Ten steps to make your ward committee meetings effective

GUIDE TO WARD COMMITTEE MEETINGS

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A ward committee meeting in Shanthi Nagar (ward 117). Pic: Rekha Chari

Recently, the citizens’ movement CfB (Citizens for Bengaluru) presented the Corporator #1 awards to the BBMP councillors who had attended the most ward committee meetings. If you are convinced that ward committee is an effective mechanism to engage with the government, this articles gives some pointers for you to get started.

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Bengaluru’s governance is what it is due to decades of apathy and lack of active citizen participation. There are no instant fixes, but things can be improved if committed citizens come together and work on the ground with a clear action plan.

The good news is, there are many active citizens out there. If we channel our energies and use formal processes and forums like ward committees, we will see a remarkable transformation, one street at a time. This requires patience and perseverance the most.The motto is “slow and steady wins the race!”. Each ward has at least 50,000 people, now even if 100 people come together, it will be a start.

Here is a step-by-step guide for you to mobilise fellow citizens and actively engage with your ward committee, for better local governance.

Step 1:  Form a group of citizens from your ward who are interested in engaging with your ward committee for the next six months. Find tips on creating such groups, towards the end of this article.

Step 2:  Familiarise yourself with the concept of ward committees, find out who your ward committee members are, and organise discussion forums. Find the details of your ward committee members here. You can reach out to CfB for help, if needed.

Step 3:  Engage with your corporator and ward committee members before the monthly ward committee meeting. Confirm the time and place of the meeting, and spread the word beforehand.

Step 4:  Attend the ward committee meeting to raise issues. Ensure that the minutes of meeting are recorded and posted in the BBMP website. Spread information about the minutes in your local communities.

Step 5:  Ensure the monthly meetings always begin with follow up of action items from the previous meeting. Get all responses from the corporator and officials recorded by the secretary of the ward committee.

Step 6:  Keep local communities informed of the decisions made in ward committees. Invite them to join the next meeting.

Step 7:  Use platforms like IChangeMyCity to better understand funds and projects in your ward. Also, push the ward office to display information on all ward-level projects, bills, beneficiaries, property tax collection, meeting notices etc, to make it accessible to all.

Step 8:  A week before the ward committee meeting, give written requests to include specific items in the meeting agenda. Giving formal written requests is key, and someone in your group must take this responsibility. Ideally, the agenda is to be prepared by the ward committee secretary based on formal requests from citizens. Ad hoc meetings without clear agenda, action items or follow up won’t last too long.

Step 9:  Organise ward committee awareness sessions in local schools, parks and residential areas. Invite the corporator, ward committee secretary and members to these sessions. People in your ward should know them.

Step 10: Set up social media spaces for your ward committee, and keep updating these with photos, videos, details of decisions made, challenges faced etc. This would get more people to follow and participate in your ward committee meetings.

If another group is already working on ward committees, join them instead of creating yet another forum; it is always a good idea to combine forces.

Use technology to build a strong local community that engages with the ward committee

  • Start a citizens’ group for your ward on WhatsApp first (Facebook/Twitter can wait).
  • Call it BBMP Ward <number>. Example: BBMP-W195-Citizens.
  • Add people who you know are interested in civic issues of the ward. Ask them to add others. You need 10 to begin with. Get 10!
  • Set ground rules for the group. No politics, jokes or forwards. Focus on ward issues.
  • Post in other Watsapp groups of the ward (apartments, Resident Welfare Associations etc) about the creation of the new group on ward committee, and invite active citizens to join. Describe ward boundaries since some people may not know about their own ward.
  • Educate group members on ward committees; use media reports if necessary.
  • Get different group members to take on different roles, to balance workload and to leverage strengths. For example, one person can track meetings and call ward committee members. Another can focus on bringing new people into the group.
  • Target locally-active people who already work on civic issues, to include as group members. They may not be aware of ward committees. You can find them easily. Make efforts to reach out to all sections of society. Be inclusive; every voice matters.
  • Bring in tech-savvy  people. Social media can be of great help in finding people in your locality. A Facebook group for your ward can be a powerful communication channel.
  • Actively monitor the group, encourage  discussion and debate, take up projects and issues that impact many people, and drive towards closure of issues. It is important to get small wins and clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the ward committee.

Each ward has different characteristics and unique challenges, so do consider local factors while engaging.

No group can sustain online, so make plans to meet in person routinely, perhaps a week before each ward committee meeting. This will help you prepare better for the meeting as well. Ensure that a significant number of residents attend meetings. If 50 people show up in ward committee meetings, it will send a strong message to the corporator, ward committee members and officers.

Resources you can use:


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About Srinivas Alavilli 12 Articles
Srinivas Alavilli is a citizen activist based in Bengaluru, working on a variety of issues. He is the co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru.

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