We want your

Understanding State Capabilities

The experiential learning programme allows development professionals and students to understand the bureaucracy system that is responsible for the delivery of public services such as education, health, nutrition and sanitation. Its primary objective is to build a community of practitioners and impactful leaders by equipping them with evidence-based research and tools to engage effectively with the government. This course is conducted in English.

What is the course about?

Public systems across sectors in India are inadequate and the lack of accountability is a binding constraint. While the government attempts to deliver on its own commitment of a transparent, decentralised and well-functioning state, public authorities seem to lack both- the capacity (technical and administrative) and ability (political and institutional) to deliver public goods, characterising India’s state capabilities as weak. This cavity in the system leaves a significant need to enhance the competency of administrative systems and its human resources.

‘Understanding State Capabilities’ places state capability at the front of the debate on governance and accountability. By underlining the capability gap in the governance structure, participants are equipped to understand the root causes of administrative failure on the ground.

This knowledge should enable them to find answers to the question of what can be done to improve state capability in India and design interventions in a way that acknowledges the holistic need to address state capacity in design as well as management.

Under the overarching theme of decentralisation, the course is taught around the two mechanics of government functioning:

1) Tools of Public administration which will explain the workings of Indian state bureaucracy, particularly at the level of implementation, and;

2) Tools of Public finance, which will constitute learning about plans, budgets and fund flows in key social sector programmes.

And how the effective application of Social Accountability tools can strengthen the voice of the people in order to demand accountability from the government.

The course has been conceptualised and developed by: Rajika Seth, Aamna Ahmad, Mallika Arora. Supported by: T.R. Raghunandan, and the Accountability Initiative’s Research team

After attending the course, participants will be able to undertake critical analysis of state capability in India as it exists today. By learning about the root causes of administrative and fiscal dysfunctionality on the ground, and the most effective means of bridging state capacity, the participants will be equipped to apply a systems approach to on-ground interventions that seek to strengthen administrative and organisational systems. This will facilitate better coordination between different departments and levels of the government, and institute mechanisms to ensure citizen-state accountability in the design and provision of public goods. Participants will also engage with the evolving nature of government functioning and deliberate over the future scenario of the government.


  1. What can a participant expect to learn from the course?
  • Participants will build a nuanced understanding of government structures.
  • Participants will learn why state capability matters in service delivery implementation.
  • Participants will be able to assess weaknesses and gaps in service delivery implementation based on the foundation of their understanding of state capability.
  • Participants will learn about the importance and relevance of social accountability.
  • Participants will be able to apply a systems thinking approach to building state capability at the frontline.
  1. What does the course outline look like?

Module 1: What is the government?

  • Essence of government functioning
  • Decentralisation as a form of governance
  • India’s commitment to decentralisation

Module 2: How does the government work? (Focus on social sector)

  • Understanding bureaucracy
  • Understanding  government spending and budgets
  • Understanding planning
  • Impact  on service delivery- and what the government can do

Module 3: What is the role of citizens in governance?

  • Understanding citizen participation
  • Understanding Social Accountability
  1. Does the course require prior knowledge of the topics taught?

Ideal candidates for the course will have some experience working with governance systems, or would have been associated with the development sector, or public policy. However, it is not mandatory for participants to have prior knowledge on the topics, interest and passion will suffice!

  1. What makes your content cutting-edge?

What makes our programmes cutting edge is the content– directly fed from our research on public finance and administration, making it relevant and fresh, strengthening the link between theory and practice and encouraging evidence-based decision making by citizens and governments.

Logistics related

  1. What is the duration of the course?

Ideal course duration is 3-4 days, however smaller capsules of the course can also be delivered depending upon demand.

2. What is the pedagogy of the course?

The course is based on the ADDIE model for adult learning. The course uses new and innovative ways for facilitation such as games, role plays, the use of life size charts and others. Evaluation methods have been embedded within the course in the form of discussions and presentations.

3. What is the medium of instruction?

The course is delivered in English.

4. Who is the course targeted toward?

The main aim is to encourage citizen engagement in government functioning. The course is catered toward development professionals and organisations in the social sector, students studying courses related to development and young people interested in issues around development.

5. Is there an ideal number of participants?

We like group sizes that range between 25-60 participants. However, if the number of participants is over 30, we prefer to bring in more than one facilitator.

6. Who are the facilitators?

This course is facilitated by the team at Accountability Initiative, who collectively have in-depth understanding of state capabilities and accountability systems by tracking the planning, budgeting and decision making structures of social welfare programmes.

7. Is this a certified course?

Yes, if you participate in a full course, you are eligible to receive a certificate from the Centre for Policy Research.

Participation related

  1. How can I do the course?

At the moment we only conduct the course for organisations and education institutes. If your organisation or institute is interested, please connect with us at [email protected]. If you want to attend the course in an individual capacity, please fill up this form. If there is enough demand, we may run an open course soon!

2. Can the course be tailor made to suit my employee’s learning requirements?

The course is sector agnostic and covers multiple social issues. However, if required we can customise the course to specific issues in the social sector. For example – Understanding State Capabilities- with a focus on health and nutrition.

The level of the course can also be altered depending on the audience.

3. Does the course have a fee?

Yes, we charge a fee. Course fees is dependent on the number of participants and the duration of the course. Please email [email protected] for more details.

4. Is this a certified course?

Yes, if you participate in a full course, you are eligible to receive a certificate from the Centre for Policy Research.