Transforming the Public System with BCG Partner, Aparna Bijapurkar
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It is widely said that too many cooks spoil the broth, but does this apply to the public system as well where there is a multitude of stakeholders involved in the different processes?
Aparna Bijapurkar, Partner at BCG, introduces us to the intricacies of having a multitude of stakeholders involved in the public system through her journey while working in the Indian education sector.
TRANSFORMATION WORK IN THE PUBLIC SYSTEM
Nowadays, we talk a lot about transformation work being done in the public system, but how does it really happen? Well, for doing Transformation Work in the public system we first need to select a particular sector. Here we will explore how to bring about transformation in the education sector.
After selecting the sector, we need to focus on what core outcome we need to achieve. For example, in the education sector, the core outcome can be improving the learning outcome of the children. Now that we have recognized the core outcome, the next step is to identify ways to improve it.
Now, ideally, there can be many ways in which we can improve the outcome through the usage of various management frameworks, but in the public sector, there is no specific framework that can be used while solving a problem. So, when we talk about improving an outcome in the public sector, there isn’t a set method that can be followed to achieve the goals.
Let’s understand this deeply through the example of the Indian education sector where even after 15 years of introduction of major policies, like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the learning outcomes throughout the country are still poor. The problem is neither the lack of money nor the lack of talent and motivation for improving the Indian education system, as there is a lot of money and talent flowing in this sector through various sources like the Government, NGOs, and Corporates.
So why is the Indian Education sector still facing the problem of low learning outcomes? It is because, even though there are a lot of players involved in this process, a lot of these players are working without a clear objective.
DEFINE THE OUTCOME
So, now the question arises on how can we resolve this issue of lack of clarity of work. The first step in this process is to define the set of outcomes/goals and make sure that everyone in the system from top to bottom is aligned with these goals.
IDENTIFY ALL THE PLAYERS
The next step is to identify all the players involved in this process and take stock of what work they have been doing as part of contributing toward the achievement of the goals.
Now that we have identified the outcome and the role of each player in contributing toward that outcome, we need to look into what it takes to achieve these outcomes and create a roadmap for the same.
In order to create a roadmap, we need to do first-principles thinking and identify what’s wrong in the first place. For instance, in the case of the Indian Education sector, it was identified whether the children are coming to the school or not and if the school environment is supportive of their learning. Simultaneously, we also need to see the school curriculum and the level of teacher training. The findings were counter-intuitive and helped to explore the fact that, sometimes the best consequences if not fully thought through or do not evolve with time have unintended effects.
So, the Government of India in the year 2001, followed a similar roadmap and said that if the children are not coming to school, then let’s take the schools to them. As part of this process, the government opened multiple schools in the villages approximately a kilometer away from each other, where each school could accommodate up to 30 students in the presence of 2-3 teachers.
Now even though the government was trying to solve a big problem, their solution had unintended consequences where each teacher had to teach students of different age groups and different classes, together, which would certainly affect the learning outcomes of the students.
This is why the policies need to be re-evaluated from time to time, to ensure that they are free from unexpected errors.
Till now there are only two actors in the Indian education system; students and teachers and everything is revolving around them. But in reality, there are multiple stakeholders who are involved in the whole system, for example, the parents of the children, the school management committees, the education officers etc.
After we have identified all the stakeholders involved in this process, the next step is to make sure that they are aware of their respective roles and communicate with each other effectively. It is also important for them to be transparent about the duties they are performing so that they can effectively work towards the smooth implementation of all the strategies required to achieve the goals.
When we start a public transformation process, then the first thing to do is throw away all the biases and take stock of what is it that we are really solving for and who all are the important stakeholders in the system, and how they interact with each other about the common goals and objectives. While doing all this we need to identify some of the intended and unintended consequences. After we have built a roadmap using the above ways, we need to come up with solutions around the roadmap. But how do we actually implement these solutions?
IMPLEMENTATION OF SOLUTIONS
Implementing something requires equal parts of accountability and equal parts of motivation.
In the public delivery system, there are multiple stakeholders, and if we are able to play on each of their motivations and make them accountable to work towards a common goal, then we can surely bring transformational changes to the system. While doing all of this we need to make sure that we effectively use the limited resources and the finite budget while prioritizing the important tasks from the multiple tasks involved in making this change possible.
Aparna Bijapurkar is a Partner at The Boston Consulting Group and her work at BCG spans across the Public Sector, Consumer, and Retail practices. Prior to joining BCG, Aparna worked as a Public Policy Economist specializing in the design and optimization of social welfare programs. At BCG, Aparna has worked with the Indian Central and State governments on the transformation of large-scale public service delivery systems, such as the TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System), which serves more than 800 million individuals.
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