As strong institutions of self-government require a compassionate and capable elected body that truly represents the voice and aspirations of people of the villages, our work is primarily with elected members. However, in the present scenario, there is widespread distrust in the ability and motivation of elected members. Therefore, despite the presence of a constitutionally mandated body at the village level, most government and non-government agencies create parallel planning and implementation structures at the grassroots level. We need to recognize the contributions, which Gram Panchayat members can potentially make, and create enabling environments and incentives for them to learn and function in the mainstream system. In this way, we are moving towards another key goal, i.e., developing the social capital at the grassroots and bringing rural citizens and their representatives into the mainstream decision-making process. The Gram Panchayat Organisation Development (GPOD) process is an initiative in this particular direction.
The GPOD framework is based on Organisation Development (OD) principles. The rationale for using OD framework is its focus on the organisation as a whole, and not on standalone components. The premise is that successful change occurs when all components of an organisation are aligned, i.e. the vision, skills, incentives, resources, action plan and results. Our work with the two panchayats has helped us evolve certain key foundational principles. (1) We believe that the Gram Panchayat is pivotal in improvement of service delivery and governance at the last mile. (2) The focus of capacity building should be on building a strong Gram Panchayat organisation, which will enhance their absorptive capacity to leverage different efforts and resources directed at them. (3) Elected representatives can contribute significantly towards the Gram Panchayat performing their mandated roles. (4) Lastly, a number of policy changes have to be instituted to create an enabling environment for the Gram Panchayat to function as equal intergovernmental bodies.