Igniting Innovation for an Inclusive Future
Anamika Dey (CEO, GIAN) and Chetan Patel (Secty SRISTI and NC Shodhyatra)
When legislators from different parties, states and linguistic cultures come together to share, learn and explore collaborative possibilities for being more responsive to their constituents, it is an extraordinary moment in the march of Indian democracy. National Legislators’ Conference Bharat (NLC Bharat), converging over 2,500 distinguished legislators from diverse corners of our great nation, on a shared and non-partisan platform, sets a profound benchmark in the annals of democratic systems not just in India but worldwide. Scheduled to unfold on June 16, 2023 at an illustrious Jio Convention Centre in Mumbai, this inaugural edition of the conference has triggered a huge expectation in society about what a collaborative culture among legislators can achieve to address basic problems of our society.
The innovations in a constituency of one legislator obviously can diffuse in the constituency of another legislator across party and cultural boundaries. Or underutilized resources in one region governed by a different party can be optimally utilized in the region governed by another party because of complementary assets through collaborative exploration. The potential for decentralized, distributed and diversified progress is far more through the convergence of approaches rather than through the pursuit of narrow individual interests. Such an exchange will remain ad hoc unless we make a database of such innovative initiatives through a commitment sought at first NLC-Bharat.
Nevertheless, an unsettling inquiry persistently lingers: what accounts for the glaring lack of such opportunities for networked development in the country? Why do islands of excellence exist surrounded by vast swathes of mediocrity? How can the culture of recognizing, respecting and rewarding grassroots creativity and innovation be universalized? How can a small part of Local Area Development funds of MLAs be allocated for leveraging local innovations in different domains?
Let me mention a few specific action points that can be discussed learned, linked and leveraged at this pioneering game-changing conference:
- A multi-language, multi-media(MLMM) database of innovations by not only legislators but also various other groups including farmers, labourers, mechanics, artisans, students, teachers, civil servants and other stakeholders. This database should be made in major Indian languages and encourage horizontal linkages among the innovators and replicators.
- Map underutilized and unutilized resources in the constituency and develop both in situ (that is where they exist) and ex situ (off-site) plans for value addition. In most cases, such value chains will have to be built by private actors, start-ups and but sometimes large companies may also join hands with local FPOs or other groups to build value chain. It will be critical that while building green supply chains to generate jobs and income for the people, sustainable packaging is paid special attention lest the plastic pollution problem becomes worse and spoils the environment for our grandchildren irrevocably.
- Various risky, novel, creative ideas will need a dashboard/platform providing risk capital, mentoring and supply chain linkages for local individual and collective initiatives.
A innovative legislator dashboard will need to be developed to provide decentralized knowledge and innovation-nurturing support. Such a dashboard could be jointly developed by NLC-Bharat and the Academy of Inclusive Innovations and Knowledge Augmentation (AIIKA) being set up by GIAN with Honey Bee Network and SRISTI. A pilot can be taken up in 500 constituencies. This will also be useful for keeping connect with people across domains, regions and sectors to harness collective intelligence backed up by institutional, social, ethical and intellectual capital of the region and outside. A legislator innovation support fund of say five crores rupees must also be created in every constituency.
- Given the vast difference between rural and urban educational attainment levels, the quality of education in rural areas need urgent improvement to provide fair and equal opportunity to every child. While President award is given to outstanding teachers every year, these are few of course by design.
- Creating open access to high-quality content and a toll-free number for clarifying doubts of the children, particularly from government schools should be a top priority of every legislator. Similarly, outstanding teachers must be identified in each constituency and enabled to travel to different schools with a free bus pass to build the capacity of other teachers.
- Honouring outstanding achiever every year: On 15th August, every legislator and district administration may honour the local achievers and on 26th January, they should honour achievers from other regions/constituencies. This will unleash enormous creative energy in society which will motivate others to excel and hopefully overall system quality will improve sooner than later.
- Each KVK to host the best of the technological solutions for agricultural, livestock, industrial and design innovation: India has done well in diffusion of agricultural technologies but not so well in the diffusion of industrial technologies. Why should not relevant targeted technologies of CSIR, ICMR, DBT and other departments including earth science, space and atomic energy be shared at 10 ha of KVK land where people come at least twice a year in different seasons? Let KVK be redesignated as District Science, Technology and Innovation (DiSTech Innovation) centres. Legislators must insist that state governments may enable outreach of non-agri technologies at the community level, eventually in each block.
- Traditional Knowledge Mapping, recognition and augmentation mission: A civilizational society like Bharat could not have survived for so long without continuous production, improvement and dissemination of people‘s own experimental knowledge. IF 5-10 days under MGNREGA are used for mapping the TK of each elder in every village and town, we can map and update this knowledge base every year. Many of these may need validation and value addition but some may be self-evident or scientifically sensible and can be diffused widely. The connection between grandchildren and grandparents was never so weak as in the current generation. As we have argued earlier, historically, unprecedented knowledge of the communities is getting eroded irreversibly in the current generation. Never before has so much knowledge been lost in human history as at present. Can we stop it? Can NLC-Bharat and AIIKIA, HBN help in making a dam for arresting erosion of this knowledge? We believe, we can and thus make available the most frugal, affordable, accessible and accountable solutions developed by the people and backed up by modern science. If this gets done in the foreseeable future, we would have earned the respect and gratitude of our grandchildren.
- Finally, the conservation of nature, culture, water and biodiversity is one of the most challenging goals before NLC-Bharat. How can we scout, support and spawn common property institution solutions that have lasted decades/centuries and can thus be called sustainable?
If science is an alphabet, technology is like a word, institutions are like grammar and culture is like a thesaurus (Gupta, 2009). Let us rebuild our society by linking legislators’ will with the wisdom of the communities.