District BRAC Representatives: A management innovation in progress

Back in 1995, the senior-most BRAC personnel informally acted as local representatives of BRAC activities in addition to their other job responsibilities. They became known as BRAC Local Representatives (BLR). As BRAC continued to expand and to fulfill the new requirements in the Right to Information (RTI) act, address increasing demands from local administration to explain BRAC activities, and generate data, BRAC appointed full-time representatives to every district in 2010. Initiated under the Partnership Strengthening Unit (PSU)*, the District BRAC Representative (DBR) post also provided mid level BRAC staff members with leadership opportunities. The DBRs are a group of trained individuals who are provided with in-depth knowledge about BRAC and all its programmes. DBRs co-ordinate and maintain liaisons with District and Upazilla government authorities, private organizations, journalists, and other important stakeholders. Not only do DBRs fulfill the role of Information Officer of the RTI Act they cater to the government’s requisite of NGO representatives in every Government meetings with local NGOs. Therefore they are bridging any external information gap between BRAC and the government and the public.

DBRs are an effective resource/ tool to bridge the internal information gap because:
•They are usually situated in regional offices, close to field-level operations for all programs, and can provide the head office with direct information.
•As it is their specific duty to be up to date with what goes on in BRAC they are apt at maintaining the brand image of BRAC externally while coordinating between programmes internally to gain knowledge.
•The DBRs report to the PSU, and therefore have the opportunity to maintain a holistic, unbiased view of programs. This vantage point enables them to spot communication needs between programs that programs themselves are not able to identify.
•Given the DBRs’ unique role, they may be an ideal and welcomed source of ideas to programmes, versus being seen as interference of programme’s spheres of influence by the programme personnels.
•The DBRs can be the medium of exchange that all programs are comfortable with and a source for innovation ideas for Social Innovation Lab.

DBRs represent a cadre with immense potential to bridge inter-program and field-to-head office information gaps. They also are ideally positioned for coordinating and introducing new innovations that affect many programs. How can BRAC ensure that it continues to refine and expand the role of the DBR? Based on my recent observation of a DBR situated in the Regional office of Gazipur and the monthly co-ordination meeting that took place there I have a few ideas for discussion. The DBR mainly facilitated the co-ordination meeting and kept record of what was discussed. The DBR in Gazipur had bonded well with the RMs and those who sit in the Regional office his suggestions were regarded with importance. Over the next two months, I will continue to investigate how the Social Innovation Lab can engage with and leverage DBRs to increase opportunities for innovation. Feel free to contact us if you have any insights!

Ideas for DBR role and activities
•Ensuring all staff members and not just RMs are well aware of the DBR and their responsibilities.
•Following up on the outcomes of exchanges between programs
•Finding ways in which they can carry out this additional function more effectively

*Program Strengthening Unit: A unit of BRAC which aims to support all the programmes and help represent BRAC through the DBR.

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