is a forum for conversations amongst activists and academics on issues relating to science and democracy.

Mandate of KICS

 May 13, 2011

1. Introduction:

The Trust Deed of KICS (Art. IX) says that “on registration, the BOT shall, as early as possible, constitute a group consisting of competent persons, including the BOT members and Core Group ---- to draft the Mandate of KICS work subject to all the provisions of the Trust Deed, which on approval by BOT, shall guide the work of KICS. The BOT in consultation with partners may have the Mandate reviewed from time to time”.
The BOT in its post-registration discussions, decided that the process of drafting the Mandate may commence with consolidating the thoughts so far over the subject (Sastri’s concept note and his Paper to the Commons Conference, Sreekumar’s papers presented to the BOT and other inputs).
The dictionary meaning of the word “Mandate” is “command” from a superior body on how to act, and this is quite apposite to invoke in the present context. Therefore all the points that would figure in the Mandate document should be in conformity with the provisions of the Trust Deed, which itself (to recall) was the outcome of discussions spread over a considerable period. This draft of the Mandate document tries to be in line with all that preceded.
2. Objectives of KICS:
It would be instructive to recapitulate the objectives as laid down in the Trust Deed:
a) To work with organisations and individuals who relate to development and justice aspects of Science and Technology*.
b) To advance knowledge dialogues on Science and Technology and press their outcomes as the basis for government’s policies ; and
c) To encourage organisations to do more work that would enrich knowledge to further KICS objectives.
* Here, three kinds of S&T domains are distinguishable:
(1) “Mainstream S&T” - mostly emerges from formal scientific institutions; has a theoretical basis as the initial seed; most often is undemocratic and non-participatory with regard to ordinary citizens; is top-down and centralised; is usually at a big scale; mostly does not emerge from the needs of deprived communities; is highly commercialised
(2) “Community S&T” – interactive; emerging from the creative tension of modernity confronting traditional wisdom; in the people’s domain with people’s innovations being a hallmark; neglected
(3) “Traditional S&T” - imbibed into community practices with the knowledge basis not always known or internalised; evolved by people from experiential knowledge; sometimes codified; mostly neglected or discounted
KICS acknowledges the strengths and weakness of each of these three domains: is conscious of the unequal relationship between these as well as the differing sustainability considerations and socio-cultural dimensions.
3. The worldview of KICS
There are unlisted, and yet vital, corollaries of what KICS Trust Deed articulate. These are covered under the shared world view of KICS. The KICS world view focuses on the following:
a) KICS should never be oblivious to the lives of the majority in India facing economic and social deprivation and take care to view Science and Technology as a means and as a key in eradication of the deprivation of the majority. By now it is clear that Science and Technology is not always positive in its impacts on such deprivation, and an important part of KICS work consists of pointing this out as also promoting positive innovations, especially from neglected and discounted knowledge domains to counter this.
b) The track of thinking given in a) above needs
i) recognition of plurality of knowledge
ii) Ensuring sustainability of S&T contribution in the long run to counter the deprivation of the majority and
iii) Keeping watch to introduce justice through democratisation of S&T.
c) The KICS approach is to empower people through dialogues, innovation and through encouraging them to respect their own knowledge, as a basis for extending knowledge further.
d) KICS also believes in the crucial need for decentralisation due to its potential in empowering people to take decisions involving them and acting as a counter to constant aggregation
e) The importance of optimal and appropriate self-sufficiency would also be a key element.
f) Relating with all efforts of strengthening the civil society in the arena of S&T, so as to empower the historically neglected ---- the poor, women, minorities, dalits and adivasis as also concern for children and the physically challenged ---- to secure their human rights, would be a key guiding element.
4. Locating KICS in the civil society space
Essentially, KICS seeks to pool knowledge from out of the work of other relevant bodies, and work on its own as appropriate. It is pertinent to point out here that work would be demarcated by issues that involve some form of S&T and would mostly centre around S&T from civil society domain, to bridge the gap between this domain and the mainstream domain, to further sustainable development objectives. KICS also seeks to build a two way link between S&T policy and Development policy. It can be seen clearly that KICS works with other organisations and individuals, including NGOs, CBOs and their networks as also government and academic bodies.
Not for a moment should KICS present itself as a body trying to be superior per se to NGOs, CBOs and their networks or to government or academic bodies. In fact the success of KICS depends on how this two-way relationship is developed in a healthy and respectful fashion. Of course KICS should itself be knowledgeable to acquit itself with credit in any such interface, which is why a (lean) team of competent staff would be needed for KICS to be constantly engaged in work of criticality.
The work of KICS is also contemplated to help extend the knowledge base of KICS, and for this reason, its Core Group is made as much involved functionally in the KICS work as its BOT or its team of staff members. The mandatory Consultative Meetings (Art. X of the Trust Deed) are visualised to be the sounding board to ensure that KICS is reined in to do its work in the manner contemplated, as co-equal of the bodies its work with, and develops the sensitivities and skills
needed for interfaces and is seen, and increasingly recognised, by everyone as a body essential in:
a) Pooling knowledge from all other appropriate sources whose contribution is suitably acknowledged.
b) Advancing knowledge for policy purposes ; and
c) Acting as a trigger to extend the knowledge by its own catalytic, un-obtrusive work.
5. Skills essential for KICS work:
From the above, it can be seen that KICS has a daunting (though not impossible) challenge to it. Its work takes it far, to (eventually) as yet unreached geographical regions and languages (and dialects) of India, and even beyond. A considerable part of the work consists of collating what is available: information revolution of the last few decades makes this possible provided the KICS staff is computer-savvy and is updated in matters relating to the internet. While this is a great advantage, a word of caution is necessary: one may be carried away by the information blizzard and even be swamped by it. The ability to separate the grain from the chaff is important, and this ability comes out of what KICS is expected to do strictly within its processes, in terms of the objects as also the consultations contemplated for KICS. These processes are not included pro forma, but are an essential part of the KICS template.
6. Role of KICS:
From the above, it emerges that the primary role of KICS is that of a think tank, drawing its strength from networking with appropriate organisations and individuals, which will
(a) showcase and strengthen people’s knowledge;
(b) democratise policy and planning in the S&T domain;
(c) support mainstreaming of the results of innovative pilots
(d) provide a platform for engaging with, and rethinking on the mainstream S&T paradigm
In seeking to fulfil the above role, KICS will pro-actively promote multi-dimensional, multi-sectorial integrated approaches, bridging the gulf separating academic research, and grassroots day-to-day crisis handling/establishment of sustainable alternatives.
7. In conclusion:
An essential part of KICS work is reporting to and getting the sanction of, consultative groups consisting of NGOs, CBOs, their networks and academic and government bodies, and getting further ideas from these bodies. In that sense, KICS Mandate would be underpinned by constant checking and renewal --- tough but necessary for KICS to be relevant, as otherwise KICS runs the risk of turning out to be yet another establishmentarian set-up.

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