Summer School on GRI and Inclusive Innovations 2015

Reflections: Day 1-July 25, 2015 Summer School on GRI and Inclusive Innovations

Summer School on GRI (Grassroots Innovations) and Inclusive Innovations 2015
Day -1: July 25, 2015

Session Details:

Context of Grassroots Innovation by Prof Anil K Gupta:

  • Contested domains: fuzzy Boundaries,
  • Historical and contemporary tensions;
  • Evolving space for GRI as distinct from traditional knowledge vis-a-vis traditional ways of knowing
  • Conceptual framework for framing a puzzle

Introduction to GRI and Summer School by Prof Anil K Gupta:

  • The Honey Bee Network as a new social movement and its framework
  • Informal Economy: paradoxical  organization in ‘unorganized’ sector
  • Language shapes the habit of thought
  • Attributes and characteristics of innovations for/at/with/for grassroots
Prof Anil K Gupta explaining the Context of Grassroots Innovation

Prof Anil K Gupta explaining the Context of Grassroots Innovation

Reflections by Sharmistha Banerjee, IIT Guwahati
Terminology shapes our thoughts in a big way. The term “Design Zig-Zag” seemed like an interesting way to describe the Design Process rather than the usual terminology, Design Cycle. It has sparked an inspiration in me on how to map a Design framework for Design for Sustainability in the rural and semi-urban sector activities.

Another key thing that I noted during the discussion was the question: Why don’t we design for reuse? Indeed it makes the design process difficult to teach to students. Also for companies, they might not see it as an immediate, economically rewarding aspect to consider. Logistical problems in operationalizing reuse profitably is also a deterrent for companies. This makes me think, how do I operationalize “design for reuse” as a design feature in my future work. I will, in my future assignments, experiment with this design feature and seek avenues for immediate and future benefits for the concerned stakeholders.

Another thought provoking seed during the session was the question: why do we site only references which are in support of our work? This is another aspect which I would pay special attention to from now on.

Questions raised by Sharmistha Banerjee, IIT Guwahati

The context of the question is one of my recent projects in Bangladesh where I adopted a participatory design approach to redesign a power tiller based bed planter. The stakeholders involved in the participatory design process were farmers, machine operators, local service providers, distributors, manufacturer and his employees (very low tech manufacturing set up without any formal training), field engineers with agricultural engineering background and agricultural scientists from an international research organisation (CIMMYT) and sociologists and engineers from an international NGO (iDE- B). Several participatory sessions were conducted in the field with the machine. Then some of the sessions were also conducted in board rooms. A cordial work environment was maintained through out all these sessions. During the prototype building process, tensions started coming up. It is difficult to pin point one reason for the same.

Such situations can quite often arise in participatory design situations where the stakeholder base involved may be very large and diverse in nature. I would love to know Honey Bee Networks experience with such a situation and how do they handle the same? How do we plan our research methodology so as to minimize such conflicts?

Comments by Prof Anil Gupta:

Actually idea is not just to minimise the conflicts but recontextualise them

a) who is pursuing status quo, and who wants the changes, small or big
b) to what extent the problem is the bed nursery and/or with the machine itself; we know that share of mat nursery is very small, yet machines are being developed mainly for that
c) are importers of Chinese machines the bottleneck? the Geo-politics of trade has to be put on the table,
d) since i don’t have full information, it is difficult to be more precise but surely there are situations where extraneous concerns may play a bigger role than the real issues, but these are contextual variables, we can not dismiss these

Reflections by Raghunath Lohar, NIF-India
GRI – Taxonomy …..context

Understanding the Grass root innovator is not a thing that is learnt only by theory but its a essence of having actual sense with living life with him via virtually or going to his domain. Today I learnt a lifelong lesson about sharing the knowledge with world is not just publishing a paper with theoretical references in it but acknowledging a minor factor/person/anything that reflected knowledge into your mind. the perfect definition of poor people is never to be noted as BOP but it must be a precise to economic status only. The prior consent for knowledge sharing/improving or any other relevant purpose have emerged as a social responsibility to researchers.

Reflections by Prakriti Mukerjee, SIFOR

One of the first important things, to me, from today’s session was how knowledge systems are fragmented. Therefore, something that might be a problem to five people may actually be a solution for a sixth. Eg. the consumers of a particular wild rice grass in Mali. This example was very interesting to me because in our field area in Kumaon, people used to make use of most of the plants growing in the region even those that grew on their own and are now considered a weed like hemp, nettle and several other lesser-known grasses and plants. Most people know that these were eaten and their nutritional superiority but don’t eat them anymore and prefer the usual vegetables which they have to buy from the market to supplement the quantities built at home. Why is it that despite knowing all the benefits, these things are going out of fashion?

With the fragmentation of knowledge even integration in unexpected areas. This reminded me of Dayanand ji from our field site who is a tireless and creative agriculturalist. I recently heard him talk about how he developed a new variety of radish by placing male and female plants of the varieties with traits he wanted next to each other. This went on for years till he came to a version he desired. When I thought about where I had heard of this before, I realized this was the very experiment that Gregor Mendel performed and came to be known as the fathers of genetics! Innovations often take age-old beliefs and turn them on their heads! And how most formal systems of knowledge have evolved from what is now considered informal.

The importance and ethics of acknowledgement was also discussed. Acknowledgment is important where someone has directly influenced your thought but also where it may have sparked an idea in less obvious ways. It is also important to acknowledge people you disagreed with as that also helps shape arguments and ideas.

The idea of ethical capital builds on the concept of a ‘perfect stranger’ and what a person is willing to create for them. Reminded me of an old Greek proverb I had read, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

A thought I had that may not be relevant in this context is about how ethical capital is necessarily different from religion. A lot of people derive their ethical understanding from their idea of god/s which influences right and wrong. However this often becomes a third party sanction, which is supposed to be missing in ethical capital. There is a fear of punishment which may not be a tangible body like the state but works in more unexplained ways but definitely.

This also made me think about another question raised in the sessions about why innovators are so particular and possessive about their designs that they do not want to let it go into the market and develop other versions subsequently if they wish to improve. A lot of innovators are able to pursue their passions because they do not wish to please any people but themselves. They get their sanctions from within. The formal sector however has people policing the designers with briefs and timelines. These are third party sanctions much like ones in social capital. I think innovators work at a more ethical plane than a social one!

I would also really like to discuss the traditional methods of knowing and traditional knowledge, their paradoxes and other details. This was touched upon but a more detailed analysis would be helpful for a person like me who works primary on traditional knowledge.

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