The ideal city governance machinery is grounded in strong collaboration between public agencies, private entities and citizens. A broad-based participatory and transparent system for making decisions and managing resources is key to safeguarding city resident interests and addressing their concerns. The challenges in Chennai’s governance relate not so much to a lack of knowledge or expertise, but rather to poor levels of collaboration within public agencies and across public, private and civic agencies when governing and enforcing laws and rules. While Chennai needs to institutionalize effective channels for broad participation in public decision-making processes, it also needs to raise awareness and willingness among citizens to take responsibility for their actions and the future of their city.
Irrespective of the quality of plans or strategies, citizen support is essential to their effective implementation and enforcement in a city of 8.65 million. In a survey of 478 Chennai citizens, 66% vouched that there is ample scope for citizens to engage with government, while just 23% acknowledged having ever interacted with their local level government officers. This highlights a need for strengthening social capital and civil society actor capacities and a need for expanding and protecting spaces for people’s participation in political and public life. This will lay the foundation for building citizens trust in their government and fostering a more resilient governance ecosystem.