Working for social impact, was an unfulfilled goal that I hoped I’d be able to do something about before I turned 30. Fortunately, it happened at 26. In November last year, when I got the opportunity to work with Swaniti Initiative, an organization working towards making the government administration more robust, I jumped at it.  A progressive parliamentarian, cooperative district officials, paddy fields and little children who think I am Babita from “Dangal” – Golaghat turned out to be a potential poster-boy for developmental work. I’m glad I jumped.

Golaghat district lies in Upper Assam, where 87% of the population lives in rural areas. Farming of paddy and tea are the main source of employment. Education levels are high but employment opportunities are few and anaemia and malnutrition rates are one of the highest in the country. So far, I have interacted with over 75 Aanganwadi workers, visited 7 schools and met with district officials from 13 departments to understand the existing government machinery.

Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, of Kaliabor constituency is a young MP with a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University. His background as an engineer, consultant and ample work experience as a social worker, has allowed him to approach politics with the same tools corporate India uses – analytics, big data and disruptive ideas.

He was so impressed with the model that Swaniti follows that he asked me to encourage college students in Golaghat district to select development challenges and give solutions that are practical and implementable. As a result, I have interacted with students from 15 government colleges in the district, and 22 teams have decided to take on the “MP Development Challenge”.

Students have chosen important development areas like the quality of primary education, impurities in the river water, problems faced by farmers and public health infrastructure to name a few. What’s more, professors have decided to support their college teams and are helping them conduct interviews, design questionnaires and guiding them with writing reports.

I have got a chance to understand the youth of Golaghat, learn what they aspire to become and gotten acquainted with their problems. Through the MP Development challenge I will empower 132 participating students to become drivers of change. These students will not stop at verbalizing their problems. Through a structured program, research training and a chance to engage with the MP – they’ll be able to do something about them.

The finale shall be held on 10th April 2017, where the participating teams shall present their solutions to a panel of judges. The winning team’s solution shall be given Rupees Five Lakhs and the district administration shall implement the solution. The winning team shall coordinate with the district administration to see their idea take life. I guess this is what impact looks like when it’s just about starting out.

Simran Rana is a SPARC Associate working with Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi.

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