In 1991 Living Cities was established as an informal partnership among seven foundations and an insurance company, with a synergised mission to help improve under-invested urban neighborhoods and local community development organisations.

More than 20 years later, Living Cities, comprising 22 large foundations and financial institutions, has become the world’s largest philanthropic collaboration dedicated to improving the lives of people in various under-developed urban settlements and has catalysed over US$16 billion in urban investments.

BPAC Drive

B.PAC Voter Registration in full swing

Closer to home in Asia, the city of Bangalore recently saw citizens forming a similar collaborative known as Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC). With an objective of “making Bangalore an economically strong and world-class city”, B.PAC focuses on engaging the public in political processes to facilitate “good governance, greater accountability and better transparency within the government”.

“During the recent Karnataka Legislative elections, B.PAC embarked on a voter registration drive with its partner SmartVote and successfully registered over 600,000 new voters. The success metrics was demonstrated with Bangalore recording a 58% voter turnout compared to 47% at the last elections”, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, President at B.PAC, said as an example of its commitment to encouraging more middle-class citizens to exercise their right to vote.

However, B.PAC still has some way to go and faces key challenges such as:

  • Legitimacy – Issues such as solutions that are not grounded in reality, persistent lags in conflict resolution within teams and a lack of accountability are hurdles to groups like B.PAC’s ability to build confidence and make an impact.
  • Participation – True change requires a higher level of active participation in the political sphere. It should focus on building on collaborative efforts that would involve itself in the legislative process. It should also endeavour to sparking debate on social and political issues.
BPAC Drive 2

Raising awareness on social and political issues lends legitimacy to B.PAC

As a first step in addressing these challenges, B.PAC publicly endorsed 14 candidates, who B.PAC believes to be supportive of the mission it leads. This endorsement came with a promotion of the candidates over social media and a funding of about US$ 9,000 towards the election campaigns of each of the 14 candidates, irrespective of the political party they represented or the constituency in which they were contesting.

Mohandas Pai, Vice-President at B.PAC

Mohandas Pai, Vice-President at B.PAC

“Five of the 12 constituencies saw endorsed candidates win”, T. V. Mohandas Pai, Vice-President at B.PAC, said. He explained that B.PAC will work towards “more investment in infrastructure, [and] improve public transportation, access to water and access to more public services” in the future. With the help of its members “who are accomplished and from varied areas”, Mohandas Pai believes the B.PAC can make a distinct impact.

Active debate and discussion is needed to catalyse change

Active debate and discussion is needed to catalyse change

We ask some of Bangalore’s prominent citizens on how they perceive B.PAC would perform in the future, what the challenges would be on its way forward and how collaborative action can improve the chances for a working solution. Excerpts from their responses follow.

Discussions and gatherings like these raised voter turnout in the last elections by

Discussions and gatherings like these raised voter turnout in the last elections by a remarkable 11%.

B.PAC is a unique platform for driving change in a once prosperous city that has been vexed by unstable governments, corrupt leadership and poor infrastructure, especially during the last eight years. However, the aforementioned challenges may need to be tackled with a strong commitment to the purpose of this collaboration. If the initiatives so far are any benchmark to go by, B.PAC with its able leadership and strong corporate funding could well be on its way to becoming an effective movement like Living Cities, exemplifying the power of collaboration to bring about more than what the sum of individual efforts could.

This interview was conducted for The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs. The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Consulus.

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