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Multi-stakeholder partnerships under the Rajasthan education initiative: if not for profit, then for what?

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:03 authored by Anupam Pachauri
This thesis explores the development of a multi-stakeholder partnership model using a multiple case study research design. Specifically this study examines the rationale for the launch of the Rajasthan Education initiative, its development and its impact on educational development and reaches conclusions about the scalability and sustainability of multistakeholder partnerships (MSPs) in the context of Rajasthan. The literature review shows that there is insufficient independent research evidence to support the widespread claims that public private partnerships (PPPs), of which MSP is a new ‘avatar’, are able to deliver results in terms of developmental gains and added value. This paucity of evidence and profusion of claims is partly explained by the fact, that the research that has been commissioned is not independent and its conclusions have been shaped by vested interests of those promoting the organisations they claim to evaluate. In particular organisations associated with the World Economic Forum (WEF) have been projecting PPPs and programmes of corporate responsibility as a way to engage for-profit organisations and enhance the effectiveness of external support for the delivery of services to basic education. Alongside this not-for-profit PPPs are seldom scrutinised in terms of public accountability, value for money, scalability, or sustainability partly due to the voluntary nature of such inputs to the public system. I believe my research makes a new and unique contribution to the independent evaluation of state enabled, not-for-profit MSPs in action. The research selected eight formal partnerships for case study which were selected using a matrix of organisational characteristics, scale and scope of interventions. The case studies are organised into four thematic groups i.e, School adoption, ICT based interventions, teachers’ training and universalisation of elementary education in underserved urban localities. Each case study is examined using a framework which highlights three dimensions. These are i) the design of the partnership, ii) stakeholder involvement and intra agent dynamics and iii) the Governance of the partnership. A cross case analysis of the eight partnerships is used to arrive at conclusions about MSPs in Rajasthan. This uses the concept of double contingency of power (Sayer 2004), and specifically the concept of causal power and causal susceptibilities and Stake’s (2006) multiple case analysis, to discuss the commonalities and differences across partnerships and emerging themes while cross analysing the partnerships. I have engaged in interpretivist inquiry and sought to understand the workings of an MSP which involves businesses and CSR groups alongside NGOs and government agencies with an aim to place Rajasthan on a fast development track. Rather than looking for an ideal type MSP, I problematise the MSPs in Rajasthan as I explain the workings of an MSP model in action. Given this methodological perspective, I have used semi structured interviews, observations of the partnership programmes in action, and document analysis as methods to collect and corroborate data for this study. The study concludes that the exiting MSP arrangements in REI are not scalable, unsustainable and have very limited impact. Moreover, the MSPs are unstable and reflect fluid inter-organisational evolution, as well as ambiguous public accountability. There was no purposeful financial management at the REI management level. In addition the exit routes for partners supporting interventions were not planned, resulting in the fading away of even those interventions that showed promise in accruing learning gains for children, and by schools and teachers. Non-scalability and lack of sustainability can be inferred from the fact that the partners do not have a long term view of interventions, lack sustained commitment for resource input and the interventions are implemented with temporary work force. The instability of the partnerships can be explained through the absence of involvement of government teachers and communities. Also economic and political power dominated the fate of the programmes. In this MSP it was clear that corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a driving force for establishing the MSP but was not backed by continued and meaningful engagement. The ‘win-win’ situation of greater resources, efficiency and effectiveness, which formed the basic premise for launching the REI was not evident in reality. MSPs are gaining currency globally. This research points to the fact that much more intentional action needs to be taken to ensure that partnerships such as these have a sustained impact on development. The problems and issues of education are historically, politically and socially embedded. Any action that does not take this into account and which is blind to the interests of different stakeholders in MSPs, will surely fall short of achieving what it set out to do. Further independent research examining the ambitions and realities of other MSPs is needed to inform policy development and implementation. This is essential for achieving the goals of education for all before investing further in what appears to be a flawed modality to improve access, equity and outcomes in education.


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