Three decades of service of creative people: network, institutions and individuals


A social movement needs an institutional support  system for carrying forward various   missions. SRISTI provided such a support during last 25 years to the Honey Bee Network and the other  institutions it spawned by HBN such as GIAN and NIF-India.

Hundreds of volunteers will meet at Garmbharati, Amrapaur, Gandhinagar during june 1-3 to reflect, rejuvenate and recalibrate its  commitment to the cause of serving creative farmers, artisans, mechanics, children, tech students, school teachers and innovators from and for  grassroots level. In every mission the Network and the institutions tried to create global benchmarks in scouting, spawning and spreading frugal  innovations no just in India but worldwide.

Naturally, not all missions have been achieved equally well. The common property institutions so vital for conservation of natural resources including biodiversity and associated knowledge system is still a neglected area. Similarly, the goal of sharing open source multi-language, multi media content to each of the student studying in government school in 650,000 villages still seems a distant dream. IT seems that society has reconciled that children belonging to disadvantaged families studying in government schools will remain a second class citizen of the country. The middle class has withdrawn from there and hence has no stakes in their quality upliftment. Navodaya vidyalayas have provided an outstanding support to aspiration of a a small number of children in each district. WE still don’t have such a school in each block.

Innovations in school education and people’s institutions need much more support from society than has been the case so far.

When SRISTI started honouring creative farmers, artisans and teachers, herbalists etc., 25 years ago, little did we realise that the last three honourable Presidents of India and the present respected President of our country will bless the cause of grassroots innovations and inclusive frugal innovations by the tech youth. Today, a creative child and a rural innovator or a engg student can hope to be the guest of the Honourable President of India and stay at the President’s house.

Naturally, this could become possible only because a very large number of policy makers, public  administrators, NGIs (non-governmental Individuals, more than NGOs), teachers, and innovators have helped the cause. Three of the recipients of SRISTI Samman got Padam Shri last year. I am sure many more will get similar recognition in coming years. India has made the term, ‘grassroots innovations’ popular world over though the usage has got a bit muddled. Innovations from grassroots should be distinguished from innovations for grassroots.

There are many more challenges ahead: how to connect corporations and small enterprises and communities, innovators? How to make district and taluka administration more responsive to local innovators so that these location specific solution get institutionalised? What should be done so that every school invites local and external achievers to inspire children so that notwithstanding all constraints, their aspirational deficit is overcome.

As the resource becomes scarce, the role of  commons will become more and more important in future. Indivdualization and privatization will obviously leave lot of people excluded from a fair access to resources. Alienation takes little time to become aggression.  For a peaceful and amiable transition to new world order, it is essential that we learn to share the resources and manage them collectively. Common earth, common sky and common water bodies will have to become a central concern sooner than later.


All those who believe that cultural, educational, institutional and technological innovations need a new vigor pl join us in retreat at Grambharati June 1-3, 2018 and help us rediscover new paths, new directions,  and new solidarity.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay 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