Manivannan Ponniah

2018 Cheng Fellow

Manivannan Ponniah is a Mid-Career MPA candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is a senior civil servant of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in Bangalore and has been working to empower citizens to engage the government to work for and with them for the last two decades. He has worked in a variety of government roles, managing cities with populations over one million, as the Commissioner of Districts, and as the CEO of utility companies. In these roles, he has been effective in using social media to gain support and won accolades from the citizens and media. Manivannan aims to create an effective and sustainable ‘participative governance platform’, that ensures transparent and accountable systems in India. In this regard, he has been working with citizens, who bring technology and managerial inputs, to solve Bangalore’s pressing challenges. As a Cheng Fellow, Manivannan is coordinating an innovative project in the city of Bangalore, that aims to tackle the critical issue of waste management. This year, the citizens are designing a pilot intervention, as well as drafting a bill to make the citizen engagement model legal and permanent. Manivannan will spend his time mobilizing citizens and negotiating with stakeholders to drive towards the project forward, with the ultimate goal of deepening the roots of democracy and equality in the biggest democracy in the world.