Dr. Jyoti Parikh is a founding member and a member of the governing council at Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) a think tank based in New Delhi, India. Their key objectives include conducting research and analysing information on effective policies among stakeholders and policy makers. Apart from this, they build capacities among professionals for multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder policy analysis. Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, editor at large for South Asia at On Think Tanks, conducted this interview.
Annapoorna Ravichander: What makes Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe), a credible organisation?
Dr. Jyoti Parikh: In my opinion the following reasons makes IRADe credible:
- Strong focus on multidisciplinary research and analysis
- Evidence based scientific research and sound policy advice/measures
- Working simultaneously at local, national, regional and global levels and trying to converge in thinking and approach, thereby shaping policy making at all levels
- Consensus building approach by involving all stakeholders and groups of interest
- Strong linkages with policy making communities
- Extensive assignments with government, ministries and other governmental departments
- Cross-sectoral analysis and generating holistic insights/understanding
- Mix of research and action related work
AR: How did you establish your credibility?
JP: Establishing credibility is a continuous process. We build our credibility by:
- Being competent and becoming an expert in our field in the areas of modelling and driving regional energy co-operation, gender aspects, etc
- Having the ability to analyse an issue/situation and develop several potential solutions/options and tailor-made recommendations
- Doing rigorous work, and by publishing in journals and other publications
- Being people-centric and consistent in the approach.
- Continuing focus on multidisciplinary research and analysis
- Thinking globally and acting locally
AR: What is your organisation’s contribution to public policy in India?
JP: IRADe has been working in the area of public policy research and advocacy and has been very successful in advancing various key reforms, development and governance agenda related to India’s:
- Economic development and transformation, energy pricing reform and energy governance;
- Climate change strategies and mitigation and adoption measures, including low carbon strategies for inclusive growth
- Long-term energy transition in India and technology analysis
- Gender and poverty alleviation, food security and livelihoods
- Disaster management (disaster resilience action plan, natural disaster risk reduction strategies)
- Program evaluation of flagship schemes of Government of India (to give critical feedback to policymaking)
- Reforms in Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)
- Reforms and modernisation in Indian agriculture, climate adaptive action plans
- South Asia regional energy co-operation.
AR: What kind of projects do you accept? Do you have a policy for what you do?
JP: We accept projects where we have the independence of saying what we found. We have been working with 11 ministries- these ministries throw us a policy problem and we solve it most of the time. It is sponsored by them but sometimes we do things on our own. When we recognise a problem we write articles on it and get it published in newspapers. We prefer those that require some amount of analysis and in-depth understanding of the subject. Occasionally we comment on current issues. Our exposure is in newspapers, journals, reports, e-reports which we circulate, so our views are known in the public.
AR: How would you define a think tank?
JP: A think tank has to search for policy issues which are baffling sometimes. For example – how to address climate change, how fast we need to shift to electric vehicles, how to address urban development issues, disaster resilience, what to do about linking up with South Asia and so on. These require certain methods, which should be independent and not partial or give partisan information and analysis. Think tanks should be willing to weigh in when new information comes in. So, basically, a think tank, the way it is defined in India, addresses policy issues. It is slightly different from NGOs which are working in the field. Think tanks may need to do some work in the field as well (also known as action think tanks), and they do field work to verify that the key policy advice we give is valid on the ground or not. Policy advice should be delivered after considering multi-stakeholder perspectives.The entire value chain should be addressed: if it is an electric vehicle, you start with the vehicle manufacturers, the charging infrastructures, the consumers and the government if it has to give subsidiary. Think tanks provide comprehensive analysis.
AR: What are the main concerns you have as an executive director?
JP: The executive director is concerned with all aspects of running an organisation, which relates to hiring appropriate man power, keeping them busy and giving them skills or time so they are capable of addressing new issues. We also have to raise funds for our activities. We have to ensure that when we receive funds, the deliverables are given correctly and on time, ensuring the communication of our deliverables not just to satisfy one sponsor, but that we actually try to communicate our findings to a wider audience. That is how we differ from consulting companies, which answer to the sponsor and whose work may also be confidential. In our case, we try to make a public debate out of it and correct ourselves if we find that some perspectives are missing from our analysis.