April's Café Scientifique is on "Scientific progress and the economic impact fallacy" with an introductory talk by Philip Moriarty. Our very own Adrian Ely will be hosting. It's on 15 April at 7.30pm, at The Latest Music Bar in Manchester St.
In these financially straitened times, shouldn’t scientific research in universities be focussed on near-market R&D and potentially economy-boosting applications? Isn’t it right that Peter Mandelson and the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills, the research councils, and the Higher Education Funding Council seek to maximise return on New Labour’s investment in science over the past ten years? And what’s wrong with now requiring academics to include a two page impact statement with each grant proposal, describing potential pathways to improving the socioeconomic impact of their research?Café Scientifique Brighton
In this talk, each of those questions shall be considered in the context of not only economic return on investment in research but, more importantly, the ethos and principles of academia. In particular, the role of the university in 21st century society will be examined.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
April's Café Scientifique is on "Scientific progress and the economic impact fallacy" with an introductory talk by Philip Moriarty. Our very own Adrian Ely will be hosting. It's on 15 April at 7.30pm, at The Latest Music Bar in Manchester St.
Posted by Nathan Oxley at 11:14
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
On 15 March we hosted a public Manifesto debate in Brighton. With an election coming soon, the panel included four local Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. The event was filmed by Brighton & Hove City Council's webcasting team.
Video: Innovation, Sustainability, Development - A Manifesto for Brighton & Hove
There's more on our series of roundtables, including video and audio footage, on the Manifesto website.
Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto
Thursday, 25 March 2010
The title of this year's STEPS conference is "Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice". It's on 23-24 September at the Institute of Development Studies.
Here's how to participate in the conference.
This year's conference is around 5 themes:
* Contesting sustainabilities
* Framing narratives
* Dynamics and sustainability
* Uncertainty, ambiguity and surprise
* Pathway-building and governance
There's detail of all of those themes on the STEPS website (link below), and who to write to if you want to submit a paper.
We're inviting papers around the themes, as well as other forms of participation: there will be keynote speakers and panel sessions, but also five-minute "soapbox" talks, poster presentations, video and other multi-media throughout the event.
> STEPS Conference 2010: Pathways to Sustainability
> Call for participation
> Conference background and draft programme (PDF)
Posted by Nathan Oxley at 16:07
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Last month we held two Manifesto roundtables in India - one in Delhi, the other in Bangalore. We filmed the whole of the Delhi roundtable. As it was a complex and lively debate, we've posted the entire footage online.
Video: Manifesto roundtable, Delhi, 8 February (blip.tv)
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Following is a blog post in Spanish by Enrique Cubero, Masters student at the Center for Science Studies at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research, IVIC. Enrique offers some very thoughtful reflections on the Venezuelan roundtable connected to the STEPS Centre project 'Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto'. See also another blog entry (in English) by Elisa Arond about the event o sigan leyendo en español abajo (haga 'clic' en 'READ MORE')...
Por: Enrique A. Cubero C., Estudiante de Maestría
Centro de Estudios de la Ciencia, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, IVIC.
Caracas – Venezuela.
A propósito de la preparación del Nuevo Manifiesto sobre “Innovación, Sostenibilidad y Desarrollo” promovido por el STEPS CENTRE, el 05 de Marzo de 2010 se llevó a cabo en el Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), la mesa redonda “Innovación, Desarrollo y Sustentabilidad para el Siglo XXI: una mirada desde Venezuela”. La convocatoria la hicieron el Centro de Estudios de la Ciencia del IVIC y Fundacite Miranda, a la cual acudieron 30 científicos reconocidos del país proveniente de diferentes ciudades e institutos académicos.
Los temas claves puestos para la discusión fueron: a) nuevas tecnologías, b) riesgo socio-ambiental, c) agricultura y seguridad agroalimentaria y d) ciudades sustentables. Cada mesa de trabajo contó con la participación de 6 a 8 investigadores expertos en las áreas mencionadas. El debate estuvo centrado en una revisión de los últimos 40 años del desarrollo científico y tecnológico en el país en estas 4 áreas, para luego plantear hacia donde deben dirigirse los esfuerzos en los próximos años con el fin de fortalecer las agendas de sustentabilidad ambiental y equidad social.
El debate estuvo organizado por mesas de trabajo de manera tal que permitiera el dialogo entre las diferentes cosmovisiones presentes, así como responder a los objetivos planteados en pro de un nuevo manifiesto. Al comienzo de la tarde se realizó una plenaria. Primero se realizó una exposición de cada una de las mesas de trabajo; y segundo un debate abierto sobre los puntos más relevantes de la discusión.
Mis Impresiones del Evento
La ciencia y la tecnología en Venezuela ha sido producto de muchos cambios en los últimos 10 años, momento a partir del cual el Estado Venezolano se propuso desarrollar una nueva manera de hacer ciencia en el país que ha quedado plasmada en el Plan Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología 2005-2030, cuya meta central es hacer posible un desarrollo endógeno sustentable y humano y el desarrollo de investigaciones, transferencia y producción de conocimientos pertinentes a los problemas demandantes que afectan a nuestro país. Pero este desafió se ha enfrentado con una serie de limitaciones. Por un lado, ha sido difícil garantizar un sistema institucional estable que permita desarrollar y mantener una nueva agenda de innovación científico tecnología continua en el tiempo. Por otro lado, a pesar de que el Estado se ha planteado una serie de lineamientos generales para una nueva manera de hacer ciencia, en el trasfondo siguen coexistiendo diferentes estilos de políticas científicas que responden a intereses de muchos actores y que colocan en contradicción sistemas de valores y normas disímiles.
La discusión sobre qué ciencia queremos en Venezuela y para qué no ha sido lo suficientemente debatida entre los diferentes sectores que pertenecen a este ámbito de la vida nacional y como consecuencia las nuevas políticas de desarrollo científico tecnológico han sido fuente de grandes conflictos y tensiones.
Esto se reflejo por ejemplo en la discusión de la agenda de las 3Ds propuesta por el STEPS Centre y discutida en la mesa redonda. Para algunos de los participantes, la agenda de las 3Ds parece una repetición incesante de ideas poco originales pero perseverantes que se proclaman por voluntad de unos cuantos. Para otros en cambio, significa una nueva idea que demanda creatividad y esfuerzo para tratar de responder a los grandes problemas de nuestra época.
De modo similar, un planteamiento que encontró eco en muchos de los participantes es el hecho de que en Venezuela se tenga, a riesgo de lo que sea, una agenda de desarrollo científico tecnológica propia, es decir, sin imposiciones de agendas importadas o modelos que responden a necesidades de otros y no a las nuestras. Este planteamiento apunta a un compromiso con el proyecto de país que queremos. Sin embargo, para otros, esta postura puede ser interpretada como un aislamiento del resto del mundo, por lo cual el gran reto es más bien interactuar con otras agendas que puedan brindarnos claves para comprender nuestra situación de país e ideas para la solución. Aquí cabe el planteamiento hecho por Leonardo Boff de “lo que se trata es de pensar globalmente pero actuar localmente”.
Nuestro gran desafío es profundizar espacios de encuentro que permitan un debate abierto y público sobre los diferentes estilos de hacer ciencia en Venezuela, buscando los puntos comunes que contribuyan a satisfacer las necesidades más urgentes en el marco de una estrategia nacional. En este sentido, la Mesa Redonda “Innovación, Desarrollo y Sustentabilidad para el Siglo XXI: una mirada desde Venezuela”, resultó ser catalizadora de ese discurso polarizado que se ha apoderado de las tribunas públicas y privadas en las que se debería dar este tipo de discusión.
Friday, 19 March 2010
Thursday, 18 March 2010
We are pleased to offer the opportunity for postdoctoral researchers to engage with the STEPS Centre during a one month period based in Sussex. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2010.
The ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre is a global research and policy engagement hub based in Sussex, drawing together researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research) with partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The STEPS Centre’s overall goal is to help link technology and environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice, in ways that work amidst the complexity, diversity and dynamism of today’s world.
The Centre works across three themes (dynamics, governance, designs) and a range of domains (food and agriculture, health and disease, water and sanitation, with new domain work beginning on climate and energy), and through a variety of field-based projects.
We are pleased to offer the opportunity for postdoctoral researchers to engage with the STEPS Centre during a one month period based in Sussex. To apply, from any part of the world, you should have completed your doctorate within the last three years. You should have an original, exciting research interest, idea or plan which engages with some aspect of the Centre’s work.
As a postdoctoral fellow, you will work closely with a mentor from the Centre to develop your interests and produce a paper to be published in the STEPS Working Paper series. STEPS will cover any necessary international travel costs, and you will receive a stipend of £1500 to cover local accommodation and subsistence in Sussex.
To apply, please send a one-page note outlining the topic you would focus on, a one-page CV and a letter of reference (e.g. from a PhD supervisor). Please also include an indication of the preferred dates of your fellowship between October 1st 2010 and 31st March 20111.
Applications should reach the STEPS Centre Co-ordinator, Harriet Le Bris (email@example.com) by the closing date of 30 June 2010.
Posted by Nathan Oxley at 14:22
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
36 hours in Venezuela to attend a roundtable: Innovación, Sostenibilidad y Desarrollo para el siglo XXI: una visión desde Venezuela ('Innovation, Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century: a Vision from Venezuela'), hosted by the Centro de Estudios de la Ciencia del Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas (IVIC) and Fundacite Miranda (Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Ciencia y la Tecnología en el Estado Miranda), both under the Ministerio del Poder Popular para Ciencia, Tecnología e Industrias Intermedias), with the STEPS Centre, linked to the STEPS Project ‘Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto’. Beyond that fringe, Caracas is also an immense city of high-rise apartments, office buildings, industry, traffic and of course many more people, all of which and whom I only glimpsed as we drove by on the highway, on our way up to another mountain where IVIC perches atop amidst the exquisite landscape – housing some 1500 researchers, plus postgraduate students.
The roundtable was convened by Drs Iokiñe Rodríguez (Researcher), Hebe Vessuri (Researcher and Director) at IVIC and Francisco Herrera (President, Fundacite Miranda), who divided the group of over 30 participants under 4 themed discussion groups on: Food Security, Sustainable Cities, Socio-Environmental Risk, and New Technologies. There is much I’d like to share about the various discussions at the roundtable that I can’t cover here, but stay tuned as the report by the roundtable convenors will be forthcoming, as well as other related blogs. Following are a few of my own questions and observations, though as a preface, I must say that one day is by no means sufficient to understand the complex political, social reality of Venezuela.
A bit of visual context: To get from the airport located on the Caribbean coast to Caracas the highway passes through a small Northern sample of the Andean mountains, and follows along the edge of the National Park Protected Area, El Ávila. I’d been hearing of the recent droughts (climate change? El Nino effect? ‘normal’ variability?) and the hillside scene was truly brown-grey bone dry with obvious blackened swathes, evidence of fires in various places.
Contiguous to the park, the first signs of approaching Caracas are informal colonization of the steep hillsides by people who have settled in precarious cement brick houses. In places evidence of relocation and rebuilding projects by the Chavez government are visible, standing out in their organised lines of color (often in patriotic red-yellow-blue).
Beyond that fringe, Caracas is also an immense city of high-rise apartments, office buildings, industry, traffic and of course many more people, all of which and whom I only glimpsed as we drove by on the highway, on our way up to another mountain where IVIC perches atop amidst the exquisite landscape – housing some 1500 researchers, plus postgraduate students.
The sign over the highway at the turn-off for IVIC: ‘IVIC – Ciencia para el Pueblo’ (‘Science for the People’) sparks my already piqued curiosity about where politics meets science in Venezuela. I am certain these words are meant to underline the stated priorities of the popular Bolivarian revolution led by President Chavez since 2000. Controversial, radical, a self-proclaimed ‘revolution’.
I’ve heard extreme opinions about Venezuela’s ‘transformation’ as represented in international media and in the Venezuelans I’ve met abroad, but have always been wary of what to believe. Just in my taxi ride from the airport to IVIC one rumour was confirmed: petrol here is amazingly cheap – far cheaper than water! To fill a medium-sized car’s gas tank here, I was told it costs less than 50 pence. But all forms of energy are not equal, and energy in the form of electricity is actually scarce at the moment. Venezuela is highly dependent on hydro-electric for its power and the recent dry spells have drained rivers and dams, leading to electricity rationing. Some roundtable participants told me that government campaigns for efficiency have been effective at increasing consciousness about reducing electricity and water consumption – apparently set in the familiar frame of environmental consciousness (see photo).
But as in any society, will this consciousness remain when the crisis passes? Apparently there have been strong protests any time there has been the indication of a rise in petrol prices. I wonder about the incentives – necessity, nationalism, environmentalism, financial cost? And which one (if any) might settle in for the long term?
In the midst of building the new Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - trying to create a social and political transformation to socialism, where does science and technology fit into the political process? The Chavez government speaks of ‘endogenous development’, uses wealth from petroleum resources to support social programs and reforms, has been vocal in promoting regional solidarity in markets, reforming of school curricula and housing – all with a populist approach, an emphasis on participation by all members of society, especially the most disenfranchised, considered most vulnerable to capitalist models of development. Roundtable participants pointed out that the 3Ds are very much present in the new Science, Technology and Innovation Law of 2001, the Science Mission of 2006 and the new Constitution of 1999, and I am curious about efforts like the 'Socialist Networks for Productive Innovation' - Redes Socialistas de Innovacion Productiva). Yet some roundtable participants felt that such efforts haven't effectively engaged the full scientific community, or that the implementation of policies has been lacking. Furthermore, one roundtable participant argued that while the government has set a target to double crude oil production in the next 3 years the national focus on export of raw materials doesn’t direct needed attention to adding value or building capacities of domestic industry.
At the roundtable I sat in on the ‘Sustainable Cities’ breakout group where participants pointed out that any discussion of sustainability and development needs to pay specific attention to cities, urbanisation, and planning – especially in Venezuela where more than 90% of Venezuelans live in cities, even if the distinction between urban and rural is not always clear in qualitative terms. The point was made for a need to create a vision of a sustainable city– a vision that isn’t present in Caracas now and one that needs to be a wholly Venezuelan vision, not an imported European or North American vision.
Much of the discussion centred around bridging gaps - in terms of communication between disciplines, between the scientific community and policy-makers, and between written policy and implementation, though there was a notable absence of industry (in discussion and representation). And despite some divergent political views there was a truly constructive atmosphere of fruitful dialogue. Across the groups there was a real strong excitement for the space created by the roundtable, a space that was noted for its absence until now and opportunity moving forward. Not only was there interest in creating a vision for a ‘Manifesto’ for Venezuela, but to continue these discussion spaces through different forms as part of the means for creating and then facilitating the implementation of a new agenda for science, technology and innovation for the nation.
Watch this space!Read more
Monday, 15 March 2010
On my way to South America to attend three roundtable events for the STEPS project 'Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto'. I just finished the first leg, London - New York City, where I plan to stay overnight to acclimatise to the time difference before I continue on to Venezuela.
About an hour into the flight I noticed an elder man seated behind me across the aisle. He was very obviously curious, looking over my shoulder to the laptop screen when I was fiddling with my presentation. He soon leaned way over toward me and said in a loud excited whisper “Miss? Miss? …Are you a revolutionary?!” I turned around and laughed in surprise, and said “well, depends what you mean by that. I try to be, in some ways. What do you mean by ‘revolutionary’?” He said “I mean, revolutionary like Lenin, Marx... I saw the word 'manifesto' there on your screen. So I thought maybe you were a revolutionary - like me.” I said no, this didn’t refer to the Communist Manifesto, rather the term ‘manifesto’ in this case was more generally meant as a statement of principles, a declaration, a platform. I told him that this manifesto was about how science and technology could better meet goals of social justice, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction [a side note belongs here on variation in cultural attachment and associations to definitions of certain words - like revolutionary, sustainability, development, poverty!]. We had a conversation then about revolution, social and political struggle, violence, non-violent revolution and pacifism. It turned out he is Nigerian originally, born and raised, then lived in France, where he did a PhD on Franco-African military politics. He now lives in NYC where he sells real estate (not easy these days, he reported).
"Are you a revolutionary?" Am I? Sounds thrillingly cinematic, a loaded term, but I can’t fairly say that describes me. What does it mean to be a revolutionary? Interesting thought to consider when the first of the three South American roundtables is Venezuela, if you've seen anything in the news on the Bolivarian Revolution. Sure, I intend to leverage my words and my hands (non-violently) toward enabling a more just world - socially, environmentally, economically, technologically… But here I am on a transatlantic, cross-continental journey, burning carbon airmile by airmile in order to learn/discuss about sustainability and development. How can I reconcile these contradictions? What can I do to satisfy the moral itching that comes with it? Where do I scratch? I thought about not going on this trip – both in terms of financial cost, exhaustion cost, and environmental cost. But then, I am optimistic that my presence at these events means that more of the resulting discussion will be transferred from these 3 roundtables back to STEPS researchers in the UK, and hopefully online and thus accessible to others across the world. And hey, it’s an amazing learning experience for me, a privilege. Is that enough to justify the expense in all its dimensions? Will this translate into a better world? I don’t know. I cannot presume that it will. Are the thousands of annual flights by UN personnel or from other international social/environmental organisations, universities, etc. justified (forgetting about carbon offsetting)? How should it be decided what is justified and who is justified? Am I worth any carbon expenditure as a research assistant? Should my ‘carbon budget’ be less than a full professor or an institute director, since they have more knowledge to share and a wider network of influence (e.g. imagine a measure of efficiency of carbon use per ‘kilo’ of influence- per publication, per google hit)? This makes me think of the heavy discussions on whether carbon emissions by industrialising countries are justified in the name of development, in the name that the creation of the climate change problem is the (ir)responsibility of the industrialised nations. It's not the same, but I see some relevant parallels - more than just about uneasy contradictions, but about power, responsibility, opportunity, justification, vision and choice.
How does the Nigerian-French-American acquaintance I made on the plane reconcile his communist principles with a job that depends directly on the capitalist impulses of some privileged wealth-bearing members of a severely stratified society (selling real estate in the USA)? That’s just real life, right? You gotta do what you gotta do.
My mom was telling me recently about a book she’s been reading called ‘No Impact Man’ http://noimpactproject.org/, also made into a movie. It is about a New Yorker who decides with his family to lower the impact (environmentally) of their lifestyle in stages over a year and some of the challenges and contradictions that he’s faced with in the process. I’m looking forward to hearing what my mom has picked up from the book. Of course the big picture is not just about politics, nor about building innovative capabilities and technical change – it IS also about behaviour change, about choice, at least (or especially) for those that have the privilege to choose. And it's not just about the environmental impact of our choices, either.
So how can I do this better? How do we do this better? Perhaps awareness is a start, and we can all try a little harder to match our practice to our principles, as long as those choices don't make life too inconvenient, right?
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
It's Commonwealth Week. Julia Day has written a piece for the IDS website about the Manifesto project, which highlights alternative ways to link innovation, science and technology to development.
"Standard policies link innovation, science and technology to development in ways that are not always the most sustainable and equitable solutions for the people they seek to help. As a result, they often fail to address the challenges of an uncertain, dynamic and rapidly-changing world."
Science, Technology and innovation is central to social and economic progress Read more
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
By Pritpal Randhawa, Lyla Mehta and Fiona Marshall
The future is increasingly urban. Urbanisation is increasing at the rate of 60 percent by 2030. Alongside this rapid expansion comes the emergence of the peri-urban interface: the increasing intensification and co existence of urban/rural linkages, marked by dynamic flows of commodities, capital, natural resources, people and pollution.
Street in Ghaziabad, from the Flickr set "STEPS Peri-urban project"
The rapid expansion of peri-urban areas presents both opportunities and enormous challenges for urban and rural sustainability. Conflicts over land, water and tenure emerge: polluting industries, waste disposal, mining, construction and large scale cash crops all jockey for position with small scale agriculture and common lands. This rapidly changing environment poses enormous challenges for the health and livelihoods of an increasing number of disenfranchised, poor and marginalised citizens who often lack access to basic health, water and sanitation services. The changes in the peri-urban environment also raise larger questions about urban and peri urban sustainability.
Despite an increased awareness of peri-urban issues and a growing research presence, there is still little insight into the management approaches that will tackle poverty alleviation and social justice alongside environmental integrity, and draw synergy from urban and rural relationships. However, since 2008 the STEPS Centre, along with Indian partners Sarai and Amitabh Kundu from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) has been involved in collaborative research on peri-urban localities in Delhi and neighbouring Ghaziabad.
A workshop in Delhi, held on 8 February 2010, presented the fruits of this collaborative research to government officials, academics, non-government organisations, independent researchers and activists.
Peri-urban workshop participants
Presentations highlighted the contested nature of the peri-urban interface; conflicting administrative, jurisdictional and governance arrangements; tensions between legality and illegality; and how poor and marginalised people are totally bypassed by dominant urban and peri-urban planning. Drawing on research conducted in agricultural villages, unauthorised colonies, slums and in middle and upper middle class localities - and using water as a lens of enquiry - the presentations focussed on the multiple modes of water supply and access, and the ways in which informal and formal systems of water provision co exist, especially for the poor.
For example, in the absence of formal waste disposal, local systems to deal with waste (eg Johads) have emerged. But these are now threatened due to commercial developments and land grabs by the powerful. Villagers adopt traditional methods of irrigation by using domestic waste water.
At the workshop, we also talked about how the official water system in the peri-urban interface in Ghaziabad was shaped by several city, state and national level government agencies who did not work together. In an area of increasing air and water pollution (recently, polluting industries from Delhi have moved in), water quality has emerged as a major issue.
So who’s in charge? The regional office of Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board deals with the water and air pollution related issues. The Central Ground Water Board monitors the ground water resources of the region. The Bureau of Indian Standards sets the national standards of drinking water quality. Even though these agencies deal with the different aspects of water such as access, quality and pollution, there is either minimal or negligible interaction between them.
Whilst existing initiatives focus on the issues of equity of water supply, the issues of how water is actually used by poor and marginalised communities, the coping strategies that they develop to deal with essential daily water requirements, and the implications of these, are still largely overlooked. For example, local dwellers do not distinguish between supply and quality issues: bureaucratic and institutional responses separate them. This affects the lives and livelihoods of the poor and marginalized, who bear the costs of polluted water through negative impacts on their health. Residents in so-called “unauthorised colonies” completely lack any official provision. They cross high speed railway lines to access water and often pay for water with their lives. Speakers at the workshop argued for the need to re-conceptualise notions of risk, quality, waste and flows in dynamic peri-urban localities and for the need to look at the peri-urban as a process that lies beyond geographical boundaries.
Discussions on water supply in National Capital Territory Delhi (NCTD) focused on debates concerning water pricing. While some argued for a price slab in accordance with usage, others argued that water pricing would not solve the problem of access of water for poor. Providing water to the poor is not a matter of water pricing: it’s a matter of political will. The present inequity in the distribution of water can only be overcome by curtailing and regulating the excess supply of water in the elite areas.
Finally, we talked about regional planning vs environmental planning, and how to democratise decision making. It’s important to rethink the concept of regional planning, which has so far failed to create a harmonious relationship between the city and its peripheries. Regional planning needs to be complemented by environmental planning, which keeps the city at its centre but also looks at the problems of core and peripheries at different scales and in a more harmonious manner.
Existing decision-making bodies are closed forums and are framed narrowly: they do not take on board the needs and interests of poor and marginalised peri-urban dwellers. Participants argued for the need to democratise the existing forms of decision-making, so that a range of stakeholders (especially those who lack voice and visibility) can be involved in framing planning and policy processes. Specific opportunities for “entry points” into these debates and processes were considered.
Overall, the workshop successfully built on policy dialogues over the past two years to take forward the debate on environmental integrity and social justice, in the context of the peri-urban interface in Delhi, with lessons for India and beyond.
The authors are members of the STEPS Centre.
STEPS partners on this project
• Awadhendra Sharan, Sarai, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi
• Amitabh Kundu, Centre for the Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Read the project overview (pdf 98 kb)
On the Edge of Sustainability: Perspectives on Peri-urban Dynamics by Fiona Marshall, Linda Waldman, Hayley MacGregor, Lyla Mehta and Pritpal Randhawa
Liquid Dynamics: challenges for sustainability in water and sanitation (pdf 556kb)
by Lyla Mehta, Fiona Marshall, Synne Movik, Andy Stirling, Esha Shah, Adrian Smith, John Thompson
More information: STEPS Centre’s Peri-urban project
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
The team behind Maker Faire Africa 2010 put out the call for entries yesterday.
Maker Faire Africa - "a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention" - takes place in Nairobi, Kenya on August 6th and 7th, 2010. (via Boing Boing) Read more
Monday, 1 March 2010
The Delhi roundtable for the STEPS project 'Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto' was extremely challenging and also helpful. This blog can’t do justice to the full discussion, so please check out the video, thanks to STEPS Coordinator, Harriet Le Bris, who did a fantastic job filming the event.
We had a near-full room, more than anticipated, including some participants from the earlier Peri-Urban workshop, activists, students and academics with a lifetime of experience in science and technology for development. After Harriet and I gave an introductory presentation to the project, the first effort to organise the discussion into groups was met by intense resistance, as many had read the Manifesto draft and came prepared to share their critiques straightaway. Initially intimidated by the first responses, we resolved to go with the flow (not that we had much choice!) and the session shifted to an open discussion on the Manifesto draft.
A few highlights from the discussion: Several participants pointed out the political imperative of standing up to dominant powers – whether the agenda of certain national governments or ‘global’ institutions whose agendas are guided by certain national agendas. Shifting the broader political-economic frame in which science and technology operate was argued essential in order to change the future role of S&T in more equitable development. Thus these broader factors and institutions need to be acknowledged as key barriers to change. "How do we move towards ensuring that every citizen in the world has those particular essential requirements of humanity; which are the institutions whether we like it or not, which are preventing this?” said Nasir Tyabji, Professor at the Institute of Industrial Development, Delhi. Professor K. Raguram, Associate Professor at the School of Biotechnology, Indraprastha University, Delhi, also emphasised this point “...a lot of things that happen in the technological world, in the innovation world, in Indian politics, in foreign politics, and even in many schemes, including health, agriculture, etc, through these open UN agencies and associated agencies -these are entirely defined by the current framework of globalisation as defined through the engineers of globalisation.”
Social movements were pointed out to be important forces of change – while the process of aligning social movements is a long-term one. Social movements were described by Dinesh Abrol (Deputy Director, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development) as “a force which can bring about change, which can change the heart of the government, the mechanics of the government.” He pointed out that the process doesn’t just involve “institutions and expertise and governance". Other points raised included the need for clarification and qualification of loaded terms like ‘sustainability’, ‘development’ ‘globalization’, and ‘international organization’. “How do we qualify globalisation from a political Manifesto perspective point of view? […]Is it a union of sovereign nations coming into an interconnected world with their own choices being met? Or is it a few countries imposing their agenda on the rest?” said K. Raghuram. Also, a point raised that resonates with much STEPS research was the need to broaden definitions of knowledge, technology and innovation to recognise and document localised, indigenous ‘living’ knowledge systems.
Once I was able to stop worrying and just listen, I realized I agreed with many of the points being made – especially the need to make politics more explicit and to be clearer in the draft and in the process about what position STEPS wants to take ("If you're going to be radical, then be truly radical!" said Nasir Tyabji). Despite a strong general critical tone, there were differing views among participants about some aspects of what the politics and recommendations should look like – such as on the role of civil society alongside state government. Many critiques were useful, but I also would have liked to hear more positive examples and suggestions for recommendations. It was obvious we would’ve benefited from more time to discuss and perhaps a different format.
Some questions that keep coming up for me in this process are: how do you balance recognition of history while also moving forward, beyond old paradigms? How do you recognize regional diversity – in social movements, in institutions, in cultures, in socio-technical-ecological-economic systems – while making policy recommendations at a global scale? How do you create an inclusive process with limited time and resources? How do you encourage plurality and inclusivity while honing a clear message in a declarative statement like a ‘manifesto’? Is it sufficient to ‘encourage multiple manifestos’ while not promising or pretending consensus, or are there other ways to satisfy plurality and process and still clarify one’s own principles as an institution like STEPS?
Lastly, Dr. Prakash, associated with the Knowledge Swaraj: An Indian Manifesto on Science and Technology, made a point that stood out amidst other vital issues in the discussion. “What I would want my friends to consider, whatever manifesto we are talking about, is what best we could do with it – so that should be a convergence point.” Agreed! Beyond the debates and ideas, and even given politics and power – what we do actually matters. So is it possible to be a practical radical?