India, a developing country with a strong and vibrant democracy, exhibits many elements of weak institutions and associated problems of ineffective governance. Both state and national legislatures are characterized by high levels of corruption, criminality, and poor performance. At the same time, a number of elected representatives are well-known for delivering to their constituents through services and representation. While elected representatives are of course practiced in obtaining political support, this task can often be quite divorced from how they actually perform in their job. There is no well accepted body of knowledge about how to be a successful politician and representative at apex level governing bodies.
While it is natural to suppose that individual motivation is an important input into their performance, what are the activities and strategies of those representatives who have been most successful in performing their jobs?
Can relevant skills and information (e.g. on time use) be developed into a training course designed to encourage and inform representatives on how to act more effectively in the interests of their constituents?
This pilot study will focus on elected members of local government bodies at the district-level (the Zilla Parishad), a training ground for future political careers at the state and national levels, and the bridge between state and village level government administration responsible for allocating all government spending in rural areas. The first stage of this study is to intensively study and document the specific activities and strategies of those politicians who have been most successful in performing their jobs in the interests of their constituents. From there, the next stage will synthesize the information obtained on what good politicians do into a teachable form, drawing on this information to construct a “best practice” course designed to impart that knowledge to both incoming and incumbent politicians.
In future stages of this project, if funded, the team would like to implement a randomized intervention, offering the course to a treatment group of politicians, and compare citizen engagement and policy outcomes to a control group of politicians who were not offered or exposed to the course – thus aiming to provide causal evidence on the effect of information and awareness of best practices on the performance of politicians.