Building Citizenship through Civic Volunteering - I Change My City

October - 2018
Building Citizenship through Civic Volunteering - I Change My City

                                                                                                                                                                                                                For Members only. For Private Circulation only.

Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society

Harnessing Talent and Providing Quality Service

Thought Mailer                                                                       Vol. 9 1 No. 03 1 October 2018

Ms. Sapna Karim


Building Citizenship through Civic
Volunteering – I Change My City

Over 400 million citizens currently live in India’s cities and towns. This is expected to double by 2050. We are witness today to crumbling infrastructure in our cities across health, sanitation, open spaces, water supply, education, safety, pedestrian and cycle friendly streets, public transport, etc. The state governments’ and cities’ capacity to address this challenge and deliver high quality infrastructure is slowly getting built.

Cities underprepared for urbanization challenges

Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City Systems (ASICS) report 2017 that surveyed 23 cities, states that 39% is the average percentage of a city’s own revenues compared to its expenditure; 54% of the cities do not generate adequate revenue to meet salary costs, the average staff vacancy is at 35%, only 2 cities have formed ward committees and area Sabhas (platforms for citizen engagement) and only 13% of the cities have enacted town and country planning acts.

The opaque and unscientific planning and budgeting of the city’s limited financial resources to provide basic infrastructure at the neighbourhood level, result in inequitable infrastructure delivery across neighbourhoods in cities. This is further compounded by the lack of platforms for citizen engagement and the non-availability of civic data and insights to drive budget priorities at the neighbourhood level in dis-cussion with citizens. Both the above contribute to the growing trust deficit between citizens and government and very poor quality public infrastructure.

However there is good news too. Some of the cities are slowly but surely scoring better over the years. City governments are expressing genuine intent and action to fix the systems at their end and it is evident in the partnerships and MoUs we are entering into with states and cities. We must bear in mind that the problems of cities are systemic in nature and will require some time for change to translate into clear and tangible outcomes for citizens to experience.

Does that mean we as citizens don’t do anything till then? No, we then need to find ways to be leaders in our own spaces. What is certain is that city governments by themselves alone will not be able to fix the complex problems of our cities. Every citizen will need to be an active contributor in helping government solve the problem by demonstrating active citizenship.

Active Citizenship

Today, we see citizens not segregating waste, not following traffic rules, not paying taxes on time, not respecting public property, not coming out to vote, not connecting with their local elected representatives and not engaging in neighborhood civic matters. Even as state and city governments work towards addressing the challenges in cities and finding solutions to effectively meet the growing urbanization trend and its impact, active citizenship will be a key factor in enabling holistic and sustainable governance and development, thereby reflecting the true democratic spirit of our cities. A spirit that will ultimately reflect a deep sense of trust and collaboration between citizens and governments.

Cities comprise of diverse groups of citizens. School and college students, homemakers, traders, employees of public sector and manufacturing entities, corporate employees, educators, neighborhood and apartment associations, urban poor groups, transgender communities, art and theatre communities, technical and professional groups, religious and cultural groups amongst others. Each will necessarily need to demonstrate active citizenship as individuals and as groups to collaborate with government in meeting the challenges of our cities.

So what really is Active Citizenship?

It is each of our individual demonstration of action on civic matters. And there are a wide range of actions that each one of us can take to make a positive difference in our neighborhoods and our cities. When we see a garbage dump at the corner of our street, when we see streetlights not working, when clean water is overflowing from a leaking distribution pipeline, when footpaths on your street are broken; find out who is responsible to fix it, raise a complaint and follow it to closure. File your taxes on time. Don’t pay a bribe to save time or effort to get government documents processed. Follow traffic rules. Vote in every election. Seek out your local elected representative – your Councilor, your MLA and find out what plans they have for your neighborhood, your ward and your city. Participate in civic volunteering and community activities to build and improve peoples’ lives and neighborhoods. It is your right and duty to do so.

Many of us may know exactly how to go about doing much of the above because we have had the good fortune of either being part of com-munity groups or associations in our neighborhoods or partnered with civil society organizations that help you engage with government. There are still however quite a few of us who have very little information or even know where to get started. We will see how we can do that a little later in this note.

Civic Volunteering

Gandhiji said – “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others’. It holds good to this day. Civic Volunteerism is a core value of citizenship. Volunteering in civic causes and issues empowers you as an individual. It builds individual character, enhances values of empathy, tolerance, inclusivity and community. It helps build your individual resolve to commit to taking care of the environment, of natural resources, of pushing for fair and just policies for all citizens, to safeguard culture & heritage and importantly to build within each of us the ability to share and create societies of like- minded citizens demonstrating citizenship.

And it begins with each one of us. In our homes, at work, in our neighborhoods and in our cities. Each one of us has infinite potential to step out of our individual circles and impact the society and world around us - in small and big ways. Our nearest and most recent examples of large scale civic volunteering is taking place as we speak – in flood ravaged Kerala. Even as the state government is leading the way in responding to the crisis, thousands of citizens are contributing to help one another. Participating in neighborhood civic matters and volunteer-ing time to contribute towards civic causes is our obligation to the society we are a part of.

Every Citizen Active in their neighborhood | IChangeMyCity

We firmly believe that citizen participation and volunteering is key to bridge the trust deficit between citizens and government, improve the quality of infrastructure and more importantly deepening individual and collective citizenship, which is an end in itself.

Participation in civic matters will not only enhance practical civic learning but will also provide you first-hand exposure to challenges of service delivery and civic problem solving, changing the way we as citizens think. I Change My City is Janaagraha’s brand of citizenship programs and gives you the opportunity to get engaged in civic matters in your neighborhood and your city. You can post complaints, check on volunteering opportunities in your city and also get information on public amenities and the local government. I Change My City today directly operates in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Meerut. And will soon be launching in Tamil Nadu, Raipur and Gurugram. Through a partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) Government of India, I Change My City powers the entire Swachh Bharath Mission and is present in over 2800 cities across India.

IChangeMyCity has emerged as India’s premier social change platform. It is similarly capturing the global imagination, and has been cited among 23 civic tech platforms of the world in World Bank’s recent report Civic Tech in the Global South. It now has over 400,000 registered users in Bengaluru city and over 900,000 users in Mumbai as well. Through the Swachhata mobile app of the Swachh Bharath Mission, I Change My City since its launch in August 2016, has witnessed over 25 million complaints from over 7.9 million citizens across 2,800 cit-ies with > 90% resolution rate. Today, over 7,800 engineers are trained to use the Swachhata app to resolve complaints real-time, over 4.5 million garbage dumps were cleared across hundreds of cities in less than a year.

Click and post a complaint, it’s that simple!

Complaining about a civic issue is very simple on IChangeMyCity. You come across a civic issue, a mere click on your smart phone and a simple complaint on IChangeMyCity app or website will help get this grievance recorded. While you have done the first step, we shall do the second that is put the civic official responsible to solve the civic issue in touch with you. And it’s here the final and most important step begins. You need to follow-up on the issue and ensure it is fixed.

The distinct feature of IChangeMyCity is that it helps build a network of concerned citizens locally to address common challenges. It con-nects people online through social media & apps and catalyses information sharing and success stories, to actively engage citizens on civic issues.

The platform also provides city news and in-depth information on civic issues, celebrates heroes in the city striving to make a difference, and offers a map based tool to view information on your ward, elected representatives, polling parts, nearest local civic agency and the public amenities in and around your neighborhood.

Volunteering marketplace

IChangeMyCity will connect citizens in cities to civic challenges and to civic officials through the volunteering feature on the platform. Many a time you want to spend some time volunteering for a cause, but have no idea where to start. One you are on IChangeMyCity you will receive notifications of civic events in your neighborhood, you can register to volunteer, get others to join you, post pictures and videos of your day assisting a cause and help IChangeMyCity inspire others through your story.

To enable the successful adoption of this programme India wide, we have launched the Swachh Manch platform with the MoHUA, which will be marketplace for citizen volunteering in India’s cities. This will be subsequently merge with IChangeMyCity’ s volunteering market-place.

So if you are ready to volunteer in your neighborhood and city, then translating it into positive action is inevitable. The process is simple! To get started here are actions for you to take to get going:

- Download the IChangeMyCity (for Bengaluru and Mumbai) and the Swachhata apps available for over 2800 cities to post com-plaints. On Playstore(Android) or iStore(iOS)

- Log on to to sign up to volunteer

There is now all the opportunity to engage and collaborate with government – what are you waiting for? Seize the moment – be the change you want to see!

About: Ms. Sapna Karim,

Sapna Karim joined Janaagraha at its inception 17 years ago. In her time at Janaagraha, she has worked with citizens, civil society groups and governments on citizen participation campaigns.

She has also led the HR & Volunteer Management vertical in Janaagraha for 10 years. Prior to joining Janaagraha, she worked for 5 years in the IT sector. She currently heads the Civ-ic Participation program in Janaagraha in which she works with city governments and community groups in executing campaigns and projects that promote active citizenship. She is a member of the Management Committee and Executive Committee at Janaagraha.”

She can be contacted at :


Sunil B Gabhawalla



Manish P. Sampat



Hon. Secretaries

Abhay R. Mehta



Mihir Sheth



Hon. Treasurer

Suhas S. Paranjpe


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