Recently, SPARC, the Constitution Club of India (CCI) and Swaniti has leveraged big data and analytics to bring about societal transformation. SPARC—which stands for “Supporting Parliamentarians on Analysis and Research in the Constituency”—is a grassroot-level program that pairs youth leaders with members of parliament (MPs) for a period of one year. Twenty young leaders will be working with 20 MPs across India to support development programs in the constituency.
Kalikesh Singh Deo, an Indian politician from Odisha and a leader of the Biju Janata Dal political party, lead a cohort of MPs in a brainstorming session in mid 2015 so that MPs could effectively implement their development program in their constituencies. One of the problem areas identified was that there was little or no help available to the MPs, and thus the SPARC, an initiative by Tata Trusts, was born.
SPARC is a fellowship program that started in 2016, which ensures the continued engagement of the MPs with the development programs in the constituencies, builds the capacity of the fellows on a leadership front, and also effectively uses government networks at the same time. One of the main objectives of the initiative is to improve the efficiency of the delivery of government programs. Other objectives include increasing the amount of funds available to development initiatives, as well as improving the ecosystem of the constituencies. The SPARC initiative gets the youth involved in government programs, and at the same time attracts professional talent to work in the government space.
The program has successfully used digital interventions and encouraged the culture of reliance on data for development initiatives. Associates and MPs have worked on a wide range of issues within the constituencies, including livelihoods, education, energy, water, sanitation, agricultural enhancement and women empowerment. So far the program has managed to clearly identify priority issues for fast tracking of constituency development, enabling effective usage of funds by securing access to entitlements for marginalized communities, and creating ownership of data driven governance mechanisms at community and government levels.
Through the initiative, fruit processing clusters have been developed in Maharashtra increasing the income of 1,600 tribal families, surveys of skill development requirements were conducted in Bihar, CSR funds from companies was used to install solar street lights in Rajasthan, and sustainable cattle breeding centers were set up in Telangana.
Currently, SPARC is in its second year of the program. The fellowship is being implemented in 20 constituencies across 16 states, with a focus on ensuring diversity in selection of the MPs and fellows. The current plans for SPARC is to continue with its close knit structure, to improve the robustness of the program. Depending on the effectiveness, the program can scale up and expand to additional constituencies.