Festival of Innovation — And Why Minds on the Margins are Not Marginal Minds

As the Festival of Innovation concluded in Delhi in March, its time to spare a thought for the countless small-scale rural innovations that escape the science and technology elite in India. And for Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad’ Professor Anil Gupta‘s tireless efforts to bring them recognition, through his Honey Bee Network and Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI), and later the Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network and National Foundation of India.

8th Annual Responsible Leadership Summit
Prof Anil Gupta Credit: IIM, Ahmedabad

This year, eight grassroots innovators from Kashmir won the national awards for their innovations. So did a musician from Nagland, Moa Subong, who is the backbone of the band Abiogenesis, for his innovative contribution towards traditional music. And the the Khasi and Jaintia communities for creating the living root bridges that serve as a communication network to remote villages.

Living root bridge
Living root bridge in northeastern India: credit: Anselmrogers, Wikipedia

I had a chance to travel to some of the most interior areas of Gujarat to see some of the innovations and meet the unsung innovators. And so, was only too happy to read Prof Gupta’s latest book: Grassroots Innovation – Minds on the Margin are not Marginal Minds. 


Prof Gupta asks some uncomfortable questions. For example, Do innnovatons have to be mass-produced?

“Frugal solutions are not always seductive for scientists and policy makers and extension workers,” he writes, “perhaps these are not reassuring ideas for many because of their inherent democratic nature and ease of use without expert help. Lack of institutional support thus comes in the way of diffusion of such low-cost, easy-to-use innovations amongst those who need these most but may not have discovered them themselves.”

My  review in the Wire:




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