Insight from Civil Society Engaging
with Science and Technology
Presentation - Group I
by Annapurna | PPT |
What drives policy?
There is no one way to understand policy. The
group looked at Sreekumar's slide, and agreed that the market seemed to be
located perfectly in order to reach all the four players - the utilities, the
state, the regulatory body and the people.
However the policy is also a reflection of
current power relationships/structure (power drives state and its policies),
electoral politics, markets, donors, peoples' movements.
While these elements influence policy and there
is a negotiation between various players, the structure itself keeps changing.
In this unsentimental view of how policies are
done, the questions that came up included,
- Do governments demonstrate
relative autonomy from the people in power?
- Are we writing off democratic
state's interest in policies of larger common good?
- Is good the intention or a
by-product of policy?
There was a divided opinion on these. But by and
large we seemed to be moving away from the position that it is primarily the
responsibility of the State to take care of, if not at least determine the
We feel that the State might drive good policy
more as a by-product rather than by deliberate intention. Also in a situation
where governments are constantly changing, and the bureaucracy, it is not
possible for State, as represented by government or bureaucracy, to have a
larger mandate for policy.
The second question is about what constitutes
knowledge and expertise, which is used as input in policy making.
Here too power is the driving force. It is power
that confers the status of the expert and creates a hierarchy of knowledge. So
if you are a person who is within the government or the dominant paradigm, then
probably you do get an expert status which can be used strategically. The
experiences of Sreekumar and Kavita are examples of that kind of strategy.
Alternatively those who are speaking of an
alternative knowledge system would need another locus of legitimacy - like the
backing of a movement or a large number of people, for them to be considered an
expert by the state.
There is of course the occasional idea, or
paradigm which seems to have a status or power of its own, and therefore is
considered knowledge and influences policy.
The ‘larger common good’ as strategy
- Critical voices are not usually part of a policy framework
- There is nowadays a token space for such dissenters
- Critique/dissent has to be from ‘inside’ and used strategically
Generally however if you are radically critical
of policy, you don’t have a space in it. Though there is a token space, but you
don’t generally get heard. In fact at times you get co-opted or the dissent is
used strategically by the State.
The third question was about community
experiences being show-cased as alternative knowledge and expertise.
Q3. NPM, JFM, Water management, Waste
- Scaling into policy through donor leverage with government?
- Co-option- only parts of the alternative are picked up
- Sometimes an informal alliance between civil society actors and state
We all had problems with calling it “show-cased”
or calling it a “success”. It is problematic. Even in NPM, JFM, and water
management, waste management, the donor seems to have played a very important
role in scaling it up. Yes there was a community experience which worked well.
But if the investment is from an outside donor then how can it be considered as
Another fear is that only convenient parts of
the alternative are picked up, resulting in co-option of the alternative thus
creating some kind of self-doubt of believing in your capacity to bring about
Another area of doubt is it ethical to use your
personal contact to push policy, rather than empowering the community that you
are speaking for or representing?
The next question was, where and how were
community representatives themselves involved in influencing the policy
Q4. Community representatives in policy processes
The vana samakhya lesson
constituent community is inherently powerful, there are strong lobbies
- Need for hand holding and training by ngo
- Organising and mobilising into groups that can negotiate with policy
- The felt hand of the donor
- Not necessarily a movement
What does it mean for someone from the community
to represent themselves? Are they leaders coming up from the movement? Or are
they people created by the NGO or intervening organisation. Because if you want
community representatives to come forward there has to be a lot hand-holding
and training and a lot of work of mobilisation and organisation by the NGO or
intervening organisation. Again there is the question of money. Since the money
to do this comes from outside, how can you say whether the issue has come up
from the field, from the community, or interest of someone else outside the
There is also the question of whether the
process is really participatory? Are we just training these people because we
have the money to train them? Does the community have an interest in being
trained and represented? In this context, an interesting question would be
which part of our work should be funded by the people themselves and which part
of it can be subsidized from outside.
There are also those who feel that there is no
need for any of kind training (social engineering) if the community interest is
strong, which means that their lobbying too will be quite strong.
Was there an involvement of academics or formal
specialists? We did not discuss this much, but put out broad statements:
Q5 An expert opinion
- An academic systematises knowledge, may not take a stand, till after
- Experts who speak within the dominant knowledge paradigm, the
‘language’ cannot be dismissed as easily as those who critique the ‘growth’
Just as Sreekumar talks of converting consumer
to citizen, we much aim for getting the expert to act as citizen.
What ‘tools’ helped and what did not in
successful policy influencing?
We looked at policy practice. We did not look at
any kind of tool or tool kit, but at what could be some of the practices that
some of us saw across the board.
One of the things we saw that the groups that
were engaged had people with different capabilities for example, one person who
could communicate with the community, one person who could communicate with the
government, one person who is an activist and speaker etc. These groups need
to have this diverse portfolio of skills.
The other thing is that you need to have diverse
forms of organisations, from various locations from which you speak because if
you speak from only one location you could get marginalised. For example, in the
Narmada issue. The Narmada Bachao Andolan has been seen as a success as it has
high visibility. But in the lesser visible sphere, (the larger issue) all
policies get reversed very quietly behind the scenes. Therefore it is useful to
be in different lobbying spaces in order to fight at different levels. Because
if you are fighting on one particular issue and have only one particular
‘activist’ way of dealing with it, you can get marginalised and there is no way
of getting back into that issue
Policy practice of organisations/groups
- Diverse portfolio of skills within the group
- Diverse forms of organisations to negotiate from different locations
- Collaborating strategically with government on their programs
- Rootedness in and transparency to the community that they are
- Well networked with all stake holders- access to information [early
Then there is the Dastakar Andhra’s own
experience where there is a co-operative body, a Trust as well as a totally
commercial organisation, all of whom are actively working under the same kind of
policy advocacy programme. This makes it easier for them speak at different
forums from different stand points. For example a marketing person can speak
from the marketing point of view and say what needs to be done.
We also see that quite a few organisations
collaborated strategically with the government in government programmes. That is
another stand point which you can use. You don’t stay totally outside, but
actually try and be an insider.
Rootedness and transparency is another important
practice, because without it your location is questioned. For example as Rukmini
was saying, in the Common Civil Code movement, people did question why Hindu
women are speaking on behalf of Muslim women.
Early intervention is another critical practice,
as you can actually do something before there is a hardening of stands. The
problem is how do you even know what is happening early enough to intervene. One
of the key practices is to network enough so that you get the information early.