The Swaniti initiative launched in 2011 connects young professionals with local MPs, or MLAs offices for a full-time working fellowship to help the MP or MLA plan and execute various government programmes
A masters in public policy from the Howard Kennedy School, 26-year-old Rwitwika Bhattacharya worked with the UN and the World Bank on an idea for a startup that mushroomed in her head. She wanted to create a channel of entry for people to work with governments on policy matters.
The Swaniti initiative launched in 2011 connects young professionals with local MPs, or MLAs offices for a full-time working fellowship to help the MP or MLA plan and execute various government programmes. Presently being run on a not-for-profit model, Rwitwika is now working on a business model that is self sustainable and scalable.
In India, young minds get an opportunity to be part of the government machinery either through the civil services or political party. Rwitwika decided it was time for change and founded the Swaniti initiative in 2011 to create a new channel to engage young professionals with governance.
The initiative launched its first round of fellowship in February last year and today has over 29 fellows who worked directly under 12 elected representatives.
Rwitwika says: "Where we get young professionals who at an average age of 27-28 go in and work on a specific development problem, for example youth unemployment in Himachal. We worked with the MP there to figure out what are the best ways to reduce unemployment. So, it is very much a consulting style engagement which we work on, on development policies in the constituency. At this point we are the only players in this primarily because it is such an un-pioneered territory, no one else has gone in and worked with elected officials in this capacity and that just gives us a tremendous advantage."
Sanjukta Roy has been working with Member of Parliament from Kendrapara Odisha and our young turk Jay Panda. Under this initiative, fellows work directly with MPs, MLAs and even cabinet ministers on problem areas in their constituencies. The process usually includes conducting research, gathering data or implementing programmes where fellows travel within or outside the constituency.
Jay Panda, MP, Kendrapara Odisha, says: "It is a very good thing that more and more young men and women are interested in devoting some time towards social issues, who are trying to improve the country. What is interesting is many are professionally qualified. The two Swaniti fellows I had earlier worked with had professional degrees in engineering and management and the current fellow – is a professional, she has worked in important organisations internationally. So, this is a good sign, these are professionals, qualified and they are bringing specific skills where we have a need for them in the constituency and improving systems of governance."
Currently Sawniti has an operation budget of Rs 3 crore annually, which comes from grants and donations. However, Rwitwika is working towards transforming this venture into a for-profit business. She plans to diversify into providing subsidised consulting services to social enterprises, conducting paid for third-party project feasibility studies in rural areas and much more.