Tianjin Declaration for Promoting Green Grassroots Innovation for Harmonious Development (2007)
Building the bridge between formal and informal science at grassroots level will unfold hitherto unexplored opportunities for socio-economic development of common people excluded from economic growth processes around the world. Creativity and innovation at grassroots and dynamic traditional knowledge systems have in the past helped in solving many problems. But many have remained unsolved. The Honey Bee Network has facilitated over the last two decades people to people learning to learn from existing solutions and explore collaborative solutions to the problems not solved as yet. These grassroots innovations developed by common people, unaided from outside, can extend the frontiers of science in some cases and make new applications apparent which may have been ignored for long. The Honey Bee Network has also insisted that whenever any wealth is generated form value addition in local knowledge, innovations or practices or otherwise, fair share of benefits should accrue to the knowledge providers. It has thus advocated the need for acknowledging the contributions of grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders, protecting their knowledge rights, and ensuring their dignified participation in the global value chain for valorising their knowledge systems.
The solidarity among academic institutions, civil society organisations, national and international support organisations and eventually of the national governments around the issue of empowerment of grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders will unfold their entrepreneurial potential for improving their lives and conserving the environment. We have to ensure that great grandchildren that is, at least hundred years hence, will be able to draw upon the knowledge and innovation traditions for solving problems of the future. We cannot allow traditional knowledge developed over centuries to erode and be lost forever. We cannot conserve the resources without conserving associated knowledge systems. Without incentives to valorise their knowledge, young people in our communities may not have incentives to conserve, experiment and innovate. The grassroots scientists and technologists have to be enabled to articulate their excellence, experimental and conservation ethics and educational pedagogies for achieving equitable, empathetic and efficient allocation of resources and opportunities in society. Incubation of grassroots innovations and outstanding traditional knowledge in a distributed, decentralised and social democratic manner provides an opportunity to address global concern for providing solutions to persistent social problems.
Participants of the International Conference on Global GIAN (Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network) from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Canada and America met at Tianjin, May 31-2, 2007 to launch an online platform to recognize, respect and reward green grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders.
It was realised that many economies, which are growing faster than most parts of the world provide a valuable opportunity for generating market based avenues for social development. However, it was also recognised that the process of market led growth is not always inclusive and thus leaves many regions, people and sectors out of the purview of the development process. The Tianjin Declaration stresses that for pursuit of harmonious and balanced social and economic development, Green Grassroots Innovations and Traditional knowledge provide a very valuable opportunity. The cooperation between SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) and Tianjin University of Finance and Economics provides a model for international cooperation in support of building a value chain around grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge. India, China and Brazil have come together in this initiative to provide an online platform for incubating green grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge to protect knowledge rights of local communities and individuals, alleviate poverty, generate employment, reduce drudgery, and conserve the environment.
In order to operationalise the Global GIAN (Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network), the Tianjin declaration endorses the following recommendations:
- To commemorate the international solidarity for harmonious and inclusive development through support to grassroots scientific, technological and institutional innovations and traditional knowledge, May 31st will be celebrated as Grassroots To Global ( g2G) day for recognising, respecting and rewarding creativity and innovation at grassroots all over the world.
- To develop an international registry/bank of open source as well as proprietary grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge after taking Prior Informed Consent (PIC) of the knowledge providers so that communities and individuals struggling with similar problems around the world are able to access affordable solutions.
- To invigorate the promotion of grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge, at least four kinds of gaps have to be filled: (i) creation of mechanisms at national and international levels to scout and document grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge in a national and international registry, and to give awards as well as to provide support for value addition through design and technological and product/service development, ii) provision of micro-venture capital investment to convert grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge into economic and social enterprises, iii) arrangements for diffusion of social technologies developed by grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge. It may help to create a global innovation commons so that relevant proprietary technologies developed by grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge holders are acquired for licensing these at no, or very low cost to small artisans and farmers, pastoralists and other producers around the world; and iv) enabling and empowering the grassroots innovators with modern tools of fabrication so as to enhance their capacity to do R and D and innovate through an international network of Fab Labs run and managed by grassroots innovators.
- To pursue the creation of an international treaty to protect the rights of grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders around the world through new instruments, mechanisms and by blending the relevant features of existing IPR systems with lessons of the open source movement.
- To persuade every national government to create a national body dedicated to scout and document, add value, provide risk capital, protect innovators’ rights and diffuse these green grassroots unaided solutions developed by people without any outside help through commercial as well as non-commercial channels. The Honey Bee Network will facilitate lateral learning among such national foundations so that the global pool of affordable green solutions to persistent social problems increases. Grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge should thus become part of the national innovation systems and global guidelines for this purpose should be appropriately modified.
- Strengthening multi-language multi-media online incubation platforms for incubation of grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge launched at the conference to reduce the transaction costs of innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, designers, scientists and mentors from all around the world.
- Need to make special efforts to highlight, recognise and reward the creativity and innovation of women. The science underlying the knowledge domains in which they excel should be brought within the purview of R and D studies and policies and not treated with lesser attention and respect as has been the tradition so far.
- To persuade science and technology academies to have dedicated sessions in their annual research conferences to explore ways of engaging with local creative communities and individuals to humanise science and also empower knowledge rich, economically poor people.
The Tianjin Declaration resolves that the cause of grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders will be pursued to widen the real options of creative and innovative people at grassroots around the world. These people should not remain poor because they share their traditional knowledge and contemporary innovations generously with outsiders. Their spirit of sharing and community solidarity must be preserved and universalised through the blend between formal and informal knowledge systems, institutions and networks. We have to recognise that such people are not at the bottom of the innovation, ethical and value pyramid, even if many of them happen to be at the bottom of the economic pyramid. The tip of their creative iceberg has to be recognised, respected and rewarded through monetary and non-monetary incentives aimed at individuals and communities by also involving the youth in this global grassroots innovation movement so that future generations continue to care for each other and the environment and share their innovations with others generously.