Much has been spoken and written on the 74 year old crusader who is giving the Indian government a hard time with his anti-corruption Bill. The campaign has not just captured the imagination of the masses but the world is watching with awe as one man is attempting to overcome a systemic rot. Visuals of people wearing Gandhi caps with the words ‘I am Anna Hazare’, waving Indian flags and thronging venues across the nation are now common place.
I am particularly impressed by the simplicity of the message, the positioning and appeal of the campaign and the lessons that internal communicators can learn from this experience.
Focusing on the pain point: If you look closely at the campaign it isn’t backed by a million dollar advertising burst or a clever social media strategist who crafted a long term program. However the measurable impact he has made will put even the best marketer to shame. Although some believe that there is a ‘foreign’ hand or certain ‘vested interests’ trying to destabilize the nation through his campaign! Anna, according to me is addressing a core issue that has caused so much angst over the years and continues to frustrate us each day as citizens. He has channelized the fury of the masses into one big tsunami wave.
Distinguished credentials: He may not have come this far without building credibility and keeping his image intact despite repeated attempts to malign him. Anna served in the army and fought for the nation in the Indo-Pak war. He is credited for turning around and building India’s first self-sustainable model village, Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra, India. His work hasn’t gone unnoticed either – winning him the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, India’s third and fourth highest civilian awards as well as the Care International Award.
Someone like you and me: His direct approach, his ability to confront issues and his courage to take on the corrupt appeals to many. Since culturally we respect hierarchy and avoid breaching topics that are discomforting his stance does appear to be refreshingly different. What also draws people to him is also his simplicity as an individual. Here is a person who holds no assets and sleeps in a temple when billions of rupees are siphoned in countless scams across the country.
Connection and community: His cause cuts across generations, classes and communities. While media claims that the middle class make up a sizable chunk of his support base calls by religious leaders to shun his campaign has fallen on deaf ears. Most participants in rallies belong to Generation Next who can relate to a leader that believes in ethics and progress.
Anna’s campaign isn’t about anti-graft as much as it is about preserving prosperity. And it isn’t only about making the country prosperous but to bring a cultural shift from ‘chalta hai’ (literal translation from Hindi – let it be) to transparency and accountability.
To understand prosperity let us turn to the Legatum Index, the world’s only global assessment of wealth and wellbeing.
In the 2010 ranking India comes at 88 among 110 countries. The Index defines prosperity as both wealth and wellbeing, and finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy, and free citizens. The Prosperity Index™ accounting for over 90 percent of the world’s population is based on 89 different variables, each of which has a demonstrated effect on economic growth or on personal wellbeing.
The statistics on India clearly indicate why Anna’s campaign does hit the right chord –
- Only 13% of people feel able to voice their opinion to a public official, indicating a low level of public participation in the political system
- 42% approved of the country’s efforts to help the poor
- Only 36% of people had helped a stranger in the previous month indicating relatively poor community relations.
- Average 21% of Indians believe they can trust others. (2009 survey)
- Only 68% of people are satisfied with their freedom to choose what they do with their lives (2009 survey)
Yesterday I accompanied my father to meet with his former professor Samuel Paul, a renowned economist in his early eighties. A founder member of Public Affairs Centre, a Bangalore based governance think-tank, his pioneering citizen report card is now a proven methodology used by many nations to evaluate their governments. According to him transparency in public governance and empowerment of citizens can go a long way in reducing the scope for corruption.
Likewise, the Legatum study calls out that ‘changes in the “social fabric” of a country can lead to big changes in national prosperity.’
What does all this mean for organizations and internal communicators?
Think about this – how different are the expectations of employees from their leaders and organization when it comes to governance, safety, personal freedom, social capital and health – the factors studied by Legatum?
In an organizational context it might read as ‘direction’, ‘trust in leadership’, ‘empowerment’, ‘workplace safety’ and ‘employee health’ – measures to gauge how the firm is doing with engagement.
However to make your workforce engaged you need your leaders to focus on how Anna is driving his campaign to make Indians happy, healthy and free.
Wouldn’t you like Anna to be on your team?