With the economic downturn, entrepreneurial opportunities for young and old innovators have got further squeezed. Even earlier, there was hardly any fund to invest in creative ideas of young students, self-employed people or even professionals who had ideas and sometime even the proof of concept which could make a difference. Despite numerous attempts, I could not convince the members of the National Innovation Council that instead of investing in companies, the proposed India Inclusive INNOVATION Fund should really invest in early stage ideas to unleash the power of inclusive and social innovations in the country. The majority of the so-called angel funds have very seldom invested in hard technologies or other such initiatives. It is obvious therefore that every well-meaning and socially committed individuals will have to come together to create such a fund. NO good idea should remain unexplored.
I have talked to some of my colleagues in the Honey Bee Network and outside about each one of us contributing some amount to create such a fund. It is a pity that in the land of entrepreneurship and major social movements, the socially relevant ideas of open and inclusive innovation should find it so difficult to take off. Out of more than 50 Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Awards given by SRISTI in the last two years at the hands of Dr.R.A. Mashelkar, hardly any idea has got traction so far.
Open-source content for our children
Similarly, there are ideas about creating open source multimedia, multi-language content for school children. We know that some of the most disadvantaged children go to municipal and government schools in rural and urban areas. While there are many motivated teachers, there are an equally large number who do not pay attention to the varying learning needs of children coming from different backgrounds. We may not be able to get outstanding teachers at every school but we can ensure outstanding content in every school. The innovators and entrepreneurs who will get such content made by the students of NID, IIT, IIM, CEPT, PRL, ISRO, GTU and other institutions would need to be supported for ensuring that each school of Gujarat and other states of the country gets highest quality open source content. It is not enough to just get content uploaded on a website. We need to create games through which different children can pursue topics of various subjects on different levels of difficulty. For instance, in some topics of science, a student of class five may like to pursue curiosity up to the class ninth level. But in some other topics, he may not be able to understand even class fifth level of detail. The education system must provide opportunity for sustaining curiosity of every child in each subject. The entrepreneurs who will create such content will need our support.
Creating opportunities for folk art
Similarly, there are different forms of folk art which will soon vanish unless we create opportunities for those folk art forms. Without creating markets, young people may not be attracted to keep those art forms alive. This again needs new entrepreneurial approaches. So much of urban infrastructure is being created but the space for folk artists is not expanding. Culture, creativity, and conscience are closely related. You kill one and the others start decaying.
No good idea should remain unexplored
Let us resolve that from this 15th August, we will celebrate the independence of our minds, hearts and visions. All those who believe that pooling small amounts, whether Rs.500 or five lacs, can help in creating a fund to promote social innovations may come together on 18th August at IIMA. I have decided to make a contribution and am sure many others will join. No good idea in education, health, art, culture, technology, energy or any other sector contributing to social development should remain unexplored if a group of knowledgeable colleagues believe in that idea. Every transaction should be transparent and there should be an open platform for learning, linking formal and informal sector, leveraging grassroots as well as formal sector ideas and promoting not only individual creativity, but also collaborative and community creativity and innovations.
Looking forward to hearing from you and making this new beginning for investing in the ideas of future leaders of our society who have to be nurtured now and here.