Background for Social Innovation Program
Developing an Eco-system for Social Innovation
Mobilsing creativity and innovations at grassroots level in informal sector and among children have had a major policy and institutional impact in the last twenty-five years. Emergence of National Innovation Foundation chaired by Dr. R A Mashelkar is one major milestone. SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) was set up in 1993 to backstop Honey Bee Network started 25 years ago. Honey Bee network cross pollinates ideas, affirms and asserts the identity of unsung heroes of our society who have solved local problems through their own genius without any help from outside; and shares benefits with knowledge rich-economically poor people when their knowledge is valorised and commercialized. It also tries to links formal and informal institutions whether in the domain of science and technology, education, culture or management of people’s self-design common property institutions.
SRISTI gave rise to GIAN in 1997 as a follow up of International conference on Creativity and innovation at grassroots in collaboration with IIMA and Gujarat Government to link innovation, investment and enterprise. However, despite SRISTI, GIAN and NIF, several major areas of HBN activities and concerns have remained poorly addressed.
Gaps in Innovation eco-system:
There are many innovative college technology students who have come up with great ideas such as 15 min Vitamin B12 test, hot chamber that utilises the heat produced by compressors in refrigerators, a load carrying device for coolies so that burden shifts on body instead of head or neck, etc. Tragedy is that they do not get any support to develop their ideas into prototypes or social enterprises. Also, most large corporations that extract forest or mine based raw materials from the tribal areas don’t invest any money back into the development of those areas. Many of such regions continue to be bypassed by the state as well as markets. There are outstanding traditional art forms in India, especially in tribal regions (Pithora or warli paintings, storytelling through songs, and education through songs). Folk art and culture can play a great role in enriching our lives, but there is no significant market yet, either in the form of cash economy or in the form of gratitude economy. A pay forward system can also be utilised to invest in this kind of cultural creativity society (e.g. folk artists to paint at least one wall in every school or public or private building). There is an urgent need for creating open source multi-language-multi -media teaching content for rural children. This content can be oral content/sound files, which can be downloaded easily, or even animation clips, which make understanding easier.
Missing Bridge: Samevdana to Srijansheelta
Currently, the bridge linking unmet needs of our society and the creative energy of young people who want to come up with innovative solutions is missing. The gap continues to exists because either needs are not well recognised or if recognised, they don’t not trigger samvedana (empathy) which then fails to induce srijansheelta, the creativity.
Social open innovations are needed to fill the gaps by enabling disadvantaged communities to trigger samvedana and youth to experiment, innovate and find entrepreneurial solutions. While micro-finance has been well known and established as a tool for bringing about a change in grassroots entrepreneurial environment, Micro venture finance is yet to be recognised as a viable and effective told for promoting innovation-based enterprises. Micro-finance is for products for which markets exist, but micro venture finance is for goods and services for which market is yet to be created. When we have to create social markets and not just economic markets, we may have to go beyond MVIF (Micro Venture Innovation Fund) and move into Finance for Open Inclusive Social Innovations Program (FOISIP)