by Adrian Ely, Manifesto project convenor

Last week, STEPS participated in a 3-day seminar on “Innovation, Sustainability and Development” in Delhi, India. It was hosted by the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) in partnership with the Centre for Development Studies-Trivandrum and the STEPS Centre. A full programme with links to video from of each speaker is on the Manifesto website.

Video: Anil Gupta, creator of the Honey Bee network, giving his keynote address

Emerging from three days of discussions around innovation, sustainability and development, I was struck by the depth and diversity of knowledge and experience that had gathered together at NISTADS. It has been a true pleasure – both in terms of academic stimulation and practical inspiration – to see the rich history of alternative thinking around science, technology and innovation in India. As young Indian scholars work to turn innovation towards the goals of sustainability and equitable development, they will indeed be standing on the shoulders of giants.

The discussions were hugely broad and wide-ranging, taking in the fields of food and agriculture, health, information and communication technologies, low-carbon innovations, grassroots innovations and indigenous knowledge. Only the field of water and sanitation was notably and regrettably absent (as remarked by Manish Anand from TERI in the final discussion).

As well as interventions on theoretical frameworks, research methodologies and empirical findings, the programme was filled with seasoned activists illustrating many of these ideas through concrete action. Policy makers discussed the role of government as a facilitator and supporter of these efforts – in many cases embracing ideas that had originated within civil society, as illustrated by the example of the National Innovation Foundation and the widespread adoption of non-pesticide management in Andhra Pradesh.

Many of the projects, initiatives and movements discussed over the three days echo the calls of the revised version of the ‘Knowledge Swaraj’ manifesto, presented by Shambu Prasad (video) on Day 1, by reflecting principles of sustainability, justice and plurality. Others illustrate perfectly some of the messages in ‘Innovation, Sustainability Development: A New Manifesto’, and will be written up as examples of how the ‘3D’ agenda has already been implemented by groups across India.

Working with NISTADS and other networks of partners, the STEPS Centre is keen to translate some of the momentum generated by the Manifesto project (and its other research initiatives) into practical policy engagement and impact in different places and at varying levels. As Navjyoti Singh said in his presentation (video) on Day 3, the transition from projects to a movement is always an ambitious programme. The individuals and institutions discussed at this three day meeting give us hope that it is possible.

>> Programme: Seminar on innovation, sustainability and development, Delhi (with links to video)
>> YouTube playlist: Videos from the seminar

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