As part of the 2023 Globelics international conference, Bipashyee Ghosh hosted a special session about policy, investment and activism for systemic transformation: Potential and barriers of Transformative Innovation Policy and Deep Transitions in global south contexts. This piece provides valuable insights and reflections from the event.
On 13th October, a special session was organised in the 2023 GLOBELICS International conference titled: “INNOVATION-DRIVEN KNOWLEDGE-ECONOMIES AND TRANSFORMATION IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH”. The session was titled as “Policy, investment and activism for systemic transformation: Potential and barriers of Transformative Innovation Policy and Deep Transitions in Global South contexts.” The session was conceived as a platform for discussing transformative innovation policy and deep transition with leading scholars of innovation and development, in the Globelics network. The discussion was around transformations, policy, practises and potential for a deep transition in Global South contexts (South Asia, Latin America and Africa).
Four panellists participated in the session:
“Some existing spiritual practices in India such as feeling connected to the plants in the garden and wasteless living are extremely sustainable.” Keya Chakrabarty, a scholar from the Shristi Manipal Institute of design and technology emphasised on the importance of well being and human development, connection with nature and inner philosophical consciousness of people to act sustainably. Leading the Centre for Reimagining Transitions, she shared how global south urban and rural settings are heterogeneous and how we should open up to diverse sets of knowledge including indigenous knowledges.
“Civil society is often informed and engaged with at the very end of the policymaking process.” Anabel Marín drew from her work on mining and mineral extraction in Latin American countries like Argentina, Chile and Peru to stress on the importance of minerals in energy transition and the politics of collaboration between businesses, policies and civil society.
Dr Moumita Koley, an open science scholar, shared her experience of organising participatory processes for India’s new STI policy draft, working on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. She explained how there has been an enormous effort in – making the daunting process of inviting international experts, facilitating consultations and organising public forums at a national scale involving thousands of people – as inclusive as possible. In spite of all efforts, many voices might have been excluded and many decisions were inadvertently top down, yet it has been a learning experience for all involved, and the learning will help in making participatory policy making processes more transformative in the future.
“The South African community of practise realises there are missing pieces of the puzzle held by other stakeholders, so it is wise to be collaborative and exchange the pieces of knowledge to together enable transformation” Erika Kramer Mbula, President of Globelics and Chair professor of the Trilateral chair programme on the 4th Industrial revolution and Sustainable development, shared how the department of Science and innovation (DSI) South Africa has been a founding member of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium as they recognised the urgent need to address inequality in development. She shared the hopeful story of how there is now an emerging community of practice in South Africa, who share the motivations and capabilities of innovating and implementing transformative change in policy and at the grassroots levels.
An overarching topic across all panel inputs was experimentation. All panellists and some of the audience feedback acknowledged the importance of an experimental, open and reflexive space to try alternative modes of policy, collaborations, trust building and diverse knowledge accumulation.
Diana Velasco from TIPC and experimentation design lead in the Deep Transitions Lab observed the entire dialogue through remote participation and shared her key takeaways from the discussion. Prof Johan Schot, founder and academic director of TIPC and Deep transitions also joined the session online, and introduced TIPC and the Deep Transitions Lab (DTL) as “transformation platforms”. He emphasised that system optimisation and single system change is not enough for societal transformation. The idea of interconnected system change, building networks among policy and investment communities and creating a common but differentiated knowledge infrastructure for global transformative change are key functions of platforms such as TIPC and DTL.
A key indicator of success of such a panel can be measured by the amount of audience participation, not only in terms of quantity but also quality. “What can we do about the politics of policy making?”, “how to create capabilities for sustained collaboration among communities of practice”, “No transformation is possible without realising the scalar and temporal nature of transition”, “how do we know which indigenous knowledge to sustain” are examples of thought provoking inputs by the people in the room and those in zoom.
The all women panel was intended and accidental at the same time. oOriginally planned as a two male and two female panel, the composition shifted due to unavoidable circumstances and last minute cancellations. I, as the chair of the session, want to extend my gratitude to Erika, Anabel and Moumita for stepping up at the last minute as I approached them during the coffee breaks and at the breakfast in the hotel on the first day of the conference, to appear in this panel on the second day! Without their kindness, this session wouldn’t have been possible.
“It was one of the most efficient and smoothly run sessions in this room, Ma’am” – said one of the organisers, a PhD student of the Gulati institute of Finance and Taxation, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, who supported the session technically and logistically. The hybrid session wasn’t the easiest to set up – the sound, the camera, the raised hands and chat in zoom, and connection issues were all part of the consideration, as well as keeping to the time of the session.
As a first time participant of the Globelics conference and as chair of this session, I am super impressed by the legacy and ongoing research in the network, by the breadth of knowledge and scholarly interactions and the hospitality of the conference organising committee (from airport pick up to the amazing spread of authentic South Indian cuisines). I hope the debates on transformative innovation, experimental policy and investment practises will continue in future Globelics conferences, in line with the future research agenda outlined by the network’s President, Erika, in this 20th anniversary conference of the network.