Home > Uncategorized > Inspirational Woman: Rwitwika Bhattacharya | CEO, Swaniti Initiative

Inspirational Woman: Rwitwika Bhattacharya | CEO, Swaniti Initiative

Tell us about yourself and your background

My overall mission is to improve the development indicators in select constituencies through effective intervention by local administration.

Rwitwika BhattacharyaSwaniti aims to deliver development solutions through government officials. We work in governance to leverage state and central government resources to initiate, implement and accelerate development solutions. Our focus areas of work are where we have seen our efforts to be most fruitful, which are in sub-areas of health, education, gender, livelihood and water & sanitation. Swaniti is involved in projects where a tangible good or service deliverable towards development exists at the end of our work. Thus far, Swaniti has worked with over a hundred Parliamentarians, fifteen state level legislators and four Chief Ministers (CMs) offices by either providing implementation support in the constituency (Engagement), research support on key developmental programs (Research) or strategic data based insight to aid development strategy (Data and Technology Insight).

When was the organisation established?

The organization was originally piloted in 2009 and registered in 2012 as a charitable trust in India.

Which cities are you operating from?

We work with Parliamentarians across India since our focus is to find communities where we can make the most impact and leaders who are most open to work on development. We are headquartered in New Delhi and currently are working in seventeen states across India.

Why was the organisation set up?

In May 2009 as the general election results were in full bloom the concept of creating an organization that supported elected officials to deliver development emerged. After subsequent discussions with professors and other classmates, the idea of a non-profit organisation that would support the Indian government was honed further. That summer a pilot program was launched with two students from Harvard Business School and one Kennedy School.

The students worked with Jayant Sinha in Hazaaribagh, Jharkhand to develop a grievance redressal system for his father’s, Yashwant Sinha, constituency. The experience was tremendously rewarding and they were able to setup a mobile based system that would report and route concerns from constituents. The experience of working in Hazaaribagh sowed the seeds for the Swaniti program’s model of working with individual MPs (as opposed to parties). Over the next three years, Swaniti’s founder, Rwitwika Bhattacharya, spoke to various MPs, Officers on Special Duty, bureaucrats and MPs team members to understand the aim. It was evident that there were very few players there and tremendous space to grow, especially to provide a structured approach toward development by leveraging technology and expert insight.

In 2012, I left my job at the World Bank and joined Swaniti full time. Since then the Swaniti team has worked with 100+ MPs, grown it’s team size to 20 full time staff members, been featured by the Economic Times, Forbes, Times of India and invited to the White House. Swaniti leverages knowledge and technology to support elected officials.

What is the mission of the organisation?
  • Short Term goals? Our short term goal is to help elected officials deliver development programs that fall within their purview, like the execution of the MP Local Area Development Fund or help them successfully adopt and execute on the Model Village program.
  • Long term goals? In the longer term we hope to institutionalize systems, tools and culture of elected officials being able to deliver ceaselessly and flawlessly on development programs. We feel that there exists a strong will amongst elected officials to deliver on development but there aren’t the right tools or resources available.
Are you currently running any special initiatives?

One of the initiatives that we are particularly excited about is the Indian Women’s Parliamentarian Forum. Indian Women’s Parliamentarians Forum is a non-partisan forum, consisting of female MPs from different parties and regions who come together with the common goal of supporting each other and working together a development agenda. The IWPF holds frequent meetings amongst women leaders and aims to build the capacity of female MPs in India.

How do you fundraise?

Swaniti Initiative is supported by a combination of high net worth individuals and foundations. We have some incredible partners which include Tata Trust, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative and Rohini Nilekani’s governance support.

How can others help?

We are constantly on the look out for passionate individuals who want to bring development to India through governance. We feel the biggest help for us would be the time and commitment of talented professionals and therefore we would like to invite dedicated professionals to come work with us.

Who are the faces behind the organisation: Founders, Directors, Board Members

Our greatest strength is the Swaniti team. We have brilliant young minds from IIT, IIM, Harvard and Stanford who come and work with us. These young individuals commit themselves to 14-hour days in some of the most difficult parts of India to bring ground level change through policy, data and information. For example currently we have two incredible professionals working close to 18-hour days for 6 days a week to launch a data based program in Balasore, Orissa. Our team is who we are!

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