Innovation Beyond TCV
Public Service Innovation is a noble idea for a vibrant, effective and people-oriented public sector in Bangladesh. The Cabinet Division under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is earnestly working through the a2i programme to establish an innovative environment and culture of providing public service. a2i’s capacity development efforts have already seen a number of government officials come up with innovations that were widely appreciated.
The Cabinet Division, for its part, has introduced rewards and incentives for such innovators. Basic focus of these initiatives is to develop new ideas minimizing the time, cost and number of visits (TCV) of citizens seeking service.
In many cases, however,the time, cost and visit number are merely the surface of what the innovation manages to effect. The behavioral change of the typical risk-averse conforming bureaucrat is further transforming the traditionally stiff relationship with the citizens — the service seekers. These innovations are providing care beyond their primary objectives of TCV minimization. The Upazila Cooperatives Office of Panchagarh District Has Ensured assistance to the cooperatives at every stage from registration to management. A simple innovation has helped the cooperative societies to sustain in the long run. Upazila Youth Development Office of Thakurgaon has introduced post-training support for production and marketing to young entrepreneurs by updating its traditional mechanism.
Upazila Cooperative Officer Mamun Kabir said, “Online registration is an important step for easy and corruption-free service. It has minimized the TCV significantly. But my innovation is not limited to TCV minimization only. I introduced a regular monitoring system for monitoring each registered society time to time and providing necessary advice and support. Easy registration makes people willing to form a society, but further care makes the society more sustainable.”
Several cooperative societies have already been developed with more systematic management, better production capacity and excellent market linkage. Farmers under these societies are producing and marketing collectively and they are getting better prices too. Among them, Galeha Oikko Kolyan Krishok Somobay Samity supplies tomatoes to 17 districts during the summer. Their 70 warehouses made it possible to supply 1.66 crore tonnes last year.
Galeha cooperative secretary Saddam Hossain said the farmers were at their wit’s end with their tomatoes since even their cost of production could not be covered with the local prices. “Then we got registered with the Upazila Cooperative Office.”
With Mamun Kabir’s support, the Galeha cooperative farmers linked up with their market in Dhaka and then to other districts and the scenario changed drastically. “He still visits us regularly to provide further advice. Now we are getting better price,”said Saddam Hossain.
Kristy Krishi Somobay Somiti exports sesame seeds through e-commerce. It exported the little-known seed worth around Tk 2.80 crore to China and South Korea last year. That is only a drop in the bucket, considering that the produce has an export potential of Tk 90 crore this year. People of the marginalised groups are getting benefits as well from the innovation pilot.
Upazila Youth Development Office of Thakurgaon was providing its usual training to the youth. In some cases, the trade was not selected on the basis of local youths’ needs. The training process itself was conventional and no post-training support was provided for their self-employment projects.
Md. Kamruzzaman, then Upazila Youth Development Officer of Thakurgaon Sadar said he did not stop just by making the registration process easier. “The main challenge was to make the entrepreneurs successful in their business.”
So Kamruzzman linked them with the Upazila Cooperative Office to form groups of trained youths. “Then I started to work for their access to market and marketing capacity development through regular workshops and training events. Now, they are doing much better.”
Bikash Bangla, a cooperative society growing and marketing mainly mushrooms, was trained by the Department of Youth Development. It has created direct employment for more than 200 youths directly and many more indirectly.
Pompi, a young woman of 26, and a member of Bikash Bangla said she received training when she was still a student. “Mushroomwas new in our district, so there were challenges including social stigma. Upazila Youth Development Office helped a lot.”
She says now they have resolved many of these issues and the business has become reasonably stable. “And we are determined to spread this not only in this district, but all over Bangladesh,”says Pompi.
Bikash Bangla’s door to door marketing is making the mushrooms popular which is fashioning a replicable agro-business enterprise in Bangladesh.
* Isfaqul Kabir Sarker is working as a freelance writer in a2i program