SPARC is an initiative by Tata Trusts, the Constitution Club of India (CCI) and Swaniti to leverage big data and analytics to bring about societal transformation. SPARC stands for “Supporting Parliamentarians on Analysis and Research in the Constituency.”
SPARC is a grassroots level program that pairs youth leaders with Members of Parliament for a period of one year. Twenty young leaders will be working with twenty MPs across India to support development programs in the constituency.
In mid 2015, Kalikesh Singh Deo lead a cohort of MPs in a brainstorming session so that parliamentarians 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 initiative 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.
Prabhat Pani, Head of Partnerships at Tata Trusts says, “Our experience has shown that to make a scalable impact, one must work cohesively with the government. The Trusts also works with elected representatives. With SPARC, our vision was to see how to use professionals who look at data for decision-making in planning development work at a constituency level.”
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.
There is a two pronged approach to boost the efficiency of development programs. The first is capacity building for government officials on a technology and usability front, the second is the promotion of constant use of data. The data is used both for formulation of policy as well as checking the progress of the implementation of the program on a day to day basis.
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.
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.
Interested individuals can sign up for the SPARC program. Associates need to have good communication skills, demonstrate problem solving abilities and have a strong academic background. Applications for the 2017-18 cohort are closed, but interested readers can save this link for applying next year.
This article is the third part in a series of articles exploring the initiatives by Tata Trusts to use technologies to drive societal transformation. The previous articles in the series covered the DRUV project, the DELTA program, and the City Data Initiative.