Academic Partnership-Tata Institute of Social Sciences


With a strong shared belief that there is an imperative need to invest in developing professionals who can work with local governments, Avantika Foundation and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) have jointly undertaken a number of initiatives towards creating a cadre of professionals to strengthen local governments.

Young Professionals Programme in Local Governance

TISS and Avantika Foundation have jointly anchored the 'Young Professionals Programme in Local Governance' since 2013 in the state of Maharashtra under which young professionals reside and work in Gram Panchayats.

Area of coverage: 3 Gram Panchayats in Osmanabad taluka of Maharashtra (Scale up to other states proposed)

What we do?

The Programme places young professionals to reside and work in Gram Panchayats and draws on the Gram Panchayat Organisation Development (GPOD) framework and a 'Conscious Full Spectrum Approach' (CFS) to deliver results on the ground. The Conscious Full Spectrum Approach is a meta-frame of response to challenges of justice that is broadly based on three different and simultaneous human capacities: the capacity to source inner power and stand in one's values, think systemically and strategically, and act in a principled manner to deliver tangible results for well-being.

Based on the experience of the LGYP programme, TISS has decided to scale to various states in the country with the purpose of fostering practitioners who can strengthen Gram Panchayats.

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was established in 1936 as the Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work. In 1944, it was renamed as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. In 1964, it was deemed to be a University under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act (UGC), 1956. Since its inception, the Vision of the TISS has been to be an institution of excellence in higher education that continually responds to changing social realities through the development and application of knowledge, towards creating a people-centred, ecologically sustainable and just society that promotes and protects dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all. Over the years, the Institute has made consistent contributions to civil society and the development sector through its education, research, field action and extension. Today, the TISS has earned recognition as an institution of repute from different Ministries of the Government of India; various State Governments; international agencies such as the United Nations; and the non-government sector, both national and international. A high degree of freedom and autonomy shape the positive work ethos and creativity in the Institute facilitating strong linkages between education, research, field action and dissemination.

MPhil & PHd programme in Decentralisation, Local Government and Development

Avantika Foundation in partnership with the School of Development at TISS has designed an integrated MPhil & PhD Programme in 'Decentralisation and Government'. It discusses decentralisation and the strengthening of local governments in the context of development as it is understood in the 21st century.

Objective of the MPhil & PHd programme:

The MPhil & PHd programme focuses primarily on recognising local governments as institutions and organisations which require strengthening (in terms of design, incentives, behaviour etc.) such that they can facilitate efficient governance. Within the larger context of decentralisation and development, this programme is premised on an understanding that effective decentralisation is as much an outcome of efficient institutional and organisational design as it is about empowering people to engage with these institutions and organisations.

Structure of the MPhil & PHd programme:

The proposed MPhil & PHd programme departs from conventional Mphil programmes as it is structured to be imparted largely in the field i.e. by placing students in local governments while simultaneously equipping them with knowledge and skills to work alongwith this third tier of governance, in a bid to strengthen them. The programme is premised on GPOD and Avantika Foundation's intervention in the Gram Panchayats of Karnataka.

The Programme is divided broadly into two parts:

Part I: It encompasses class room based learning and is restricted to one semester. It aims to advance the understanding of human development and decentralisation with a focus on the rights based approach, the state-citizen interface and social accountability mechanisms. In addition, the semester will also include an extensive Research Methods Module which is applied in nature i.e. the module adopts a 'learning by doing' – 'Policy and Action Research-based' Pedagogy. Students undergoing this module are encouraged to work in small groups to understand and assimilate issues pertaining to organisational development and organisational and individual behaviour and organisational change. The sessions will focus on case study based learning methods focusing on effective decentralisation through human development.

Part II: The remaining year and a half is largely field based learning where, on one hand, the students will work with identified local governments, and, will engage in 'learning by doing' in identifying issues / challenges / problems encountered by local governments. On the other hand, the students in are expected to build momentum while outlining a framework for positive change at the local level. Students are thus expected to work with local government units to a) establish a baseline on the status of local government unit and its functioning across various development and governance related parameters; b) evolve a "local government transformation plan" outlining a shared vision, prioritisation and focus areas for next 3 years and annual plans for realising the priorities in focus areas and c) work out an organisational design and systems for the local government unit. In addition, students are also required to work on one identified thematic / specialised area of their interest to be then written up as the dissertation. The dissertation constitutes the basis for evaluation.

The main objective of structuring the programme as a combination of class room training and field experience is to create a cadre of local government professionals in the country. In the first year, the course targets development professionals with a Master's Degree in a related discipline. It is envisaged that in the subsequent years, the course will be opened up to local government bureaucrats and technocrats.

Expected Outcome

At the end of this course, the students should:

  • Develop a critical understanding of development history and theory and the emergence of governance (as different from governments) as a concept and as a practice.
  • Be equipped to account for relevant theories and policy trends on governance, decentralization, development and poverty
  • Have established a more elaborated understanding of local government institutions and organisational frameworks and the way they impact development, empowerment and poverty
  • Have knowledge on local government structures, design and governance practices
  • Engage in experiential learning to comprehend and internalise local government set-up, relevant or applicable institutions and practices of governance

Within the larger programme, CDLG, Avantika Foundation has taken the lead in designing four modules of the curriculum viz:

  • Research Methods module which is applied in nature, focusing on a policy and action research based pedagogy
  • Decentralisation and Governance
  • Fiscal Federalism and Financing for Development, and
  • Local Finances and Budgeting for Human Development