“Public Affairs Centre is truly an experiment – a leap of faith, guided by a vision to enhance the quality of our nation’s governance through an active interaction of civil society with the state. The positive response to the centre’s initiatives from many quarters and the adoption of its concepts, tools and messages in varied contexts auger well for the future”
– Dr. Samuel Paul, Founder, Public Affairs Centre
Overview of the Centre
Public Affairs Centre (PAC) is a not for profit think tank, established in 1994 with a mandate to improve the quality of governance in India. The creation of PAC was perhaps the first civil society-led institutional initiative to mobilize a demand for good governance in India. The focus of PAC is primarily in areas where citizens and civil society organizations can play a proactive role in improving governance. In this regard, PAC undertakes and supports research, disseminates research findings, facilitates collective citizen action through awareness raising and capacity building activities, and provides advisory services to state and non-state agencies. The Centre is globally known for its pioneering Citizen Report Cards, benchmarking studies used to improve public services, as well as their work on electoral transparency, public works quality monitoring tools and approaches and the recently launched audits of the Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India.
PAC’s uniqueness lies in synthesizing research and action in its activities and approaches. Its research aims to provide a stimulus for action. And, its action in turn is powered by knowledge derived from research. PAC’s work is primarily organized around the premise that an informed and active citizenry is the key to improved governance. While conventional policy research concentrates on policy issues and administrative processes, PAC’s work has focused on governance as experienced from an average citizen’s perspective.
In pursuit of realizing its vision to improve the quality of public governance in India by creating vibrant, informed and proactive citizen engagements with the state and its institutions, Public Affairs Centre’s mission encompasses a multi pronged approach synthesizing a range of strategies and interventions.
The pivotal points of PAC’s mission, around which the activities of the Centre are organized are: public policy research and advocacy; participatory research on governance and social accountability including monitoring and evaluation of public services and programmes; citizen action support; civic education of children and youth; promoting citizen centred environmental governance and capacity enhancement of both the state and civil society.
The genesis of PAC can be traced to a modest but pioneering initiative by Dr. Samuel Paul in the early nineties. In 1992, Dr. Paul, an eminent economist, teacher and management professional, with several friends initiated a unique experiment to produce a “Report Card” on public services in Bangalore. Anchoring on the twin concepts of measurement and comparison, report cards generated objective and credible citizen feedback on issues related to the delivery of public services like quality, reliability, corruption and satisfaction. The approach received much national and international attention. The public debates the findings triggered and the media interest that issues like corruption generated provided a much needed stimulus to several public agencies in Bangalore to review their performances. These initial responses led to the formal creation of the Centre in 1994 with financial support from the National Foundation for India and the Ford Foundation.