International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at Grassroots Level,

December 20-23, 1996, INDIA

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 5 (1995), 137-138.
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The search for sustainable solutions to the problems created by input intensive technologies, declining institutions of common property resource management and weakening links between formal and informal knowledge systems is drawing global attention to-wards the local innovations. Research at the Institute over last six years has generated a very rich understanding of the process of creativity and innovation at grassroots level. But many questions still remain unanswered. The influence of world-view of the innovators as well as their contextual conditions in triggering innovations has to be clearly delineated. The inability of formal educational system to draw upon the excellence in ecological knowledge among children seems to add to the problem of drop out because of other socio-economic factors. The knowledge erosion was never so severe as in this generation.

And yet several studies are showing the importance of studying indigenous schemes of classification of soils, waves, clouds, winds etc., to make sense of the variability in natural systems.


A local coordination committee has been formed. National organ-izing committee including colleagues from IIMA and some other national institutions is being constituted. An international advisory committee is being set up to generate wider sup-port and seek advice for the success of the conference.

We invite representatives of Indian/tribal groups across the world to take particular interest in getting involved in organization of the conference.

Co-Sponsorship is being sought

International Association for study of Common Property Resources, International Society of Ecological Economics, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) have agreed to co-sponsor the conference apart from Centre for Management in Agriculture, Indian Institute of Management. Sponsorship from some other organizations is also likely.

Venue: Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
Date: December 20-23, 1996 (tentative)
Registration fees: USD 200, Rs 1500 Instt participants, Rs 750 ( for non-sponsored paticipants), Rs 500 students

Contact: Prof Anil K Gupta
Co-ordinaor, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) & Honey Bee Network
c/o Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - 380 015, India.
Fax: Int+91-79-6427896
Phone: 469079(R) 407241 (Ext: 4922, 4927, 4930) office


The search for sustainable solutions to the problem of managing natural resources world over is pointing in the direction of peoples' initiatives as a possible source of ideas. The reasons are obvious. The market induced as well as the state influenced interventions have often been guided by short-term interest. Sustainability requires widening the decision making horizon and extending the time frame (Gupta, 1981, 1993). The local communities and individual innovators who shared an eco-compatible world view developed ethical norms and corresponding technological and institutional arrangements which helped in achieving sustainable use of resources. However, with passage of time, the erosion of knowledge of such practices took place at faster pace than the erosion of resource itself. There were many other pressures which disrupted the search for sustainable solutions even among those communities including the intervention of subsidies, chemi-cal inputs, weakening of collective institutions and more impor-tantly the bias in education system in favour of certain kind of world view.

Many times there is a confusion between tradition of invention and invention of tradition. Because certain regions have been bypassed by markets and state alike, innovation was a necessary for survival. In such regions, there are always odd-balls i.e. people who were not satisfied with the status quo and wanted to bring about a change in the way resource were used. Some of these innovations were sustainable while many were not. The latter approach implies that most of the sustainable technologies emerged in long past and have been carried forward by successive generations. This indeed may be true in some cases but not in all cases.

In this conference, we are trying to pool together examples and insights from innovations tried by individuals or collectives at grassroots level without any outside help. We will include cases where outside agencies or institutions may have added value to peoples' initiatives and innovations.

We will also welcome contributions that help in understanding the relationships between ethics, excellence, equity, efficiency and environment. These relationships may be pursued from political economic, ecological economic or sociological or management perspective. The important challenge is to highlight the per-spective from the point of view of actors who have brought about change.

It is recognized that the articulation of women's ecological knowledge is often subdued in the arenas dominated by men. We particularly seek contributions that highlight general aspects of innovations and their impact in surviving under stress.

The list of suggested topics is tentative and colleagues are welcome to make suggestions about the session they would like to organize in the conference. We also welcome volunteers who would agree to chair, become rapporteur or discussant in different sessions. There are four major dimensions of the proposed conference:

A: Innovations

Institutional Innovations

Considerable body of literature has recently emerged in the field of common property resources. In different sectors such as forestry, fisheries, grazing lands, irrigation, etc., communities evolved rules, norms and values for managing resources efficient-ly and sustainably. In addition, there are aesthetic, religious, cultural and other social institutions which guide human action in a very creative manner. The indigenous ways of drawing boundaries, allocating resources or resolving conflicts may some time be not only creative but also educative. While designing modern institutions, one can learn lessons from the traditional as well as contemporary institutions evolved by people on their own.

Suggested Themes: Historical evolution of indigenous ecological institutions for managing natural resources. Innovative ways of allocating resources and conflict resolution. Blending secular and sacred values in invoking collective action. Linkage between formal and informal institutions. Policy support for augmenting indigenous institu-tions at regional, national and international level. Scaling up local solutions: the threats and opportunities. Institution building for self renewal: theories of collective action in peoples' institutions. The tensions between tribal institutions of self governance and state institutions of control. Legal environment for supporting indigenous insti-tutions. Ecological economic aspects of resource allocation in local institutions. Indicators of institutional sustainability.

Technological Innovations
Farmers experimentation and innovation in managing resources
a) Sustainable pest management
b) Soil and water conservation/management
c) Animal husbandry and veterinary care and grazing land management
d) Processing of various farm and non-farm produce including leather, wool, crop residues, grasses, dyes etc.
e) Farm implements
f) Seed and food storage
g) Vegetative propagation of horticultural crops
h) Collection and processing forest produce
i) Any other resource situation

Heuristics of farmers innovations for sustainable and non-sustainable resource management.

Linkage between technological and institutional innovation.

Socio-cultural aspects of knowledge system and innovation

Suggested Themes: Religious basis of social and technological innovations for resource management. Ethical basis for perceiving nature, extracting resources and dealing with them. Ethical dilemma in value conflicts in doing re-search on peoples knowledge system. Conservation of agricultural and animal biodiversity through local rituals, traditions and institutions. Conflicts between corporate cultures and social values in biodiversity rich economically poor regions. Linguistic basis for understanding local categories of sense making.

B: Education

Innovations in primary education. Suggested Themes: Space for local innovations and traditional knowl-edge in curriculum of school and college education. Post graduate research on indigenous knowledge system. Curriculum and pedagogic experiments for incorporating local ecological knowledge in education systems. Historical trends in inclusion or exclusion of local knowledge systems in text books and curriculum of different subjects at different levels. Politics of dominant discourse and dominated knowledge systems. Shipping ethical and ecological values of future leaders: cross cultural analysis of curriculum and text books. Linkage between formal and informal knowledge systems

C: Compensating Creativity

Suggested Themes: Compensating/rewarding creativity: farmers' rights, IPRs and Convention on Biological Diversity. Incentives for in-situ conservation of germplasm. Inventor assistance programmes. Database development for documentation, dissemination and recognition of indigenous innovation. establishing global knowledge centres through networks of decentralized knowledge basis. establishing community based trust funds managed by individual innovators and/or locally evolved institutions. Intellectual property right regimes in defense of small inventors of sustainable technologies: myth and reality.

D: Market based Incentives for Commercialization of sustainable technologies

Suggested Themes: Commercialization of value added products based on local knowledge system: challenges and opportunities. Market research for generating demand and tailoring supply of green products. Consumer supported organic or low external input agriculture. Formal tools of market research and product development in the hands of indigenous population (travel communities living in the forest and other such regions). Innovative product promotion policies for green products. Venture Capital Funds and other supports for augmenting for small scale indigenous innovations. Linking Innovation and enterprise: Designing innovative interfaces. Certification of organic products: experience in developing and developed countries. Generating consumer awareness for biodiverse and organic products: successful strategies. Social consciousness about non-sustainable strategies of growth (consumer awareness about pesticide residues, other synthetic compounds, biosafety, etc. Compensating Creativity: Contracts between industry and local communities for tapping local knowledge about biodiversity and other resources etc..

The idea is that all aspects of the creativity and innovation in the context of sustainable development in general and of rural society in particular are discussed.

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