Partnerships are necessary when it comes to dealing with the complex problems of development that face us. What we like about this month’s cover story, The MANSI Way, is how a united effort has resulted in a replicable model.
The American India Foundation has brought together Tata Steel, SEARCH and the Jharkhand government to significantly reduce, in just three years, infant and maternal mortality rates in the very poor Seraikela block.
This is a noteworthy effort for several reasons. First of all, there is an urgent need to deal with infant and maternal deaths because India’s record is dismal. Second, it shows us the good that can result in the government embracing the voluntary sector, companies like Tata Steel and competent professionals in order to find creative and durable solutions. Third, MANSI brings out the best in the people of Seraikela. There is wide ownership of the initiative in the villages. It empowers the Sahiya as a frontline health worker and in doing so makes women in Seraikela generally feel better about themselves. Finally, MANSI is evidence that there is no substitute for focused ground level work – it creates awareness, nurtures local talent and defines a methodology through trial and error.
Companies looking for CSR projects should examine MANSI closely. We would recommend they learn from it ways of working with government. It is important to help the State sector find solutions, but we think it is foolish to seek to replace it. So big are the requirements in healthcare and education that a significant difference can only be made through the government. MANSI shows how to achieve this. Through the Sahiya and other health workers it solves a last mile problem, injects energy into a moribund system, but doesn’t try to take over.
A growing number of social enterprises now seek to improve the lives of people through ideas that only innovators can deliver. The World Bank’s Development Marketplace showcases such enterprises and puts them on a shortlist. Helping these enterprises grow is necessary, but it is equally important for governments to recognise the solutions these initiatives provide and find ways to scale them up. Only the State can do this at a level that matters. As of now social enterprises have the status of outliers. But they represent an expanding pool of talent and new energy and need to be integrated into the system itself so as to make it more responsive.