Teaching Civic Leadership and Politics 101

The B.CLIP – the B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubation Programme is featured in Times of India, and quotes Takshashila’s Nitin Pai and Pavan Srinath.

Politics 101 finds takers with youth leaders, doctors and autorickshaw drivers signing up, 29 November 2015, Times of India.

Here is the full text of the Q&A between Times of India and Takshashila staff.

ToI: Can you give me some background on B.CLIP?
Pavan Srinath: B.CLIP as a Civic Leadership Incubation Programme was started in 2013 a few months after the state elections, by B.PAC and with Takshashila Institution as the knowledge partner. Takshashila runs the training programme – where over a 100 hours of classroom education is provided on three tracks of topics, concept, practice and field tracks; including on the municipal ecosystem, economic reasoning, persuasion, public finance and city-specific case studies.

Students are asked to prepare a “ward action plan and manifesto” using what they have learnt in the course and try to implement parts of it during six months of field work subsequent to the in-class training. We are now in the third batch of the programme, having successfully had two batches go through the process, with several people contesting the 2015 BBMP election both with party tickets and as independents.

ToI: How many students have you trained so far?
Pavan Srinath: We had an intake of 120+ participants over the first two batches, with another 40 in the third batch.

ToI: What is the socio-economic profile of your students?
Nitin Pai: We have a cross section of the population of Bangalore – they come from diverse backgrounds: we have auto rickshaw drivers, doctors, engineers, businesspeople, housewives, retirees and youth leaders.

ToI: What is the aim of the course?
Pavan Srinath: Our aim is to create a large and growing pool of individuals who are committed to transforming their localities and their city. As Cicero says, politics is a profession and not a pastime, and we aim to professionalise civic leadership and city politics. This is a tall order, and we just play one small role in it – and it may take a decade or more for some of these changes to manifest themselves.

B.CLIP aims to create a pool of good civic leaders who will actively engage in ward level management and administration of the city to improve its governance. The programme comprises of two phases: 3 months of part-time training programme and 6 months of on-field work in Bangalore.

ToI: How do you think this will change the political landscape of Bangalore in long run?
Pavan Srinath: After decades of elite and middle class apathy, we are witnessing a renewed interest in civic and political life. While people from various walks of life are now taking a positive interest in civic action and local political office – good intentions don’t always translate to good outcomes.

If running a company needs some form of management knowledge and training, running a city of 9 million people needs a lot more! We want to equip aspiring civic leaders with the skills, concepts and the confidence to run the marathon to transform Bengaluru. In the long run, we see this as our contribution for Bengaluru to develop world-class city leadership, with powerful, knowledgeable and effective city mayors and leaders.

ToI: What is the biggest hurdle or block you have to face while teaching this class?
Nitin Pai: There are no text books or curriculum materials already available — we had to create this from scratch, using bits of available material and substantially creating our own. Similarly we had to innovate a lot in how we teach concepts in economic reasoning, political philosophy and technology.

ToI: Why aren’t there more classes for politicians and aspiring leaders, especially in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka?
Nitin Pai: I commend B.PAC for having the vision to create competent civic leaders: to their credit, they spotted the biggest weakness in our system – the quality of people entering city politics and government.

Too many people still think politics is all about cynically manipulating money, caste & vested interests to win seats. Because this is true to a large extent people don’t invest in training leaders, because “why bother?” No wonder we get the same outcomes election after election.

B.PAC is engaged in a visionary experiment. If we have to have better governance we must create capable leaders and help them win elections. I’ve already seen many cities and groups keenly watching Bangalore to see what happens — we are setting an example for other cities.

For older articles on the B.CLIP programme, visit the media centre.

Times of India - BCLIP - Nov 2015