Sunday, July 15, 2012



Lets turn the traditional model of development on its head by uncovering the knowledge, ingenuity of the people at the grass-roots and enable them to develop their insights and inventions. Welcome to the world of the Honey Bee Network. 

This intro to an interview with its founder Prof. Anil Gupta in SGI Forum, a Buddhist quarterly, explains the basics. Full text here:
'Working with the poor of India, Professor Anil Gupta was struck by the creativity and innovativeness that he saw. In 1988, he started the Honey Bee Network to discover, share and promote grassroots innovation to the benefit of both innovators and the global public.

'One method of discovery is twice-yearly treks (shodh yatra) by members of the network through the rural areas of India. The network now exists in 75 countries, and its newsletter is published in eight languages. Gupta has also since established the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions ( and the Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network ( that, respectively, help scale up and convert grassroots innovations into viable products.

'In cooperation with the government of India, he established the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), which holds national competitions, including among children, to encourage new inventors and helps sustain them through the National Micro Venture Innovation Fund. The NIF has a database of more than 160,000 innovations and traditional knowledge practices, the largest of its kind (for examples, see Gupta has also established an online portal ( to challenge university students to solve various problems of the poor and micro, small and medium enterprises.'


Mansukhbhai Prajapati was making clay water filters in 2001, when the Gujarat earthquake struck. A newspaper carried a photograph of him the next day, with the pieces of his shattered clay pots around him, above the caption “the broken fridge of poor.” This was the inspiration behind his own double-walled clay refrigerator, Mitticool, the first version of which was sold to a local civil engineer in 2005. Today, a few awards and several magazine and newspaper stories later, Mansukhbhai has become one of the faces of indigenous innovation in India. Prof. Anil Gupta, of the Honey Bee Network, holds him up as “a shining example of a successful enterprise that combines technology with traditional knowledge to deliver sustainable solutions.”

Source: 'The Business of Rural Refridgerators'  by Avinash on Little Design Book [2nd Nov 2010]

Links:Anil Guptar's Honey Bee manifesto on SlideShare [posted 29th Sept 2009]

The Honeybee Network: Grassroots Innovation by Kathryn Lewes on the ETSY blog [5th Nov 2011]

Anil Gupta and the Honey Bee Network by Sarah Rich on WorldChanging [21st March 2007]

A Hive of Ideas by Peter Day [BBC News 11th Jan 2006]
The Honey Bee Network is one of the most remarkable organisations on earth, and if you have never heard of it, then you probably ought to have done.

Big thanks to Andy Stirling for tipping me off


Erik Hersman

Erik is the co-founder of Ushahidi (which means “testimony” in Swahili), a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence happening during the post-election crisis in Kenya. Ushahidi has been used for disasters in Haiti and Chile, by media organizations such as Al Jazeera and the Washington Post, for election monitoring in India, Afghanistan, Namibia and Mexico, and for multiple other uses around the world.

Erik is also the founder of AfriGadget, a multi-author website that showcases stories of Africans solving everyday problems with little more than their creativity and ingenuity. Fascinated by micro-entrepreneurs, gadgets and improvisation, he is proving that technology is changing Africa – daily.

In early 2010, Erik helped launch the new iHub (innovation hub) in Nairobi. It’s an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in Nairobi. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers and designers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator.

Raised in Sudan and Kenya, Erik brings unique energy and insight to the world of technology and innovation – bridging the gap between Africa and Silicon Valley. An avid blogger Erik writes two different technology blogs including: AfriGadget and WhiteAfrican. One dedicated to low-tech African ingenuity, and the other to high-tech mobile and web changes happening throughout Africa.
Source: URGENT EVOKE blog

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