I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of a recently concluded transformation exercise by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The GoAP is collaborating with the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) of the Prime Minister’s Office, Government of Malaysia in conducting a problem solving exercise called the “lab”. It is a unique method which spans across 14 weeks during which elaborate stakeholder consultations are conducted, issues are identified, solutions are emerged, and initiatives are designed. I was part of the retail lab whose objective was to transform the retail sector in Andhra Pradesh and make it a key economic driver and employment generator. The team which I was a part of specifically focussed on improving the linkages of the small producers with the retail supply chain.
The beauty of this method is its inclusiveness. Identification of issues, and design of solutions and initiatives are not done by bureaucrats or other senior officials in closed rooms but are evolved through long and detailed consultations with all the stakeholders. For instance, during the retail lab, we held discussions with the rural women who make pickles, pappads, and doormats, GMs and VP of big retails chains in the country, government officials who are involved in retail-related functions, trade and commerce associations, and more. When such people with diverse perspectives, interests, and experiences came together and spent weeks together, syndicating and deliberating, what evolved out of the process were ideas which were agreed to by most of the participants if not all, and which may be different from the conventional ones. This method is in tune with the changing trend worldwide that public policy making is becoming more participatory.
At the end of 14 weeks, a range of new initiatives emerged from our retail lab. These can positively impact the rural women entrepreneurs, kirana stores, and other big and small retail outlets.
Experiences like this are huge learning opportunities for young professionals like me. Synthesizing inputs from multiple stakeholders and channelling them towards design of initiatives is an exciting exercise of solving problems that the people of our country face. In one shot, one learns on two fronts. One is the subject matter, meaning being part of retail lab, I learnt a truck load of new things about the retail sector in the state and in general. Two, one learns a very effective process of problem solving: issues >> solutions >> initiatives. And this is something which can be applied to any scenario of problem solving.
Looking forward to more labs in the future!