When Amrutbhai Agravat, one of the oldest members and collaborators of Honey Bee Network received the Hermes award on behalf of Honey Bee Network from European Institute for Creative Strategies and Innovation at Paris, he rubbed shoulders with other awardees including Boeing for their Dreamliner; National Innovation Council of India; Aravind Eye Care India; Positivo Brazil; Kiss Kiss Bank Bank - a crowd funding platform in France; City of Copenhagen for innovations in the city and Tecverde - Brazil's low-cost modular and ecological houses.
It was a long journey for village mechanic Amrutbhai, studied only upto the fourth grade. He brought up by a widowed mother who worked as a farm labourer. In the recent past, there has been a discussion in the Network as to how should the role of different stakeholders be defined. Such a discussion also indicates a creative tension about the way social capital of the Network should be sustained, augmented and utilised for collective good. There are innovators who may have received very little support or recognition so far while others may have done better. Some innovators like Amrutbhai has scouted more than 90 other innovators and traditional knowledge holders. Many others may not have done that.
I recently met KC Kuriakose of Palakkad district, Kerala in a meeting of innovators in Thiruvananthpuram. He was recognised by NIF in 2005 for propagation of rubber by budding. He failed in Std III but his work was commended by Rubber Institute of India.
Today, he has 400 employees and a turnover of Rs8 crore. He, undoubtedly, is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of Honey Bee Network. He is willing to help others in various ways. Amrutbhai innovated more than 14 different bullock-drawn farm machineries and other devices in open source. He did not become very rich but he has accumulated enormous community respect. He has attended almost all of 28 Shodhyatras and not just alone but with many other community members, at their own cost.
NIF has helped him in creating a community fabrication workshop at his house in Pikhor village in Junagadh. It is a novel attempt to harness the creative spirit of experienced fabricators and innovators for building capacity and helping other innovators in the region. Twelve such community workshops have been supported in different parts of the country.
Whenever a problem is posed, he or his son Bharat are one of the first to come up with an innovative solution. For picking up the fruits of prickly pear or a cactus, Bharat designed a handy 'plucker' so that the hands of the women who normally do this activity don't get bruised by the thorns.
In 1997, we had posed another problem of women dealing with the design of pulley to pull water from a well. In the meeting held at IIMA, several ideas were discussed but none seemed to satisfy the collective curiosity.
After about six months, in a meeting at Chhailbhai Shukla's place in Gadhada, all the mechanics were invited to showcase their solutions. The real problem was that water table was going down and the rope women used was becoming longer. While pulling the water, women had to stop for catching their breath.
Our society invented a bunch of hooks tied to the rope to take out the bucket but for 2,000 years we could not find a way of not letting the bucket fall. Amrutbhai came up with a simple design of a stopper attached to the pulley which will press the rope when you leave it. Women could now leave the rope when tired and relax. The bucket filled with water will remain where it is. With help SEWA, a few hundred pulleys have been installed but thousands more remain all over the country. The simplicity of the design and generosity to make it open source suggests how the Network works.
When seen from outside, rewards look not so important. The real reward is when the lives of innovators can be transformed and the fruits of their creativity can be shared with the millions of people deserving them. This is a goal that needs popular participation and support. Every single gesture counts.
News Link: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-tapping-the-creativity-of-common-man-1691435