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What converts policy to action: Potential enablers

National social welfare programmes are ambitious more often than not. The requirements for attaining the goals are massive. Strong and lasting commitment from governments (State and Centre), excellent coordination between planning and implementing agencies, adherence to timelines, strong M&E designs and procedures, willingness and ability to incorporate suggestions from review, to name a few. What can help these programmes succeed? Can we know the potential enablers?

Our work in developing the roadmap for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G)* in the Indian state of Assam helped us identify factors that can be vital in driving national programmes to success.

In Assam, we laid down a detailed implementation work plan which clearly spelt out the activities and inputs for achieving the targets. We found that for implementing such a large-scale target-driven programme, the key to success lies in adopting a systems approach of anticipating the impediments and breaking the targets down from a project management perspective. This approach should be coupled with field research that uses context-specific methodologies. For developing the roadmap for Assam to achieve its target for rural housing, we employed mixed methods to analyse the situation from the beneficiary as well as the state’s point of view. We considered it imperative to focus on understanding the challenges and strengths for the programme while studying the current situation, and produced a concrete plan of action. The roadmap for Assam has been accepted by the government and work on it will begin soon.

However, this roadmap design exercise wouldn’t have been possible without the ability of the Assam government (the implementing agency in this case) to value the role of a methodological and realistic analysis in informing the programme’s blueprint. And that brings us to another key enabler.

Our Assam experience illustrates that proactive governments with foresights on implementation challenges are sure winners. When Assam was selected as a sample state to prepare the implementation roadmap, the state’s government was quick to realise that the roadmap will be the key tool for achieving the targets of PMAY-G there. The Assam government’s initiative and effort to infuse quality in the roadmap is indicative of what can help close the gap between announced and accomplished goals of national programmes. It offers valuable insights for making national programmes achieve their potential as catalysts to reduce inequality — economic and social.

*The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) scheme is supporting the construction of one crore low-cost houses in rural areas over the period of three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19, and a total of around three crore houses by the year 2022.

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