Curiosity trigger compassion, when questions generation collaboration

There are times when we get stuck in major policy debates because we are too convinced of the position we have taken. How do overcome the logjam in such situations.

Let me take a concrete case of the recent efforts to galvanise the administrative machinery of 115 most economically backward districts to fast track in provision of basic needs and improve productivity there. They are also called as aspirational districts.

Why have these regions remained economically backward is a reason that has not been adequately asked. Ideally each district have Shodhyatras , learning walks in every block to understand the roots of market and state failure one would notice perhaps that in many cases the mis-match between allocative rules and community constraints that have led to present situation. One may also find that resources in which these regions are rich have never been mapped. We have only focused on what these region lacked and therefore provide them.

A genuine curiosity liberates us from the constraints of known answers top easy to know questions. If we move towards hitherto unasked questions, we may find so far unknown answers. The beauty is that many of these answers will require collaboration among actors who may have never worked together. For instance, if a curious collector asks a question about the unexploited or under exploited resources in her district she might find unique skills, biodiversity, rocks & soils, crafts and traditional food recipes/formulations, uncultivated foods etc; just as flex seed earlier consumed by horses became a functional food because of its nutritional and health restoring properties, similarly many new foods ignored so far might be found. Likewise, there might be skills such as wood carving or stone sculpting or bamboo jewellery making which may find consumers among urban markets globally.

When does a resource become an opportunity depends upon intensity of curiosity and willingness to collaborate. If your curiosity tells you what to do, the collaboration helps in finding how to do.

Sweet vermicelli of finger millet Take the case of education. If healthy elderly people are invited to schools to talk about the wisdom of traditional foods, it is possible that children will become curious to find more information. Curiosity triggered in school, may lead to conversation at home and parents may take appropriate action at market place. Curiosity may trigger therefore a conversational change of action which may reach right upto the policy makers. One of the southern states recently announced incorporation of millets in Mid Day Meal Scheme. Honeybee Network and SRISTI has been campaigning for it more than 2 decades. Unless, individual curiosity is transformed into institutional curiosity, large scale public policy changes seldom takes place.

If you think strongly about a need for change for the larger social good, don’t expect people to accept your view merely because you are asserting it loudly. To trigger their curiosity which may help in discovering same answers that you are searching for and then the convergence of curious minds may lead to desirable change. #catchcurious


professor, iim ahmedabad and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place ,

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