SRISTI Innovations

  Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions
SRISTI Innovations

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Honey Bee Philosophy
Honey Bee signifies a philosophy of discourses, which is fair, authentic and accountable. It advocates people to people learning. The ethics of knowledge extraction, its documentation, dissemination and their abstraction into theories or technologies is the central concern of the Honey Bee Network.

Despite all claims about participatory research and action, seldom have we provided opportunity to creative innovators and traditional knowledge holders to do research themselves as well as in partnership or by hiring formal researchers. The institutional scientists have often paid lip service to the cause of collegial partnership with the local communities and people. An evidence of this problem is that almost no research council in developed or developing country requires local knowledge providers in villages to be acknowledged by their name and address. Most institutions do not insist on their prior informed consent, although situation is changing in some of the developed countries but in developing countries, the lack of accountability is almost universal. The issue of local communities and innovators being enabled to hire institutional scientists and fire them, if they don’t deliver is in the realm of speculation. Honey Bee Network, started sixteen years ago tried to reverse this logic. There were four principles, which we learnt from the life of honeybee.

  • Just as flowers don’t complain when their nectar or pollen are taken away, people should not complain when their knowledge is documented by outsiders. They should be acknowledged by their name and address and their intellectual property rights should be respected.
  • The bees perform a very important function of cross-pollination thereby enriching diversity and keeping the nature’s cycle on. Unless we communicate in local languages and in a manner that people can understand, people to people linkages will not be established. We should ensure that opportunities for people to people learning are given first priority in any social knowledge exchange
  • Whenever any wealth is generated by disseminating the knowledge through commercial or non-commercial channel after adding value or without it, a fair share should go back to the people whose knowledge has made that wealth possible.
  • Before disseminating people’s knowledge or bringing it in public domain, their prior informed consent should be taken.

Honey Bee encourages collaborators to initiate local language versions of Honey Bee Newsletter, so that people to people learning across the barriers of language, culture and region can be facilitated. With the help of the regional collaborators of Honey Bee, six regional language versions have evolved, which actually facilitate the process of cross-cultural exchange of knowledge and mutual learning among communities. These are: Tamil (Nam Vali Velanmai), Kannada (Hittalagida), Gujarati (Loksarvani), Hindi (Sujh-Bujh Aas Paas Ki), Malyalam (Ini Karshakan Samsankiiatte), and Oriya (Aama Akha Pakha). Invitations have been received by SRISTI to initiate similar network in Africa and other parts of the world.

Honey Bee, is like a Knowledge Centre/Network which pools the solutions developed by people across the world in different sectors and links, not just the people, but also the formal and informal scientists, policy makers, innovators, green entrepreneurs and educationists.

Philosophy of Seven Es
SRISTI works on the principle that a synthesis of seven Es, i.e., Excellence, Equity, Environment, Efficiency, Ethics, Empathy and Education. These provide the right chemistry for societies seeped in mediocrity to get over their inertia and move towards a compassionate, creative, competitive as well as collaborative society.

A framework for creating an inventive ethic at grassroots level and forging links between excellence in formal and informal Science through Honey Bee Network.

Note on the vision statement
Global competitiveness of any society hinges basically on its ability to incorporate the spirit of excellence at all levels of society. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. To widen the decision making options of knowledge rich economically disadvantaged communities and individuals; one needs to build upon their experimental and innovative spirit. Only then the whole chain can be strong. Honey Bee Network of grassroots innovators has proved that technological and institutional innovations developed by individuals and communities can provide a new way of thinking about conservation of diversity, generation of sustainable alternatives for natural resource management through self supporting viable economic and non-economic options, and augmenting self reliant livelihood strategies.

It is a model of poverty alleviation and conservation of natural resources which builds upon particular resources in which poor people are often rich i.e. their knowledge. In many cases, the insights learnt from local innovations can even extend the frontiers of modern science. In the case of herbal medicine, the studies have shown that as many as seventy four percent of the human plant derived drugs are used for the same purpose for which local communities and tribal people use these plants (Farnsworth, 1981). What modern science did was only to make the method of extraction, formulation, storage or delivery more efficient, or in some cases generate a synthetic analogue of the active compounds. It is a different matter that in almost no case, modern private or other public sector organizations have ever shared any gain from this knowledge with the local communities or individual innovators. The experience of TBGRI is an exception. Honey Bee Network was started ten years ago to correct asymmetry in power relationships between formal and informal sectors of science, technology and economic enterprises. Honey Bee Network believes in protection of intellectual property rights of local communities as well as individuals and has been pleading for that much before the issue of patenting was being discussed widely in the country. Honey Bee does what we intellectuals and other public professionals often fail to do. It connects flower to flower and takes away their nectar and pollen without making them to complain. The cross pollination of ideas among local communities is possible only if we share our research findings in local language that communities can understand. Similarly, when we collect knowledge from people, we should not make it anonymous knowledge. The providers should be acknowledged and their IPRs should be protected. Further, if we get any material rewards, gains or any other form of income from commercialization, diffusion or publication of this knowledge, we must share part of the gains with knowledge providers and their communities.

It is this spirit which guides the activities of the voluntary organization, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) set up in 1993 to support and strengthen the Honey Bee Network - a voluntary informal network of creative people, policy makers, scientists, NGOs and other professionals interested in augmenting grassroots innovations. The Honey Bee Network tries to:

  • Provide a peer groups of farmers, artisans, scientists, academics across language, culture and regional boundaries to nurture, critique and encourage innovative experimentation.
  • Break the nexus between the regions of high biodiversity and high poverty endowed with poor public as well as private infrastructure.
  • Provide access to information that can help improve productivity without increasing cost using other farmers' innovations. Most of the grassroots innovators do not have access to relevant information, which cripples their ability to raise resources and explore opportunities in different markets. Thus poor demand of ecological and technological skill as well as their eco- friendly products forces them to become "unskilled labourers" in the urban houses and markets; galvanize existing institutions and community structures to inspire and sustain the curiosity and spirit of younger generation to pursue the path of experimentation and excellence in local eco-enterprises and natural resource management.
  • Resolve an ethical dilemma about sharing and protecting traditional as well as contemporary knowledge of individuals and communities evolved through conscious efforts but guided by different value systems without keeping people poor. The fact that we have not found many young healers indicates that younger generation does not find the career of healer or herbalist worth pursuing when it entails a life of penury though with a lot of goodwill in the community.
  • Generate a system for rewarding and providing incentives to the innovative individuals as well communities under the provision of several international and national agreements like Convention on Biological Diversity (Art 8(J)), International Convention to Combat Desertification (Art 16) etc.

Response to these challenges has been organised through an iterative and interactive process for nurturing and encouraging creativity and innovations of people at grassroots. SRISTI has achieved some success on various fronts in addressing various challenges described above (Please see SRISTI report in Annexure). We greatly acknowledge the support provided by various agencies like Swiss Development Cooperation (1981- 1990) , International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada, PEW Conservation Scholar Programme (award to Professor Gupta), Swedish Society for Nature and Conservation, MacArthur Foundation, University of Gothenburg, FAO /FTPP Programme and Global Environment Facility ( GEF) and UNDP supported project on Dryland Biodiversity in North Gujarat being implemented on behalf of Ministry of Environment and Forestry and most importantly the grassroots innovators themselves (Please see details of the financial resource received by SRISTI, and audited balance sheets of last three years in Annexure II). However, we strongly feel that the real indicator of success will be when these activities can be sustained on their own through collective efforts of local innovators, investors and entrepreneurs in the near future. We are very conscious of the need to transform these activities from the "project mode" to a "self sustained polycentric movement". We hope that NISSAT will help steer this proposal for support from various public agencies to make transition towards the "local self governing sustainable institutional network" possible.