Policy implementation versus policy 'design' is a problem that I obsess over a fair amount. Social and economic policies in India are absolutely amazing - on paper. As a researcher I read a lot of policy evaluation type of research, but I never really got the chance to read the policy documents themselves. Since starting off a bit more in the "practitioner" world, I've needed to read the documents themselves... and I find them really fantastic in the true sense of the word - I'm pretty certain these policies will look very different on the ground. The implementation seems to be barely thought out in many of the urban poverty policies, the expectation being that private partners and NGOs will step in to miraculously make things better.
Not going to happen.
The problem I point out below is not even in the implementation stage, it comes in the planning stage. In most countries not just India, the massive bureaucratic structures, multiple ministry portfolios and so on, make it very difficult to target one welfare or development problem with an integrated, comprehensive set of solutions. Instead, each ministry or department makes up its own policies, implements them through its own machinery, and the target of those policies - the average citizen - is usually inundated with a dozen conflicting policies and regulation sets that at the very best, leave his lot unchanged.
Anyway, that was a rant, but here is a more objective quick view of one such policy coordination problem.
Recently, policies in India that target urban poverty have been trying to scale up their impact and take a more integrated approach to poverty alleviation by focusing on communities as a whole. Urban poor youth have been specifically targeted by just drafted policies such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM). This policy attempts to generate livelihood opportunities by providing skills training for gaining wage-based employment in the private sector, but also assistance for setting up individual or group-based micro-entrepreneurships within communities. On the other hand, a policy such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) focuses on infrastructure provision for urban poor communities – healthcare, education, water supply, sanitation and housing – but emphasizes public-private sector partnerships rather than beneficiary communities as the agent for provision. This is despite accumulating evidence showing that production and delivery of public goods and services may be more efficient when co-produced by the communities themselves. Such divergent policy approaches create a two fold problem in relation to socioeconomic opportunities for urban poor youth in particular.
(If you want to know more about the through the JNNURM policy, you can go to this website maintained by the Govt. of India)
First, the government’s plan for a massive rehaul of urban infrastructure has the potential to generate a large number jobs that can then be used to further the livelihoods mission of its urban welfare based policies such as NULM. Without systematic coordination of the two policies however, it is likely that NULM-implementing NGOs and government agencies will fund training in skills that are not well matched to the jobs being generated. The costs of this foregone opportunity are potentially quite large but also imminent considering that the policy does not mandate training in specific skills. Second, participation in the service sectors of healthcare and education could itself take the form of entrepreneurship if young people in these communities could be trained to devise and implement innovative strategies for delivering these services to their communities.
Were the JNNURM and NULM policies to be efficiently coordinated, the government could create not just young entrepreneurs, but young social sector entrepreneurs.
The creation of social entrepreneurship is heavily dependent on the ability to facilitate collective action amongst the urban poor youth. Current research on facilitating collective action in the urban context is relatively sparse; much of the work on the subject has either been experimental and done in laboratories or empirical and done in the rural context. This isn't surprising this poverty alleviation policies in developing countries have traditionally focused on rural poverty, not as much urban.
The conditions that characterize urban communities – high socioeconomic and cultural heterogeneity along with fluctuating community structure - are conditions that research tentatively predicts might not lead to very successful community-level governance of economic resources. How this translates into the context of collective action for purposes of economic entrepreneurship? Not entirely clear. However, since research on local governance reveals that heterogeneity may have both negative and positive effects on measures of both success and fair distribution of costs and benefits, such policies must be carefully designed.