Lessons learnt in government relations

“Engaging with the movers and shakers of the sector varies depending on the geography and, more importantly, on the political hierarchy one is dealing with.”

Practice the 3P’s – Be Patient, Persistent & Proactive: While it may be the norm to expect delayed responses, consistency and persistency is key to engaging with government stakeholders at all levels, as well as to ensure that at no given point the ball is dropped. Each undertaking may either be long and arduous or markedly effortless, but it is critical to brace oneself for either of the outcomes and follow through regardless.

 It may be highly presumptuous of us to expect that our priority might feature in the government’s agenda. It may take years to come to their attention or might entirely be missed in its form at the time. Hence in such a setup, one cannot entirely rely on the government stakeholder. However, being proactive will help get visibility and drive the agenda on systems reforms.

Take a multi-layered approach: One of the biggest challenges plaguing the system is its fluidity and the resultant inconsistencies that it throws up. For instance, positions such as District Magistrate, District Program Officer and District Education Officer are held for very short periods of time. Given the transient nature of the bureaucracy, it is imperative that one cultivates multiple relationships, so that even if one individual is transferred or unavailable, continuity for the program is ensured.

Working for an organization aspiring to build an impactful relationship with government stakeholders, these have been some of my learnings. In common parlance, such a liaison may be variously described as either cooperative or confrontational, but how they emerge in practise depends a lot on the strategies outlined and the doggedness with which it is pursued.

It may also not be entirely irrelevant to attempt to understand the government’s position in these undertakings and their responses to the programs we propose. Whether it goes through or not, it will be well worth our time and energy to simply believe that both the government as well as non-profits are on the same team – both want to make life better, and if that were to be achieved through one or the other agents is irrelevant to the larger outcome.

As drivers of change and possibly better placed to articulate the needs of disadvantaged groups and facilitate services in this direction, it is also critical to be abreast with government policies and practices that affect non-profits. To sum it up, my experience has helped me identify the importance of working within existing government frameworks to achieve scalable solutions. And even within this system, it is crucial to engage simultaneously with every individual in the hierarchy – from top to bottom.


Amitav Nath, Associate Director, Anandshala at Quest Alliance

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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