IF INNOVATION ITSELF feels like an ambiguous process, innovation consulting seems even more so. Yet Sood has long held, and demonstrated, that it is possible to take people who already have a desire to be innovative, but who are frustrated or are somehow caught in a rut and help them out. This process takes many forms: in the case of the Bihar Innovation Lab, CKS has a mandate to provide innovation training and orientation to state agencies and other partners in the social sector working in Bihar. It helps that his own background is an intersection of humanities, social sciences, architecture and design.
IN MANY WAYS, the challenge is magnified by its very fluidity: to bring together a host of stakeholders — from the government to the social sector as well as designers, innovators and entrepreneurs — and create an institution whose role is to innovate across a broad field like healthcare. In the case of the BIL, the “ultimate goal is to change the way health services are provided at the village level to save lives, especially of mothers and children”, says Aditya Dev Sood, an innovation consultant whose organisation, Centre for Knowledge Societies (CKS), will manage and administer the lab. To achieve this, BIL is working on four innovations: a vaccine delivery kit, new patient health information tokens, improved village health and nutrition days, and a new partograph or labour tracking tool.
HAVING WORKED IN Bihar since 2006, CKS had already accomplished a detailed analysis of how village health services operate and where they needed to be strengthened. Public dialogue at a host of event forums, especially the Design Public Conclave in 2011, crystallised the concept. CKS gained the support of different voices keen to pilot a concept like this in India, then gained the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to kick off the BIL. It helped that under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, there has been a significant drive for better governance. “We have chosen to go where there is the greatest need, opportunity, willing partners and likelihood of success,” says Sood.
The Way Forward
IT’S THE FIRST public-private partnership in an innovation lab that has been attempted in India but CKS and its partners have ambitious plans for the model. “We have had talks with state governments and other agencies in Meghalaya, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. In the longer term, we can imagine it making sense for Ghana, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, etc,” says Sood. “We have got significant deliverables, and a core challenge in all innovation is to balance divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking leads you to more options, with any number of variations from whatever already exists. Convergent thinking requires you to prioritise and solve problems in a sequential, practical way, eliminating options and moving forward. We have got to remain limber and creative, create value for people, and at the same time demystify innovation for different stakeholders and partners of the lab.”
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