Knowledge Support for PEARL Programme under JNNURM
Lesson Learned for Cities Alliance Members and Partners
The supply vs. demand imbalance of knowledge exchange initiatives is one of the most critical issues that any knowledge network faces. Whereas cities (who are the prime recipients of knowledge) often voice their demands for knowledge exchange, these are only sporadic owing to their lack of ability to articulate their needs. Hence, there is a need to carry out knowledge needs assessment studies. 2. One of the other key challenges that PEARL programme management team in specific and NIUA as the institute faces in terms of deepening its engagement in knowledge exchange is the lack of internal capacities on knowledge management. There is a lack of trained professionals having expertise in contextual knowledge management. 3. Also, being a statutory body under a national level policy making organization, NIUA functions under a traditional institutional structure, systems and processes. Whereas, knowledge management in general and knowledge exchange in particular are identified as critical components of capacity building in this structure, they are not incentivized. This limits the institute’s capacity to invest and experiment with new and innovative knowledge exchange platforms. 4. City officials are the primary stakeholders of knowledge exchange but incorporating the culture of learning by sharing is still an impending challenge especially for medium and smaller towns with limited resources. The proponents of knowledge sharing and documentation can be incentivized by considering these activities as key indicators for the annual appraisal. 5. Academic and research institutes need to actively collaborate with urban local bodies for innovative communication platforms at regional levels. Crowd sourcing can be used as a tool for knowledge management for sustenance of these regional hubs. 6. User friendly design considerations are critical while managing knowledge content through websites in order to attract viewers to the site for more information on urban India. Thus, an in-house design team has been a very crucial factor in improving communications and dissemination. 7. Assimilating the database of municipal officials, urban development department administrators and relevant practitioners, experts, etc., is a key resource for knowledge exchange and regular updating is a challenge with constant transfers.
Launched by the Government of India in 2005, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) aims to transform urban policies and city management practices to create dynamic, sustainable cities and improve quality of life in cities. The challenges in achieving the objectives of the Mission are: (i) wide coverage both in terms of cities and population; (ii) wide scope in terms of programme components and urban reforms being implemented; and (iii) limited capacity in the state and Urban Local Bodies to implement the programme. The state and city governments have limited capacities to access JNNURM funds for infrastructure investments and to undertake the mandatory urban reforms. Knowledge support and knowledge sharing amongst JNNURM cities for project implementation, urban reforms and city governance has emerged as a key area for capacity building of Urban Local Bodies to achieve the objectives of JNNURM. In response to the emerging need, the Ministry of Urban Development approved the launch of the Peer Experience and Reflective Learning (PEARL) network in January 2007, under the JNNURM, to provide knowledge support to the cities for project implementation, reforms and city governance. The Cities Alliance Knowledge Support for PEARL Programme under JNNURM project will build on the Ministry of Urban Development initiative and contribute to making PEARL an effective learning and knowledge-sharing network.
The main objectives are: i. Operationalise the network by developing and installing processes/mechanisms to make PEARL an effective horizontal learning network, helping the member cities share and use knowledge for project implementation, urban reforms and city governance. ii. Assess knowledge needs of the network and fill the knowledge gaps by (a) accessing new global knowledge products; and (b) developing customised knowledge products through research and action projects. iii. Build capacities of the cities to use new knowledge to implement infrastructure projects and urban reforms. iv. Plug PEARL into other city/knowledge sharing networks (both national and international) such as network of African cities, United Cities and Local Governments-Africa, League of Cities of the Philippines, Cities Alliance-supported networks, among others. Develop PEARL into a platform for debate led by the cities on issues relating to policies and programmes to improve quality of life in the urban centres. PEARL is envisioned to provide a collective voice to cities for negotiating programmatic support from higher tiers of government.
Knowledge support to PEARL would be provided through the Knowledge Network Support Unit (KNSU), to be set up under National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). The key responsibilities of the KNSU would be as follows: 1) Assess knowledge needs of the cities for project implementation, urban reforms and city governance; 2) Fill the knowledge gaps by accessing global knowledge and, if required, develop new knowledge products and facilitate outreach of the cities to specialised agencies; 3) Act as feedback loop to Cities Alliance and its members to provide information on demands for new knowledge products, and serve as a conduit for Cities Alliance members to provide their knowledge products to PEARL; 4) Facilitate knowledge sharing with cities and PEARL Knowledge Managers; 5) Interface with other similar networks; and 6) Build capacities of cities and Knowledge Managers to use new knowledge for implementation of projects and reforms.
Expected Impacts and Results
PEARL has been an operational model for knowledge sharing based on user (cities) needs and demand. The objective wise accordance of the impact of the PEARL is listed below: i. The PEARL programme primarily through its knowledge exchange activities and its website pearl.niua.org (earlier version www.indiaurbanportal.in) has been instrumental in establishing PEARL as an effective horizontal learning network where cities and other members can effectively share and make use of the knowledge products. Offline arrangements for members in the form of access to the hardcopies of knowledge products (regional language newsletters etc.) at the workshop and training programs or post to their registered addresses, have brought robustness to the network outreach and communication strategies. ii. In order to mobilize the latent demand, NIUA conducted a pilot assessment in six cities in India to identify their knowledge needs. This study identified and articulated information/knowledge needs in Technical, Behavioral, Managerial and Institutional aspects and also barriers faced by these cities in accessing knowledge. The methodology adopted to undertake knowledge needs assessment (KNA) for cities was vetted by experts and disseminated widely for others to follow suit. As part of the MoUD component of PEARL programme 'PEARL internship programme with Urban Local Bodies in India' addressed the knowledge needs of JNNURM ULBs with the action research projects on specific areas echoed by officials of ULB. The design and delivery of internship resulted in locally-contextualized knowledge products. iii. Two key knowledge products which support PEARL programme efforts in building the capacities of JNNURM ULBs to use new knowledge (towards better implementation of infrastructure projects and urban reforms) are national and international workshops, exposure visits based on the needs of the urban local bodies in line with the mandate of Ministry of Urban Development and urban initiatives (MoUD component), good practice documentation followed by knowledge dissemination workshops. Workshops initially played the role of a catalyst in identifying the champion cities and later on provided a stage for the cities facing challenges to interact with better performing cities, thereby enhancing knowledge about innovative solutions from national and global experiences. Following the ideology of ‘seeing is believing’, PEARL programme include more exposure visits to its knowledge exchange instruments. The design of these visits based on the needs assessment of urban local bodies and experiential learning methodology which lead to developing leadership among the participating city officials. Urban initiatives and good practice documentation filled in the gap of reaching out to the cities which could not participate in these peer-to-peer learning activities and also showcased the champion cities thereby promoting the culture of innovative solutions, documentation and knowledge sharing itself. iv. PEARL has leveraged the resources of NIUA network, affiliation with MoUD and connected with national and international knowledge sharing network through its website and knowledge exchange activities. National networks include IHCN, CEPT University, ASCI, CIPS etc. international networks/research institutes include CityNet (Seoul), Metropolis (Barcelona), Planetizen (Washington D.C), KRIHS, Center for Livable Cities (Singapore), World Bank Institute (Washington D.C.) etc. v. PEARL Network was successful in facilitating the urban discourse and debates among cities, practitioners, academia and research communities on issues related to projects, policies, programs as part of its workshops, group workshops and exposure visits. PEARL Dialogue series towards the end of the PEARL program has been appreciated by members of PEARL network as a timely intervention to shed light on topics which are innovative and scalable to improve the quality of life in urban centers. vi. PEARL in some way provides a collective voice to cities for discussing programmatic support from Ministry by bringing together at a common platform as part of its knowledge exchange activities. Key deliberations as part of knowledge exchange activities and findings of research are documented and recommended to Ministry at regular intervals. In addition to this, cities enhance their knowledge and capacities about the policy, practice and urban research agenda by accessing knowledge solutions available through PEARL and its partner networks.