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Magazine Editorial

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Category Collaborators Meet
Title Taking Small But Consistent Steps Together: The Honey Bee Network Collaborators Meet
Details The relationship between the Network (Honey Bee Network), institutions (NIF, SRISTI, GIAN, partner NGOs such as SEVA, PRITVI, Innovation clubs, PDS), and individual volunteers, and the emerging movement for “Making India Innovative” was discussed during the collaborators’ meeting held on November 27, 2006 on the occasion of Sattvik 2006. It was agreed that systematic collection of the feedback from the network members, users of the grassroots innovations (and Traditional Knowledge) for sustainable agriculture as well as other every day activities will be vital to maintain dynamism of the network. While the network was growing through the cooperation with the formal Research and Development institutions, similar robustness was needed at an informal level too—the basic strength of the HBN. In this context, the MoUs signed by NIF with CSIR, ICMR, BSI, and NBRI were appreciated. The need to strengthen the framework of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) of the knowledge holders was appreciated by all present. It was acknowledged that the current situation in this regard was not satisfactory. There was a need to explain the concept of PIC to people with greater clarity. The role of collaborators was pivotal since they mobilized majority of the innovations and traditional knowledge practices. Regarding linkages with formal R and D institutions, it was clarified that the formal institutions were responsible for adding value and sharing the knowledge but the sharing of benefits, if any, was the responsibility of the network members and the concerned mediating institutions. The roadblocks in the success of the innovation movement, and the means to overcome them were also identified. Dr Prakash (PRITVI) said, “What we have started is a movement, and criticism is a part of every movement. Several social movements generally oppose the asymmetry between the privileges of the formal sector and the conditions in the informal sectors. The movements also try to articulate multiple voices at different levels”. The members also realized the need for a synergy between institutional constraints and ever unfolding energy of the movement. The question of asymmetry arose in the context of increasing proximity between NIF and the Government of India. With the emerging insti-tutionalization, will the movement be able to maintain its critical voice? The response to that was the tenor of editorials of Honey Bee, which have become only more critical with the passage of the time. Mr Vivekanandan asked, “Should we not focus on the limited boundary of the network mandate and contribute through small steps in these social movements? We must clearly identify our roles and find out the methods by which everybody can participate in the movement”. He also said that “We also need to focus on tribal knowledge, and conserve and validate maximum knowledge”. He did not see the need to link with the larger social movements. But some others disagreed. They felt that when Orissa Shodhyatra took place, did we not reflect on the role and relevance of the Naxalite movement. In fact Mr Balaram Sahu mentioned that some of Naxalites even attended the meetings of Shodhyatris incognito to understand what we were up to (it may be recalled that the Shodhyatris had asked the local tribal people not to share their knowledge with outsiders, including them unless they had a trust in them, the PIC was followed and norms of reciprocity were made clear). The concept of Shodh Sankal organized by the innovators and Traditional Knowledge holders was mentioned by colleagues from SRISTI. It was also mentioned that not many collaborators attended the Shodhyatras in other regions. At least for a few days, walking together might strengthen the bond and generate greater solidarity within the network and also with the larger social critical forces on the margin. The strength of the Honey Bee Network Brig Ganesham shared the advantages of the informal nature of Honey Bee Network, which are often not realized in a formal organizational structure. He added, “Honey Bee Network should maintain its aura and should remain as it is, informal, flexible and kind of self organizing”. The beauty of an informal network lies in the process of letting people enter and exit through peer review processes rather than through structural mechanisms (true, felt others who suggested that sometimes there could be a negative impact also of this flexibility). It is important that exit of long standing members should be reflected upon just as entry of some opportunists without long term involvement is also critically looked into. One must determine the success of a network by judging the new resources, skills, ideas, members that were mobilized from different social segments not to just maintain the existing linkages but also to add new ones. How were the rules of engagement within the network and outside framed, how were the relationships between institutions (such as NIF and the HBN) maintained with mutual respect growing rather than going down? However, it was also understood that there must be a synergy between the informal and formal structures. This has to be evolved through constant experimentation and critical dialogues among the network members. Mr Sahu mentioned about the concept of “Pravahman” (the flow of positive energy of the network), and revealed that while the formal system could scout only 32 animal husbandry related practices from Orissa, he was able to scout 152 practices through the strength of informal network within the same time. Mr Sunda Ram from Rajasthan explained how the formal sector has started realizing the potential of Grassroots Innovations and Traditional Knowledge. Dr Swaminathan and the state Chief Minister had visited the children Science Park where his dryland forestry innovation was showcased near the GIAN North office and appreciated it immensely. Father Mathew from Peermade Development Society, Kerala said that “Honey Bee Network has become very popular in Kerala, especially after the Shodhyatra and the Honey Bee publications in Malayalam”. He also cited the 347 entries related to women’s knowledge containing 8000 to 10000 practices from one block of Idukki district. The members were told then that this was a very interesting experiment being pursued in Kerala. PDS had tried to document the Traditional Knowledge of women through Self Help Groups. NIF was helping in short-listing the unique practices. The best practices would be prioritized by the members in a follow up meeting. After pooling the same, new products were expected to be developed in which NIF would invest MVIF (Micro Venture Innovation Fund) resources to promote ‘lateral markets’ instead of keeping focus on only verticals. The feedback received during the 3rd biennial function was used constructively in improving the 4th NIF award function. It was suggested that while in the earlier rounds, collaborators had held Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) meetings to appraise technologies critically before scrutinizing these at national level, these were not held in many regions. It was suggested that in fifth round, such meetings must be held so that full justice is done to each innovation or TK practice. While appraising such innovations, the scope for value addition should also be explored so that once again, the same process does not have to be gone through with. In the context of business development, it was understandable if market benchmarking was not done by all collaborators. This responsibility would be taken care of by NIF. It is targeted that by the end of year 2007-2008, NIF should take up 2000 projects, out of which 200 might be incubated and at least 20 might be available in the market. It was also decided that a separate page will be allocated for each of the active collaborator on the NIF website (the page had existed earlier also but much content was not forthcoming). The formation of SCAI (Students’ Club for Augmenting Innovations) clubs in Engineering Colleges and Agricultural Universities was found to be an important step in scaling up network activities. Institutional follow up, it was decided, must be the collective responsibility of all to take the innovation movement forward. The content of local language newsletters and their English version, Honey Bee needs to be collectively looked into by all collaborators. Idea was that each regional version should have at least 40 per cent content from other regions but that has not been happening in many places. Also, the collaborators should take PIC for unique practices without fail so that no body takes away the knowledge rights of the people. It is also important that the regional network meetings are held regularly in each region with sufficient time given to new members to share their views. Perhaps, all members need to reinvent the Network after twenty years so that new energy, new hopes and new faith is generated among all the members about common goals.
Volume No. Honey Bee, 18(2):12-13&20, 2006