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Policy support for grassroots Innovation; a regional dialogue

Should each country in the region rediscover the wheel? Why should not the policy makers learn from each other and also from the experience of Honey Bee Network over the last three decades in India and other countries.

UN ESCAP in cooperation with GIAN, IIMA, SRISTI and other members of Honey Bee Network organized a major workshop on Jan 27 at IIMA. Innovation ecosystem managers and senior policy makers from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, Mali, China, Samoa, Timor laste, United Kingdom, Thailand, Nepal and of course India. Encouraging students during summer vacation to look for odd balls, innovators and creative communities around their homes was considered by the participants as one of the most frugal way of seeking and documenting innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge. SRISTI and the Network developed this method 30 years ago when the engagement with creative communities began in the right earnest.

The need for early stage funding to be in grant mode was also accepted by the delegates as imperative for building capacity for future engagements. Ketki Bapat from the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India made a few very poignant recommendations, enthusiastically appreciated by the participants: why not try grassroots innovation having cross-country application being incubated simultaneously in each country; why should not public system provide support for field testing in large numbers so that technology becomes robust and thus has smoother prospect for wider diffusion through market or social channels.

Other participants asked: Why should not innovators visit each other to learn and share. Can entrepreneur from one country, investor from another country join hands with an innovator in the third country. The GIAN’s triangle can thus be connected across the countries. The Honey Bee Network has already built a global database of innovation. Can it not be endorse/ hosted by the agricultural and science and technology extension departments in their local languages? This will not only help others in a similar socio-ecological setting but inspire them to innovate to solve their own problems. Many of the platforms and technologies that individual country had made for their own use like ideabank.gov.bd in Bangladesh, honeybee.org will now be available to other countries without incurring any cost to the the end user across the world. Using each other’s expertise like that of labs and certifications etc., for prototyping, testing and certifications and making first few pieces for trials and demonstrations could also be very helpful.

The enthusiastic support for regional open source idea banks was palpable and much appreciated. The workshop has paved the way for the auspices start of the Iccig.org, Jan 28-30, 2019. Gandhian spirit of assimilation, inclusion, antyodaya and solidarity was evident in almost all the suggestions that came up on the table.

It was clear to the participants that Indian experience teaches it very clearly that one should not wait for good ideas to arrive. One should go out and seek them. Let us hope that the spirit of the Honey Bee Network which bought these participants from Samoa to Mali together will also sustain the spirit of celebrating creativity and innovation from the grassroots.

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