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#puneonmymind: PIC’s Social Innovation redefining the future of India through its Pune forums, writes Prashant Girbane

Over the last six years, PIC has organised four national conferences on social innovations (NCSI) in partnership with like-minded national organisations. More than 115 social innovators from across the country have interacted and shared their best and next practices with the nation at large. They include more than a couple of dozen social innovators from the Pune region, says Prashant Girbane, honorary director, Pune international centre.

pune Updated: Jul 19, 2018 14:49 IST
Pune,Puneonmymind,Social Innovation
Prashant Girbane .(Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

Poverty, social exclusion, rising cost of healthcare, environmental degradation and climate change are some of the big problems faced by our society. While governments, commercial organisations and non-profit organisations have been putting their best effort for many years and continue to do so, these problems are far from solved. They all leave behind a gap where ‘social innovations’ can play a crucial role.

The above-mentioned social challenges need novel solutions that are more efficient, effective and sustainable than existing solutions. Such solutions need to create value primarily for the society as a whole rather than for private individuals. These novel solutions are social Innovations that result in positive social change.

While one can almost get lost in the liberally used jargon of social innovations across various channels of print and digital media, it would be far simpler to note that the social innovations are expected to bring about a ‘change’ to accelerate social impact.

Pune is not new to leading the nation in bringing about such changes. Pune has always been known for the difference it has made on the national platform. The Maratha empire headquartered in Pune was established in the era of Shivaji Maharaj and it further expanded in the era of Bajirao Peshwa. It is here in Pune that the pre-eminent Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Phule started and built their nationalist movements that had social reforms at the core. And it is here that the Poona Pact marked the start of the movement against untouchability. All of these are very large ‘changes’ that delivered the defining social impacts.

It was inspired by such a legacy that Pune International Centre (PIC), a liberal think tank, was born in Pune on 24 September, 2011. PIC’s programmes and policy papers published over a period of more than six years cover many subjects of national and local interests and social innovation has been one of the flagship domains.

Over the last six years, PIC has organised four national conferences on social innovations (NCSI)’ in partnership with like-minded national organisations. More than 115 social innovators from across the country have interacted on the Pune platform and shared their best and next practices with the nation at large. They include more than a couple of dozen social innovators from the Pune region.

These national conferences also host the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award – an award that Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, eminent scientist and president, PIC, instituted in his mother’s name for innovations that will do good to the society at large.

Some of the awardees have dared to deal with large, complex social challenges and have delivered a significant social impact through their process or product innovations.

Dr Mashelkar spoke about these awardees in the K R Narayanan oration in the National Australian University. Pune is proud to have hosted them all at the NCSI. The social innovations included high-quality but simple breast cancer screening available to every woman, that too at the extremely affordable cost of less than ₹100 per scan. Other noteworthy innovations were a portable, high-tech ECG machine which can provide reports instantly- at the cost of ₹5 a test, an eye imaging device that is portable and non-invasive and costs three times less that conventional devices and a robust test for mosquito-borne dengue, which can detect the disease on the first day itself, and that too at a cost of less than ₹200 per test.

During the 2017 national conference on social innovation, Dr Vijay Kelkar, the eminent economist and PIC vice president, advised the organisers to extend the initiatives to provide mentoring to social innovators. Over the last few months, more than a dozen social innovators have been mentored by very experienced and dedicated Pune-based professionals who come from different walks of life.

It was during this conference that Dr. Mashelkar gave the clarion call to transform these moments of annual conferences into a movement.

In the last one year, this movement has shaped up as an association- the social innovation forum (SIF) where many organisations in Pune have come together to deliver the much-needed momentum.

The MCCIA (Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture), Venture Centre, COEP’s Bhau Institute, TiE Pune, Science and Technology Park and PIC have joined forces and have organised many interactive sessions under the SIF that promote social innovations.

SIF is no more an initiative of one organisation; it is an initiative of Pune, shaped by different Pune based-institutions as our own little contribution to the nation at large.

The Social Innovation Forum sessions organised under the century-old Bodhi tree in the Gokhale Institute premises brings together many Punekars who listen to the social innovators and feel inspired to contribute to this movement of bringing out social change on some of the above-mentioned social challenges in their own different ways.

It’s not surprising, if for some engaged stakeholders, the settings of these interactive sessions are reminiscent of some of the discussions held by the likes of Gokhale, Agarkar and Ambedkar under these very trees in this campus.

At the very least, all these initiatives and institutes and their coming together “to accelerate social impact” is a loud and clear sign that Pune is emerging as a national hub for promoting social innovations.

First Published: Jul 19, 2018 14:48 IST