Campaigning and awareness building has been one of the major thrust areas of SRISTI. The focus of the programme lies on making people conscious about the possibility of exploring innovations in their own surrounding, fostering the values and attitudes of creativity and innovations in wider audience, enabling the traditional knowledge-holders come forward with their own creativity and innovations etc.
The entire exercise of knowledge dissemination and awareness building goes along the spirit of building up a strong public opinion in favour of a creative and innovative society.
Our campaigning and awareness building programme, over the years, has branched out to rope in diverse set of stakeholders viz. grassroots innovators, traditional knowledge holders, organic farmers, academicians, policy makers, scientists, students to build a common platform that shares the concerns of grassroots innovations. Following are our major attempts in campaigning and building awareness for mobilizing voice from grassroots as well civil society in favour of a ‘vibrant innovative India’.
Till date two video films on farmers’ innovations have been produced in collaboration with DECU (Development Education Communication Unit) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The first one produced in 1991 dealt with farm implements innovated by artisans in Saurastra and was telecasted in Doordarshan in September, 1997. Edward Milner, a film-maker from BBC and a private agency TVE made a film for IFGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute), Rome on global experiments and initiatives for conservation of agro-biodiversity that included stories on bio-diversity contests organised by Honey Bee Network. BBC world radio made a programme which was broadcast in their world programme series entitled ‘Bank of Ideas’. This was followed by BBC world TV, which made a programme called ‘Patently Obvious’.
EMRC, Gujarat University has made four films as a part of a series called Shodh Yatra based on three to four innovators in each part of Gujarat. They are developing three more parts based on innovations from Tamilnadu and Karnataka.
Several Other channels like Zee Network, Star TV, Jain TV etc. have covered the activities of SRISTI from time to time. Radio Mirchi also broadcasted information about one innovation per day in its daily programme Hello Amdavad.
The interest of print media in the activities of SRISTI has been equally generous. In October 2000, the Far Eastern Economic Review announced it’s Asian Innovation Awards and the gold medal went to Prof. Anil K. Gupta, IIM, Ahmedabad and SRISTI. Business Week (Asian Ed, 2 July, 2001) featured Prof. Anil K. Gupta as one of the ‘Stars of Asia: 50 leaders at the forefront of change’. The International Herald Tribune (11 October, 2001) carried an article written by Prof. Anil K. Gupta entitled ‘Rich in ideas: Grassroots creativity’. In February 2002, Business World carried a feature on grassroots innovators (4th February 2002) and subsequently brought out a special issue on innovation (11th February 2002) and in both the publications SRISTI found mention. Outlook (9th July 2005) carried a special feature on the grassroots innovations with a guest column by Prof. Anil K. Gupta entitled ‘Potters Wheel’.
The concern for conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable utilization has to be developed among the children at young age so that their attitudes in this regard can be moulded. The concept of biodiversity competition means children in a village school are informed about the competition a few weeks in advance. Each child is told to bring on the appointed date, a list of as many plants as they can find out, identify their uses after talking to their grandparents, neighbours or whoever, and collect samples in the case of plants which are not endangered. They are given points on the basis of each criterion and are also quizzed to find out whether they remember some of the things that they have written. The top rankers are given prizes and social applause. Such competitions invariably lead to a process of knowledge churning in the village.
In the last few years, bio-diversity competitions have been held in many districts of Gujarat across india. The bio-diversity competition held during the shodh yatras witness amazing response from the children.
In one of the Shodh yatras (Rapar taluka, Kutch District) a winning student could recall the names of 728 plants out of which he wrote the names of 572 plants and could remember the use of 156 plants!
This was indeed wondrous. In another bio-diversity contest held in the Banaskantha district, a total of 364 students participated from nine schools. The participant, winning the competition was able to name 612 plants, out of which, he wrote the names of 265 plants, could remember the use of 258 plants and got the samples of 89 plant varieties.
The challenge is that much of this knowledge is lost over time because of the inability of market to price these resources. What is worse is that many of the young people who have enormously rich knowledge of biodiversity and its uses become so called, ‘unskilled’ labourers in the urban market. Once the knowledge systems of this kind are devalued, their erosion becomes inevitable. SRISTI is looking into various kinds of incentives which can be generated not only to conserve but also to augment the knowledge base as well as the resource base.
SRISTI has been organizing food festival since 2004. A large variety of crops particularly from the interiors are getting lost because there is not any demand for it. This is simply because people are not aware of these crops and hence regard them as inferior. Unfortunately, neither the public policy nor the market forces have helped in procuring them. The festival is organised with keeping four objectives in mind.
They are :
- To stimulate demand of local crops and their varieties from dry regions so as to generate market based incentives for their conservation.
- To generate feedback from the visitors about the attributes they prefer in local varieties and also in organic food.
- To organize competition among women and others to identify recipes based on less common or uncultivated plants and create awareness about organic food in the cities for better consumer health as well as sustainability of soil and water use practices.
- To bring various institutions working for the cause of organic agriculture on a common platform.
- This occasion has also been used to generate awareness about organic farming and organic farm products among children by involving them in various creative exercises. Surveys have also been conducted during the food festivals to gauge people’s knowledge, attitude and practice towards organic food and organic farming. During the food festival, foods from different parts of the country are showcased, along with a separate chapter of organic food products. Recipe competitions and quiz competitions are held among women and children respectively. Understanding the critical link between food and culture, the food festival, which brought together the diverse of foods, recipes and food products, is only a cursory glance at the existing cultural diversity in our society.
TAPPING THE BUDDING PROFESSIONALS
SRISTI has always valued the creative genius of the budding professionals in different fields; more so with the disciplines that have a strong link with grassroots innovations, traditional knowledge system, entrepreneurship, development of ICT to link innovations, innovators and the systems of formal education, organic farming, intellectual property rights etc. There are 4, 00, 000 technical students in India. If even 1% of their creative genius were to add to the local knowledge, 4000 problems would get solved or at least get analyzed.
Similarly there are numerous students in the disciplines of management and social sciences, who deal with issues that are close to SRISTI’s the fields of concern.
Recognizing this vast pool of knowledge reserves among the budding professionals in contributing towards the problem analysis and solutions, SRISTI taps these resources through internship opportunities, business plan competition, design solution competition etc. In the past SRISTI has engaged students from reputed institutions in summer internship, organised business plan competition called ‘Disha’ in association with NIF and competition on design solution called ‘ENgenious’. These initiatives have shown tremendous promise.
DISHA : THE BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION
The business plan competition, called Disha was organized by NIF, with active support from SRISTI. The major objectives of the contest were to involve students from business and technical/engineering schools in the process of business plan development on grassroots innovations, enabling students to synergize their business acumen with grassroots genius and enabling students acquire entrepreneurial skills. Except the final round of presentation at IIM, Ahmedabad, all other processes pertaining to the organization of the business plan were done on-line. A separate web-site (www.disha.scai.org.in) was developed for the business competition and the managerial and logistical supports were provided by GIAN and NIF.
Invitations were sent to the 250 colleges of management, engineering, pharmacy and agriculture. 313 teams from 79 institutes registered for the competition.
At last 36 business plans were received at the end of the deadline period and out of which 11 best business plans were selected for final presentation. In the final presentation, total six teams were awarded and the awards were given away by Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, who delivered the presidential address at Third Award Function of National Innovation Foundation (NIF) on 5th January, 2005. There was very a active contribution from the faculty from IIMA, in not only judging the final presentation but also in giving feedback to the participants. The competition was instrumental in unleashing the creative potentialities of the young entrepreneurs. Similar competitions are being planned in European institutions as well.
ENgenious a design competition was held at SHAASTRA, the technical fair organized by the students of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras from 8-10 October 2004. The aim was to provide a platform for generating design solutions to socially relevant problems. Engineering students from colleges all over India participated in the three day event. 17 teams participated in the competition and some of them submitted multiple entries. A total of 26 entries were received.
This was an excellent exercise to involve a small sample of the 400,000 students, who study at technology institutes around India every year. The problems were chosen after keen deliberation on their feasibility and relevance and after consulting and taking the help of NGOs and organizations including NIF and SRISTI.
SRISTI posed several problems and Professor Anil Gupta was invited to judge the top ten entries that were short listed by three professors of Mechanical Engineering Department of IIT, Madras. Five top entries were given cash awards.
Shastra created tremendous awareness about SRISTI, NIF and the Honey Bee Network activities. The participating teams were shown a video on BBC coverage of NIF and Honey Bee Network activities at Shastra.
As a continuation of the event, an exhibition of Rural Technologies and Innovations was organized for two days with help from SRISTI, GIAN and NIF. Innovators from all over the country displayed their innovations and interacted with the visitors, thereby increasing public awareness about growth and development of rural technology.
If you are interested in exploring and contributing towards the issues of grassroots innovation, traditional knowledge, entrepreneurship development, organic farming, natural resource management, Prior Inform Consent, Intellectual Property rights, ICT applications in the field of innovations, click here to submit your resume.
CAMPAIGN AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
International competition for scouting grassroots creativity, innovation and outstanding traditional knowledge has been taken up in the right earnest by SRISTI. Contacts have been established with the Presidential office, Brazil, scientific councils and provincial bodies in South Africa and Tianjian University of Finance and Economics, China. The announcement of the competition will be circulated at the international conference on biodiversity organised by UNESCO with the support of French government in Paris in January end.
The Chinese collaborator has taken lot of interest and the former Director of the management school at the university has now taken over as Vice Chair of the Chinese Council of Science and Technology. It is hoped therefore that the international competition may have a Chinese sub section with the support of science council as well as private sector companies.
TALKS, SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS
Besides, the effort of reaching out to multiple stakeholders through print and electronic media, SRISTI has left no stone unturned to rope in as much supporters as possible for the cause, it espouses. There was discussion with the Chairperson of CBSE about the involvement in national campaign organized by NIF to scout ideas and innovations from the students, which would be co-sponsored by SRISTI and Honey Bee Network.
Prof. Anil Gupta of SRISTI addressed students at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Madras, National Law School, Bangalore, IIT, Kharagpur, IIT, Bombay, St. Kabir Higher Secondary School, Ahmedabad, Rainbow School for Tiny Tots, SPICMACAY Group in IIT, Delhi, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Communication Technology, Gandhinagar, held a workshop of innovative primary school teachers from all over the country in Gandhinagar,
gave a keynote address at the annual conference of vice chancellors of agricultural universities, Hisar and addressed students of agricultural college in the meeting with the vice chancellor and faculty of agricultural universities, Bangalore, delivered a keynote address at a workshop of innovators, entrepreneurs, students and faculty at Thiyagaraja College of Engineering (TCE), Madurai, where a GIAN cell is also being set up, etc.
Inventors of India Workshop has been organized by Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIMA, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and EU supported project on Knowledge Network for Grassroots Green Innovators