Africa to build out their ability to drive women’s economic empowerment outcomes. First, I’d like to highlight Sanjay’s point of building out public goods. And in many ways, you know, the idea of a women’s empowerment collective., o a savings group with added elements that can really propel a woman to increase her agency and then have a number of outcomes achieve either through her livelihood, her agriculture, her health, and also taking that critical consciousness of gender aspect that in and of itself could be seen as a public good. So really, a lot of the work that I’m doing now is a what I touched upon earlier, you know, how do you start to converge, government agendas around gender, and the integration of gender across various ministries, departments and agencies so that they could advance women’s economic empowerment in a collective manner? How do you actually get that convergence? Working strongly with government, providing evidence and also, you know, these groups are indigenous to the many African countries and looking at how they can potentially build from that and reach women populations is a key part of the work that I’m doing. So building that awareness, building that appetite, building the opportunity, you have a lot of African governments as well that are taking IDA loans from the World Bank where they’re they’re structuring large scale national programs such as what we’re seeing in India under the NRL, the National Rural livelihoods mission that works with self help groups, you’re seeing that happening and taking root in Africa. You’re seeing it in Uganda and you’re seeing it in Nigeria with the Nigeria for Women program, which is an IDA loan from the World Bank to the Nigerian government, and the program will be implemented focused on women’s groups through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. So you’re seeing this idea of taking root of how do you actually drive better convergence of actors and those actors being ministries, departments, agencies throughout government towards an approach that is actually that is talking about a systems change for women and systems change being  across various disciplines. So for me, it’s about that convergence. It’s about looking at where there is current appetite and opportunity to to really build outcomes that governments are already looking to advance. Over to you Sanjay.

Thanks Sybil. You pretty well captured the frame here. Just wanted to quickly add that driving a large scale transformation, the government is a very important component and element of it in any way is a big component of the system. Right? So I’ve always sort of wondered this, that there’s no way to drive a large scale change without the government, civil society, the private sector coming together, right? And government brings the unique capability of a massive, multi faceted distribution system. It brings the ability to quickly extend across the length and breadth of the country because that’s how the government’s are designed. They actually span the length and breadth of the country. What’s very important is to understand how we shift an equilibrium because the governments operate in a certain equilibrium, and shifting equilibrium is different from shifting one point of equilibrium. So many times we have always tried to see that, we should scale what works. And the question that I always say is if you want to really work at scale, with the government, then we have to answer the question what works at scale? And that’s not necessarily the same question scaling what works is not the same as what works at scale. And the government is very good at working at scale. And it’s very important for us to understand and design with the government, co create with them, so that we can actually affect a transition in the country at scale. So I think I would, I would sort of start by saying, if you’re serious about scale, you have to work very, very deeply with the government in shifting.

Elena  5:40  

Thank you, Sanjay, I think what you said really resonated with us and the way we see scalability of our systems change approach at Tostan, really going through the community members playing the role of active citizen are really engaging in changing the system within actually, within the civic participation platforms, and we see the potential for scalability. We don’t see any other potential of scalability if not going through the local government and how a citizen really can engage through and ask for accountability, ask for more transparency, for allocation of resources where they think they need resources, so thank you for saying that. I think it’s very relevant.