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sc-arts-college-articleMajority of colleges in Manipur (fully funded or aided by State Government) are created as Arts and Science colleges and few of them also offer Commerce degree courses. They must be operated more innovatively to deliver development of the state (similar to the ways how professional degree colleges are managed and perceived). Their presence must bring about socio-economic impact locally around the towns wherein these colleges are located in Manipur. The course contents and delivery approach followed by these colleges must not blindly copy whatever and however is being taught elsewhere, and instead the overall goal must be for a ‘fit for purpose’ relevance to the local scenario. They need to be reoriented towards ‘applied studies’ approach so that ‘non-professional degree’ graduates produced in Manipur are empowered to become job creators within Manipur in their field of study. Special consideration must be also given to employment standards of staffs (i.e. academic and non-academics) and feasibility of sharing teaching infrastructures on external knowledge exchange activities.
Highlights of current Higher Education (HE) scenario in Manipur may include ‘negligible student numbers in colleges’, ‘non-employability of graduates out of colleges’, ‘unmotivated academics and lack of professional support staffs in colleges’, ‘poorly maintained infrastructures in colleges’, ‘negligible socio-economic impact because of a college’s presence in a region when compared to the public budget being spent annually on staff salaries and maintenance of the college’. It’s doubtful whether any official or Hon’ble Minister of Education in the Government of Manipur has analysed the principle questions such as ‘why a student has to go to a college/University after school education’, or ‘how attending a course in a local college add values to the students as compared to attending a distance learning course from a reputed institution elsewhere’, or ‘how skill training and vocational courses are aligned to degree courses so that graduates can experience both aspects during the three years degree course’ or ‘should colleges in Manipur run courses with contents as same as those running in other states of India’, or ‘should colleges be only about teaching students or be used for socio-economic development agenda’.
State Government seems to believe that ‘facilitating setup of few private universities in Manipur is the only and best way forward to improve HE scenario in Manipur’ and ‘new HE policy means focusing only on private university setup’. Such standalone policy without rectifying the core HE policies is rather likely to fuel further deterioration to social values and economy of Manipur; because the State Government has failed to recognise the ‘in-principle’ connection between ‘the presence of a local university/college’ and ‘the purpose of a local student to attend a local university/college’. The guiding doctrine for a new HE policy ought to be such that ‘the policy facilitates a youth to empower self to create own career even if the graduate is unable to be absorbed into the available job market (in Government services or Private Company jobs) due to whatever reasons after their graduation from the HE institutions’.
The foremost essential action for Government of Manipur to revive dying non-professional degree colleges in Manipur and aspire for a new HE scenario which is fit for the 21st century is to restructure ‘Department of University and Higher Education’ towards new roles and responsibilities, along with bringing changes in certain areas of HE policies as explained in this paper. Such a suggestion is because of the fact that overall operational control of these colleges (incl. topics of staffs employment, infrastructure management, Higher Education policies, student admissions, student welfare measures) are under this department in the Government of Manipur, while the role of Manipur University (a Central University under Ministry of Human Resource Development) over these colleges is limited only to awarding of degree certificates by holding examinations because of their affiliation to the university.
A 21st Century’s HE policy needs to consider various aspects such as: ‘employment norm of academic staffs to be practice-led researcher/tutor’, ‘expanding roles and accountability of a College Principal’, ‘administrative staffs to support non-academic responsibilities professionally at colleges (esp. estates and socio-economic impact agenda)’, ‘bonus/reward schemes and additional project funding pots to motivate/increase contribution by academics’, ‘centralised web-based learning course materials (video, audio, text) accessible to students via mobile or online’, ‘modular classrooms for dual-use purposes (i.e. teaching as well as external knowledge exchange) and flexibility to use joint learning infrastructures among colleges’, ‘accessibility of teaching staffs by students from other colleges’, ‘local job creation and economic development’, ‘involvement of local authorities in planning/delivering HE activities’. HE as a sector doesn’t work in silo and aligning HE policies to the agendas of other ministries (such as commerce and industries, social welfare, science and technology, tourism) are essential. HE institutions serve only as temporary transit point for youths from their homes to the real society/industry.
In order to capture how HE institutions are delivering towards their intended mandates, a systematic measurement framework ought to be created (e.g. in UK, Teaching Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework, Knowledge Exchange Framework are used). Such an approach will help in measuring ‘teaching/learning outputs by students at each college, whether fit for purpose later in the society/industry’, ‘research/knowledge-exchange activities by academics and support staffs at each college’, ‘utilisation of college/university assets for local economies’, ‘alignment with NAAC and NIRF exercises conducted by Central Government authorities’, ‘effectiveness of programmes created for own agenda by other ministries to compliment HE agenda at each college/university’, etc.
With the growth of IT/Internet, and availability of hi-tech mobile devices at the disposal of students, a new infrastructural approach of providing learning system is necessary. The role of academics in colleges must be changed from ‘teaching’ to ‘supporting’. Infrastructures of colleges must be designed for dual usage by staffs/students as well as nearby public users. Various courses and infrastructures planned under the agendas of other skills training institutes, ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), and professional colleges must align with the plans of nearby HE institutions. Staff support Intranet Portals should be made available (incl. new ‘Train the Trainer’ type courses). Also, it’s time to update roles and responsibilities of a College Principal by adding new accountabilities on socio-economic impact agenda to the local region via effective utilisation of available assets of the respective colleges and contribution by academic/non-academic staffs. Establishment of new local advisory boards to colleges is essential to facilitate such impact agenda with local governing Municipal councils.
Curriculum design and delivery structure may consider including ‘research project submission as form of examination’, ‘case-study based teaching’, ‘research paper on local industry/sector professionals as coursework test’, ‘non-tutor-led course materials for self-study’, ‘interventional add-on modules on skills trainings (e.g. centrally managed ‘web-based/video-audio’ courses and subsidised crash courses at some physical centres)’, ‘web-based intranet for all students and tutors similar to web-based distance learning systems’. One time investment may be necessary on the development of course materials and teaching/learning delivery system (e.g. ‘Blackboard’ software). Fixed dates on academic semesters should be maintained annually for all relevant activities at each colleges irrespective of any potential disruptive issues. Clarity of information necessary for use by students or parents of students or staffs should be maintained by the Department of University and Higher Education through dedicatedly designed Intranets and web-portals.
Thus, an overhaul of HE policy is necessary to make the current colleges in Manipur (delivering Arts, Sciences, and Commerce courses) relevant to local graduates. Otherwise, neither students are benefiting nor local towns where these colleges are located. Yet, huge expense is going out every year from the state budget to pay salaries of the staffs and maintenance of college assets without making much return to the society.
About the Author:
Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur.
For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com
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Among various measures, the idea of transforming ‘local colleges’ in Manipur into ‘Innovation Centres’ may be the most effective approach to fuel rapid socio-economic growth of ‘people and place’ across towns of Manipur in 5-10 years timeframe through facilitating collective participation of local people.

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Names of towns/villages in Manipur wherein Higher Education institutions are located

A strong reasoning behind the idea is the possibility of utilising strategically located college campuses (of approximately 88 colleges) scattered across the geography of Manipur state in various towns as an open platform for ‘Community and Business Engagement’ among industry professionals (who are natives of the nearby locality but living outside Manipur in various cities of India and abroad), academics and students of the respective colleges, local NGOs and government officials nearby the colleges. College campuses maybe considered as ‘Knowledge Zones’ or a place where ideas and locally applicable innovations can be freely exchanged without fear in a ‘non-bureaucratic and non-corporate’ work-environment. Measures related to improving academic (teaching & learning) environment of the local colleges have been kept aside for another article. This article intends to present new measures of maximizing utilization percentage of currently available infrastructure (i.e. classrooms and estates) and (teaching and non-teaching) staffs at colleges in Manipur for an add-on impact to local people around the colleges socio-economically, with less/minimum impact on the delivery of ongoing academic schedules.

It is a well-known fact that most colleges in Manipur in the past decade don’t conduct academic classes regularly and have also a very low number of students. College infrastructures (including services of staffs) seemed highly under-utilized with unclear benefits to the local economy and irregular usage of college facilities caused equipment/buildings to deteriorate quickly due to poor supervision. In such scenario, the question does arises – what purpose does our colleges in Manipur serve to the local economy and social wellbeing, apart from the fact that these colleges provide employment to few staffs and higher education to a tiny number of local teenagers with negligible scope of getting a job or a bright career opportunity on their graduation. Without a doubt, colleges in Manipur may be comparable to ‘white elephants’ to the economy of Manipur under the current socio-economic scenario. Then, the next reasonable question arises – ‘how can we increase the benefits and good impact of having a college campus in our local community and nearby town’.

 

The intent to impart higher education to young students of Manipur through local colleges may be combined with the vision of state government to bring about socio-economic development of local towns. For realising this expectation, the state government would need to create a dedicated job position of KE (Knowledge Exchange) professional at each college (through an initial funding from state govt budget or one time financial assistance from central government). The key responsibilities of the KE professional may include (1) creation of external income earning capacity of the college through efficient utilisation of college infrastructure, (2) realisation of ‘brain gain’ to local towns around the college campus by inviting Manipuri professionals (from the nearby towns but living outside Manipur state or abroad) for KE activities and enabling effective engagement with the local community through hosting academic and business events, and (3) building strong relationship with global funders and corporate firms to bring in external incomes (such as sponsorships and partnerships) within the predefined knowledge domains of the college. Management of KE activities are best assigned to KE professionals (as full-time job role) rather than being considered as add-on role to the current responsibilities of academic staffs in colleges. The aim of such approach is to make the entire process sustainable in due course of time so that expenses of KE professional and relevant KE activities can be paid out of the income earned through commercial exploitation of resources at the college campuses.

 

In case, the state government is keen to explore feasibility of such proposal as mentioned above and in rest of this article, it should consider hiring KE/innovation consultants to structure an implementable plan that suits the local scenarios of Manipur. Such similar approaches are already implemented in various developed countries such as UK, wherein local municipal council and various government departments work in coordination with higher education institutions to rejuvinate socio-economic growth of the local towns. This impact of having a college/university in a town is in addition to providing employment to few academic and support staffs, and giving graduate education to the local youths.

 

State government may consider utilising part of college campuses to engage local SMEs and Self-Help-Groups for delivery of local enterprise support services (i.e. fund access and professional advice) by having ‘hot-desk information offices’ representing the officials from Sub-Divisional office (SDO/SDC) or District Collector (DC/DM) office. Such an approach would bring accessibility of business support services and funding opportunities closer to the target audiences of local entrepreneurs and future graduate entrepreneurs at the college campuses. Such hot-desk information offices attached to the college campuses may help transforming the college to be a vibrant environment filled with local people and industry professionals. This transformation will provide psychological boost to the thought process of students to aspire being a budding entrepreneur in the local town.

 

Academically relevant external projects (funded by government or various funding organisations) and socio-economically relevant services (such as training courses for local SMEs and not-for-profit organisations) can be planned for delivery at the college campuses to increase presence of local community in the college campus. Management of such operations are to be conducted by delegating the activities to a KE professional under a clear strategy, so that in course of time, the income earned through the external oriented services can meet the operational expenses (incl. salary of the KE professional). Various assets of the college campus such as swimming pool, playgound, library, café, labs, classrooms, auditoriums may be let out during weekends and out of working hours slots in order to generate revenue income for the college. Academic staffs of the college may also contribute appropriately to the planned KE activities based on their personal interest as well as academic interest. The budget management (both income earning and expense planning) of the KE activities must be with the KE professional in order to assign proper accountability of the funds. Conducting socio-cultural events by local NGOs ought to be encouraged at the college campus, so that vibrant environment of the college campus can be maintained due to visit of external audiences. Moreover, catering and other trade items can be sold while hosting local events within the college campuses. Organising trade and technology events through the KE professional can also infuse innovative ideas for discussion among the students and academics of the college.

 

A dedicated knowledge exchange web-portal may be created to ease info sharing to various stakeholders (i.e. government departments, industry professionals, students, academics, local NGOs and municipal councils) in order to help successful delivery of the overal KE strategy at various college campuses in Manipur. The web-portal may include basic and advanced training materials for facilitating knowledge exchange related services by KE professionals and also relevant resources for external customers accessible through payment of appropriate service fees. Having a clear KE strategy can help motivating college staffs to participate in KE activities conducted at their college campuses. KE events will attract students to college campuses for learning real world knowledge in addition to attending academic classes for their degree courses. Moreover, such an approach will enable creation of an ecosystem for local innovation at the college campuses (instead of leaving college campuses defunct and under-utilised).

 

Capacity building of local human capital is one of the most essential ingredients of enabling socio-economic development of a state. Making Manipur a prosperous socio-economically developed state is the dream of many youths and senior citizens of Manipur (incl. our ‘self-proclaimed’ politicians). Transforming colleges at various towns of Manipur can help in creating the necessary quantity and quality of capable human resources (across villages/towns) which Manipur desparately needs. This approach will also allow the state government to combine developmental intitiatives at various towns of Manipur with the intent to provide higher education facilities in those towns by allocating the annual budget efficiently.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Thousands of working Manipuri professionals (within Manipur state, across Indian cities and foreign countries) wishes to contribute for a better Manipur, but they are mostly not sure how/what to do amidst complexities in govt administration and social chaos in Manipur. State govt can effectively benefit in terms of both financial and voluntary (knowledge/experience) contributions from high caliber Manipuris, if a systematic contribution management framework is developed at the state level with global usability focus. Any individual Manipuri professional willing to share his/her expertise and experiences must be able to do so in a simple and straight forward process towards improving public service deliveries. Thus, the Manipur State Innovation Council (headed by the Chief Minister) and the state planning department ought to consider adapting the current working model towards an integrated and comprehensive Innovation Management structure that can impact every village/town in the state with contribution of Manipuri People (i.e. professionals) residing across the globe.

 Innovation Management in Manipur State

  To create and sustain innovations systematically within Manipur State, we needs –

(1) Local Knowledge-based Institutions enabled to support innovators and sustain innovations

(2) Network of professionals to provide a platform (esp. web-enabled) for ‘Great Minds’ to interact and engage, i.e. sustaining an interactive professionals’ database

(3) Aligning govt ministries (esp. finance support and officials) to support innovations and innovators in their respective sectors

(4) A facilitation centre (esp. created in a Public-Private partnership model) to coordinate all branches of innovation support and execute centre’s administrative activities for public support

(5) Annual face-to-face Networking and Group Discussion Event to bring together Manipuris (esp. professionals across the globe) and govt officials to build trust and relationships

(6) A business oriented forum to lobby or discuss business issues and govt policies that impact specific business sectors in the overall industry

Thus, the key building blocks for a Manipur specific Innovation Management framework may comprises (1) Academic and research institutions, (2) Govt departments, (3) A centralized innovation support centre, (4) virtualized knowledge exchange networks, (5) A business representatives’ forum. And the key activities required within the framework may comprise of (1) Conducting an annual semi-professional global summit, (2) Organizing webinars on topics relevant to Manipuris by inviting distinguished industry professionals on the panel, (3) Allowing students to undertake internship projects in various govt departments (4) Allowing professionals to contribute their work experiences through guest speech or tendered consultancy project, (5) Liaising with Manipuris in foreign countries and outside the state to promote Manipur tourism.

The KEN-Manipur initiative (started by few Overseas Manipuris after the Pravashi Bharatiya Divas 2011 in coordination with few dedicated state govt officials and local academic institutions) is aimed towards building an online database of high caliber Manipuri professionals (residing across the globe) per knowledge/industry sector as ‘Knowledge Exchange Networks’ and each network being supported by relevant departments in the state govt as well as local academic and innovation institutions within Manipur. State govt needs to embed this KEN-Manipur initiative within the state innovation council so that every Manipuri (who may belong or have originated in the past from any village/town within Manipur) can contribute and interact in the virtual web-platform under professional conduct comfortably without feeling discriminated or alienated by focusing on the topic rather than person/ethnicity. Also, relevant govt departments can send out press releases, tender notice, consultation invite on policy formulation, and internship/short projects on the KEN-Manipur website periodically. Interestingly, most social associations and professional discussion forums in Manipur are found being restricted to few individuals only on the basis of ethnicity, religion, birth-place, etc (thereby with own vested self-interest) and there seems no cross-sectors knowledge sharing mechanism connecting each other. Moreover, overall development in every village/town in Manipur may be feasible at a faster speed with active contribution from Global Manipuri professionals in addition to support provided by state govt officials. Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) of UK Govt is one such example of KEN-Manipur initiative used elsewhere.

An annual Global Manipuris Summit (GMS) is the need of the hour to inspire Manipuris residing across the globe to visit Manipur once a year and create a bonding relationship with local Manipuris as well as state govt officials. The summit may be conducted as a semi-professional event by having theme-based workshop/seminar programs, and cultural programs. The benefits of such summit are (1) cause a mindset change impact among various local Manipuris (currently being segregated on ethnic/religious interests instead of humanity) towards a socio-economic development focus, (2) share working knowledge and life experiences received elsewhere by global Manipuris relevant to the local people, (3) contribute to growth of tourism and hospitality sectors in Manipur by the visit of thousands of non-resident Manipuris, (4) receive foreign direct investments (FDI) and professional expertise contributions to various socio-economic projects within Manipur. Also, unlike annual Manipur Sangai Festival, Global Manipuris Summit is likely to bring in extra revenue to the state govt as well as local tourist/hospitality businesses with the inflow of Non-resident Manipuris. Pravashi Bharatiya Divas of Central Indian Govt is one such example of Global Manipuris Summit conducted elsewhere.

A dedicated facilitation centre (e.g. Global Manipuris Facilitation Centre – GMFC) needs to be established in a Public-Private Partnership model to provide important administrative supports to coordinate KEN-Manipur activities (online as well as conducting of monthly local knowledge exchange event), to organize annual Global Manipuris Summit, to liaise with the industry partners for business engagement by global Manipuris as well as govt officials, and to link with the academic and innovation institutions within Manipur. With opening of Moreh as international trade gateway to South East Asian Countries, many visa/legal permission related issues that may impact overseas Manipuris (and local Manipuris) are often going to come up waiting for quick resolution. Such a centre can support redirection of genuine queries from Manipuris to relevant state/central ministries for quick action. Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) of Central Indian Govt (created by partnership between Confederation of Indian Industries – CII and Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs – MIOA) is one such example of Global Manipuris Facilitation Centre created elsewhere.

A new comprehensive business forum (e.g. Manipur Social and Business Enterprises Network – MSBEN) functioning under global professional ethics and represented by most business enterprises within Manipur is essential to complement any possible collective benefit to industry sectors in Manipur by coordinating with both state govt ministries and other local bodies. Currently available business forums in Manipur lack global perspective and are fragmented to only few industry sectors. The new business forum ought to cater to only Manipur specific businesses yet covering businesses run by Manipuris in other global locations in order to enable building global supply chain of Manipuri business owners. Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) is one example of such business forum.

Schools, colleges, training centres, and universities within Manipur may be transformed into innovation houses wherein not just students and staffs in those institutions indulge in creating new innovations but also local businesses and social bodies can gain business support services and avail innovation support resources for their benefits. Innovation also refers to bringing mindset change (i.e. way of thinking) in addition to creating new technology products/ideas. There can be a centralized (and web-based) innovation support centre having policy documents, and high value staffs; while few chosen or most academic/research institutions can have trained staffs (being delegated or newly recruited) to provide support for enterprise development and business activities. Some of the specialized innovation institutions may be asked to take ownership of conducting monthly/periodic KEN-Manipur workshops by inviting/receiving Manipuri professionals (who may be returning to Manipur state for holiday break), and video/presentations of such useful discussions may be uploaded in KEN-Manipur website for future access. This approach of institutional ownership also enables respective institutions to build strong ties with industry and professionals for the benefit of their staffs, students and alumni. In addition, these institutions can avail access to thousands of highly qualified Manipuri professionals via the database of KEN-Manipur. Innovation vouchers and Capacity Building funds may be made available centrally and be allowed for individual institutions to bid for project sanctions.

Most State Govt departments tend to work in-silo and people (esp. the intended target consumers of each department) often don’t receive govt dept’s announcement of relevant information on time. Most plans under each department (as created by state planning department) fail to reach success at a reasonable level of completion mostly due to implementation issues and bottlenecks during rolled out phase of the plans. Thus, there is a need for collective overseeing of innovation support services provided in each state govt department. Each department may delegate officials to contribute in relevant networks of KEN-Manipur by sensing ongoing discussions in particular networks and by promoting activities/policies/funding info available in their department for usage by professionals and local businesses. Also, there is feasibility to cross sell opportunities (tenders/projects) by govt department to networks relevant to another department within KEN-Manipur (thereby leading to effective usage of govt money).

One key hurdle to be overcome for enabling non-resident Manipuris and local Manipuris (including state govt officials) to engage effectively is the need for acclimatization by both parties to a mid-way work culture suitable to both i.e. adjustment of attitudes/egos. There needs to be orientation programs such as ‘Train the Trainer’ – to help industry professionals to learn working culture (ethics and attitudes) prevalent in Manipur state before they even start their personal contribution, ‘Openness and Team-work training’ – to help state govt officials to adjust their working style to corporate environment by understanding how industry professionals work.

If the state govt has the will to initiate implementing the above recommendations with funding from either state govt or Union Ministry of DoNER (or elsewhere), Manipuri professionals working across the globe can start contributing easily in a simple process towards socio-economic development of every village/town in Manipur. Also, current social unrest in Manipur due to mistrust among communities may go away faster in due course with mindset of local people getting changed because of knowledge inflow from non-resident Manipuris on a peer-to-peer contact basis.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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