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Design Thinking, Social Change and Governance Revolution in India



Tamil Nadu is among the few states in India that provides basic public services such as schools, water, electricity, primary healthcare and transport almost universally.  These services function remarkably well, making a significant difference to the lives of people. In many cases, the state has achieved better outcomes than other states of India, but with comparable budgets. 

In this talk, Vivek will argue that the effectiveness of Tamil Nadu's administration can be linked to underlying processes akin to 'human centred design' that has been popularized by the Design school at Stanford, among others. This form of design thinking is slowly but surely making its way to other parts of India leading to a small revolution in governance in India today.

The talk will be based on his recently published book, Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu & Beyond.



Vivek Srinivasan joined the CDDRL Liberation Technology Program as the program manager in February 2011 after completing his Ph.D. in social sciences from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Prior to this, he worked with campaigns on various socio-economic rights in India, including the right to food, education and the right to information. Based on these experiences Srinivasan has written (and co-authored) extensively on issues surrounding the right to food, including Notes from the right to food campaign: people's movement for the right to food (2003), Rights based approach and human development: An introduction (2008), Gender and the right to food: A critical re-examination (2006), Food Policy and Social Movements: Reflections on the Right to Food Campaign in India (2007).  

In working with these campaigns, he realized the widespread disparities in the provision of basic public services in India. This led him to examine how Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state, developed extensive commitment to providing such services to all its residents in his doctoral dissertation.  Oxford University Press published Srinivasan’s book based on the dissertation entitled, "Delivering services effectively: Tamil Nadu and Beyond" in 2014.

As a full-time activist, he also experimented with various IT platforms to make the campaigns effective. This interest brought him to the Liberation Technology Program at Stanford where Srinivasan is currently leading a research project entitled "Combating corruption with mobile phones".