Summer School on GRI and Inclusive Innovations 2015

Reflections: Day 2-July 26, 2015 Summer School on GRI and Inclusive Innovations

Session Details:

Understanding GRI (at/with/for/from)

  • Cases of GRI in India and Issues/tensions in-Scouting, Documentation, Validation, Value Addition, Business Development, IPR and Policy Impact
  • Reflections, readings and discussions from Day 1

Interaction with Grassroots Innovators

Problem Sensed, Motivation, challenges, support, contribution towards GRI, etc

Reflections by Sharmistha Banerjee, IIT Guwahati


It was an interesting experience to go through the innovation experience of all the grassroots innovators and to learn about all the strategies evolved by Honey Bee Network.

Amongst the four innovators who presented their work today, a common thing was their entrepreneurial zeal and the ability to work out the right kind of network which helped them in successfully bringing their innovation to the market. Many grassroots innovators won’t be this resourceful. An initiative to disseminate entrepreneurial skills and spirit into them was presented in the Honey Bees’s presentation.

I would like to suggest that maybe we can also think of capacity building for the grassroots innovators by training them in principles of Human Centered Design. For example IDEO has designed a Human Centered Design toolkit which can be used in design for the social sector in a collaborative setup. Directly using the toolkit might not be possible for the grassroots innovators but we can design a suitable toolkit/ workshop which can help in training the grassroots innovators so that they can themselves refine their innovation.


Questions raised by Sharmistha Banerjee, IIT Guwahati


This question is a refinement of my question asked on 25th.

From the diagrams developed by Riya Sinha which detail out various aspects and stages of grassroots innovation and the four grassroots innovators whom we met today, I find little more clarity in my previous question. I would like to repose the question as:

Like Riya’s framework, is there a framework already identified which details out the major conflict patterns arising at different stages of grassroots innovation and how they have been dealt with?

Reflections by Nupur Pandit, NIF-INDIA


Listening to innovators and their enthusiasm to learn for betterment was very stimulating to instate a connection of informal knowledge with regard to formal knowledge. The experiences shared by grassroot innovators was gripping in order they assess customization of the innovations to met needs that includes (but not limits to) technical, financial, social, and even ethical requirements of their surroundings.

A good example about the ethical behaviour of innovator was given in the session that a farmer refused to use an innovation that can make his farming practices easier, only because it may harm his cattle.

Other than skills and materialistic support, a moral support also do play role in journey of innovators to land upon the innovations. The process of innovation is an iterative and should be interactive too to cope up with the ups and downs of the journey and that they must be able to look afresh every time for a new iteration. While conflicts in interaction and challenges give birth to a new level of creativity sometimes.

Grassroot innovators, other than financial and moral assistance, at a level, needs a hand of theoretical concept building in their ideas and prototypes in order to make the innovations fit into finalization and also to empower the innovators in terms of thought processing and confidence with the same.

In a way how scholars can add into the concept building model of grassroots may depend upon their involvement and the social and ethical values of there. While the kind of involvement can also help theoretically sound scholars to build upon their practical experiences onto the knowledge, after all teaching can just be remembered but involvement can be learned.

Comments by Prof Gupta:

Try to also capture examples that were brought out in the class so that other readers who are not present in the class can understand the context of what we are discussing in the class

please also reflect on the way concepts get formed and whether there is any significant difference in the way formal system forms concept and the way informal system does so; if the difference does not lie in the formation of concepts, then do we have difference/s in the way we concatenate them into a hypothesis (for example, why and how will wick fall and when …), and also when we related concrete and abstract. Why increase in torque, reduction in speed in tractor trolley will require more weight and why therefore lorries carrying more grain bags keep a few bags on the front mud guard, what is the ratio of weight in the front and back, at what size, how much horsepower, at what turning radius etc.,)

we should take a case of herbal knowledge also if possible so that we can understand similarly how healers use different ingredients and on what criteria do they mix one with another, in what proportion, in what sequence, at what interval, with what additives or media, and what are the other conditions used to tailor the does of a formulation with the conditions of the patient;

The concept of dosage then may not be unique to formal system, which are the other concepts which both formal and informal system follow so that we can figure out which dimensions really are distinguishing these two highly heterogeneous system of knowledge

We have to peel each idea as sharply as possible to go to the root of the concept and then chisel it slowly and slowly.


Reflections by Birendra Singh, CSSP, JNU

Who does not care about innovations! Firms care about their ability to innovate to sustain their competitive advantage, on which their future agedly depends. Individuals those are conscious about their surrounding and own personality care about innovations. Common people care about innovation too, that is why how to design policies that can stimulate innovation has become a hot topic around the world. Fagerberg (2004) and Fagerberg and Verspagen (2009) argued that “innovation” as old as humanity itself. Several evolutionary thinkers also suggest that innovations are the mechanism to get adept in evolutionary process. They used adaptation and innovation interchangeably and conceptualize environmental changes with market uncertainty. Barnett (1953) observes innovations as drivers of cultural change. Kallen (1950) define innovations as changes novelties of rites, techniques, costumes, manners and mores. Schumpeter’s (1934) notion of innovation was based on first commercialization of idea and entrepreneurial skills.

Is humanity have to serve only to fortune/top of the economic pyramid, is adoptability is the feature only found at firm level, is it possible to assume culture can be static in any social system, is it  justifiable to regard entrepreneurial skill only on the basis of formal education system. If no, then why our variables to measure innovations, concepts and understandings of innovations are not as broad as cultures (specially global south where heterogeneity is the essence of life), socio-economic conditions, local needs and diversity at resource level found in different regions of world. Philosophically, in its simplest form, technology can be conceptualized as physical form of knowledge. Then, if Indian state really want to participate in so-called “knowledge economy” is it possible to overlook large repertoire of knowledge maintained and procured by our artisan, peasants and worker class. I think it will be serious mistake to treat this knowledge coming from grassroots by the so called “universal” perspective. I am afraid and excited to see what will be the impact of this churning of institutions (so called formal and informal, although this classification need further clearly) on our development trajectory.

In case of grassroots innovation (at least in “at/with/from”), where empathy and compassion is the core of technology designing, user is not just merely a consumer. Participation of users at early stage of technology designing, incorporating their cultural values and belief system in product development cycle (PDC), high degree of customization, high range of inclusiveness, low cost of affordability, health and environmental sensitivity of designs makes this concept more democratic and complimentary to idea of justice and open society. Keen observation of local needs and conditions, continuous practice and dedication, indigenous and traditional knowledge are the few basic elements of knowledge at grassroots level. That is clearly visible in their technology designs. But it doesn’t mean that grassroots innovations are not systemic or robust as so-called advance scientific technological designs.

After meeting grassroots innovators on July 26th, personally I believe that many grassroots innovations are best examples of blending of different knowledge bodies, life experiences and divers living conditions that make these innovators more socially acceptable, economically affordable and ultimately more pro people. These innovations are not as obvious as human’s basic instinct for novelty. These are the result of life experiences; continuous evolution of knowledge maintained and procured by our artisan, peasant and worker class in extreme living conditions. Innovation at here directly related to the livelihood, empowerment and social responsibility. With the example of Mansukh Bhai patel, cotton striping machine patent (1997) holder, it is clearly visible that when grassroots innovator transformed him/her-self as entrepreneur (obviously with institutional support) he or she present example of responsible entrepreneurship. It means that most of the time responsible entrepreneurship inherent in grassroots innovations because of moral, ethical social and cultural connectedness of innovator with local conditions (cultural and socio-economic). Actually, grassroots innovations are filling the gaps those have been created by the so called “scientific and robust” knowledge on the name of “objectivity”. Gap created by the mindset of policy makers and academicians which treat economic and technological development (intentionally I am not using the word transformation) in relation with scientific principles and rationality of market that is further leading separation of economic capital with other important capitals (ethical, moral, social and natural). With the emergence of grassroots innovations as a people movement, leaded by bottom of the economic pyramid and local community members, conflict and cooperation among existing bodies of knowledge at different level are also observed. In this context the contribution of Honey Bee Network (HBN) and SRISTI with other stockholders become very crucial specially in documentation of people knowledge, blending of knowledge, recontextualize conventional thinking about innovations, minimizing the conflict between the institutions (formal and informal), scouting and encouraging grassroots  innovators to inclusive potential of their innovations. Priority to local niche and ecosystem, resources and needs makes this model of development more sustainable model of Transformation (now I used this word intentionally).

Questions raised by Birendra Singh, CSSP, JNU


  1. In a socio-cultural system, what are the conditions and triggers provoke emergence and evolution of grassroots innovations?
  2. What are the basic conditions to be qualified as grassroots innovation?
  3. What are the motivational factors for grassroots innovators?
  4. In lack of market factors how selection, variation and replication of grassroots innovations can be conceptualized?
  5. Why we need formalization and so-called scaling up of grassroots innovations?
  6. Which types of interaction (conflict and cooperation) among the institutions are observed in process of recognizing scientific and inclusive potential of grassroots innovations?
  7. How procurement and transfer of knowledge take place in case of grassroots innovations?
  8. How mapping, measuring and appropriation of knowledge can be done in a socio-cultural system?
  9. What are the roles of social institutions (caste, gender, religion and other possible identities) in case of grassroots innovation?
  10. What the tools, methods and mechanisms of knowledge transfer/flow/sharing in a cultural system?

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