Socratus Odisha Sand Box Narrative

Odisha Sand Box Narrative

The principal objective of the The Odisha Sandbox narrative is Flourishing Odisha in the era of Climate Change. At Socratus, we define flourishing in terms of the degree of success achieved in establishing a Situated Economy, which lies on the intersectionality of EcologyEconomyEmotion.

  • Ecological flourishing by addressing climate change concerns, including forest conservation & promotion, disaster risk management, community-animal interaction, environmental pollution, and stress on natural resources.
  • Economic flourishing by building circularity in the economy, with climate as grammar to broker alternative livelihoods stemming from Nature-based Solutions, Bio-economy, green jobs and renewable energy.
  • Emotive flourishing by recognizing value of traditional knowledge systems and empowering grassroots participation in public problem solving.

Together, it enhances the capacity of native communities to transform their local economies to provide meaningful livelihoods in-sync with environmental prosperity. The State is envisioned as both a key actor to facilitate events, as well as the geographical boundaries of the sandbox (i.e., the Ecosystem).

Such an Ecosystem approach to wicked problem solving brings together the communities, the State, CSOs, systems agents, and local influencers to develop and test different responses that can lead to such economyecologyemotion solutions via bottoms-up demand discovery.

Ecosystem Thinking (The Why) & Landscape Approach (The How)

An Ecosystem offers sufficiency of problem statement framing, community interests, stakeholder presence, and resource availability to engage the State, which is critical for solving wicked-problems. Therefore, our Ecosystems thinking stems from imagining systems thinking for an ecosystem.

The Ecosystem is hence assessed from the perspectives of Mental Models | Spaces | Patterns | Events, as it consequently helps in understanding mindsets and behavioural patterns, participative problem identification and solutioning, and opportunities to mainstream responses and demonstrate success.

Such an application also allows for sandboxing the learnings and strategy, to give it replicability, scalability and interoperability across other ecosystems.

Whilst Ecosystem Thinking allows us to create the framework, a Landscape Approach enables us to apply the model to a particular community, which itself is an embodiment of particular agro-climatic, socio-cultural, and politico-economic realities. This leads to emergent patterns that offer highly contextual localised responses to broader wicked problems.

Therefore, in the context of Odisha Sandbox, we apply the ecosystems thinking to 3 Landscapes as follows:

  1. Coastal Landscape, focusing on the vulnerable communities in the mangrove delta regions of Odisha
  2. Rural Landscape, focusing on the FPO-organised rural agri communities of Odisha
  3. Tribal Landscape, focusing on the tribal populations of Odisha

Narrative Building

Recognizing climate change as an urgent emergency, Socratus aims to integrate decisive climate action into its political, policy and community discourse in Odisha. Understanding that climate change must become a part of everyday life, we strive to demystify it and make it relevant to local communities. When the climate becomes a grammar of life, voters will demand climate action, and politicians also ask for votes with the promise of climate action, linking their everyday challenges like changing weather patterns to climate issues.

Hence out narrative building using the grammar of climate works at all three levels as follows:

  1. Political level via inculcating climate in the political manifesto across party lines

  2. Policy level via weaving-in climate action into the governance framework stretching from the departmental budget to localised SDGs.

  3. We are collaborating with CEEW to create a Common Results Framework that would lead to creation of a governance toolkit for end-to-end mapping, monitoring and impact measurement of climate change and green initiatives in Odisha

  4. Community level via building capacities of grassroot public problem solvers, as well as to empower local social media influencers in all things Green.

Odisha Climate Manifesto: Major activities

  • Created a comprehensive Climate Agenda for political manifestos in the upcoming 2024 elections.
  • Engaged with over 50 experts through 4 physical convenings in Bhubaneswar and online meetings from diverse sectors (Agriculture, Industry, Insurance and Finance, Forest, Environment and Tribal, etc.).
  • Presented the Climate Agenda to the Manifesto Committees of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress parties of Odisha

Odisha Climate Manifesto: Key highlights/ achievements

  • As a result of our consultations with experts, we synthesised the insights gathered into 10 major emotive asks, some of them being:
    • Safe Food, Safe Agriculture towards a Cancer-Free Odisha,
    • Empower and Reward Tribal Communities,
    • Prepare Youth for Green Jobs and Enterprises,
    • Encourage and Incentivize Women’s Leadership for Climate Action and Reduce Climate Risk, Not Just Respond to Disasters.
  • Presented the Climate Agenda to the Manifesto Committees of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress which was well received.
  • BJP agreed to create a ‘Climate Cell’ which will include components from the climate manifesto we presented to them.

Blueprinting of the Landscapes

Coastal Landscape: Narrative

For the coastal landscape, our entry point is ecology through the Mangrove ecosystem.

  • Bhitarkanika-Mahanadi delta accounts for over 80% of Odisha’s mangroves, and is home to over 90 different species of mangroves (more than anywhere else in India).
  • The coastal communities in this region are heavily dependent on ecological resources for their livelihoods. However, the region’s vulnerability to natural calamities has led communities to adopt high-risk economic activities that disrupt the delicate ecological balance.
  • Therefore, we are working to enhance both existing initiatives in mangroves conservation, coastal agriculture and associated rural livelihoods, as well as to innovate/ plug-in newer green responses that can leverage on the following key resources:
    • A credible on-field CSO partner in Nature’s Club, with 25+ years of field experience in the region
    • A cadre of 130+ climate champions made up of women from the local communities
    • ECRICC (Enhancing Climate Resilience of India’s Coastal Communities) & State Forest Department supported projects that align with our goals under a situated economy (e.g. SRI rice, bee-keeping, Mangrove Mitra program etc.,)
  • By taking a collaborative approach that brings together stakeholders from private and public sectors, we plan to assimilate the knowledge embedded in the local communities, promote cultural-connect to the mangrove ecosystem, and channel collective wisdom for unlocking sustainable community economic welfare while also supporting mangrove restoration/ conservation efforts.
  • In the long run, we aim to sandbox and scale our operative model to all other coastal landscapes within Odisha, and subsequently to other states in India.

Major Activities (previous 6 months)

  • Undertook ~10 field visits to Bhitarkanika for landscape mapping, community outreach, and current state assessment
  • Conducted 4 workshops/ sensitization sessions for the Climate Champions on various dimensions of behavioural change for public problem solving readiness.
  • Conducted participatory workshops for high-school students to sensitise them on the importance of ecosystem restoration and collect their impressions via art forms
  • Held consultation sessions with mangrove knowledge experts of the community
  • Held discussions with the State Forest Department for scaling up the scope of the ECRICC program, as well as to organise a festival around the theme of mangroves
  • Interviewed people from the local community who are willing to participate in a land-bank creation for reforestation of mangroves.

Key highlights/ achievements

  • Secured partnership with the State Forest Department and Nature’s Club to collaborate on the following:
    • Organise a 3-month Mangrove Pathotsav on Forest Day (Launched on 21st March, Forest Day)
    • Designing a 30 hour training module for 130 climate champions to create a cadre of Public Problem Solvers.
    • Scaling up the Mangrove Mitra program by creating a land bank of potential mangrove plantation plots via village survey mapping of 200 villages under Bhitarkanika.
  • Facilitated for Goonj to conduct a Gram Swabhiman event in a village (Junus Nagar in March 2024) as a constructive dialogue with the local community to inspire them to appreciate both their assets and strengths, as well as to take ownership for solving their challenges via instilling a sense of collective pride.

Way forward (next 6 months)

  • Event: Conduct the Mangrove Pathotsav event on Van Mahotsav Day (July 1, 2024) where we plan to showcase the engagement of various actors (Samaaj, Sarkar and Bazaar)

  • Patterns:
    • A localised knowledge repository of Mangroves including native wisdom and culture
    • Create a Community Asset Register as the foundation for demand discovery of public problems, as well as relevant blue economy/green economy/ mangrove-centric value chains that can be plugged-in
    • Identify various options for a Community Benefit Model that incentivizes mangrove conservation/ promotion efforts using concepts of PES/ Integrated Mangrove Forest/Alignment with Govt. Schemes
  • Spaces:
    • Wicked sprints with Climate Champions to sensitise them in demand discovery
    • Citizens’ Jury and Museum of Experiences with communities for participative solutioning
    • A convening of experts to solve for Plastic Waste management in the region
  • Mental Models
    • Deliver 30 hr course to 65 climate champions and support them to design a capstone project themed on either:
      • Public Problem Solving (e.g. creek cleaning, natural disaster risk mitigation using Mangrove buffer etc., )
      • Green-lens economic value chain building in areas like coastal agriculture, allied activities, local handicrafts, eco-tourism etc.,

Rural Landscape: Narrative

For the rural landscape, our entry point is economic potential of FPOs

  • Odisha has 400+ FPOs spread across multiple agro-climatic zones, with diverse range of produce, and representative of a significant rural population of the state, either directly or indirectly. However, both the financial performance of the FPOs as value-creators for their members, as well as the agri value-chains they support remain underperforming, which in-turn impact rural livelihoods.
  • We are collaborating with Livelihood Alternatives (LA), a social enterprise that works with 54 FPOs across the state (~ 15% of all FPOs) in order to:
    • Enhancing the capabilities of the FPO leadership in entrepreneurial thinking w.r.t to their FPOs, as well as becoming public problem solvers for their rural communities
    • Creating a knowledge repository for multi-dimensional strengthening of the FPOs including for:
  1. Improved operations and financial management
  2. Digital footprint for collectivised market engagement, as well as exploring inter-FPO circular trading
  3. Introduction of NBS, Bio-Economy, Renewable Energy and Green Job initiatives for communities under the FPOs
  • In addition, we are Identifying and building value-chains across agri and non-agri products in collaboration with our CSO partners across Odisha including Prandan, Gram Vikas, Wassan etc.,

Major Activities (previous 6 months)

  • Undertook ~4 field visits to understand various rural landscapes including for Bamboo value-chain
  • Conducted 2 workshops/ sensitization sessions for the CEOs and Board Members of FPOs on various dimensions of behavioural change for public problem solving readiness and FPO operational improvement
  • Conducted 1 workshop for students from KIIT to be trained as a cohort of your public problem solvers

Key highlights/ achievements

  • Secured partnership with the LA to collaborate on the following:
    • Undertake a comprehensive landscape mapping of 54 FPOs, and for exploring avenues to collaborate with social impact actors from across India to introduce green initiatives
    • Training 50+ participants from FPO leadership to create a cadre of Rural entrepreneurs and Public Problem Solvers.

Way forward (next 6 months)

  • Patterns:
    • A knowledge repository of 54+ FPOs including their geo-positioning, regulatory, production profile and SWOT analysis
    • Creation of roadmap for a potential bamboo value chain for an artist cluster in Banki village
  • Spaces:
    • Wicked sprints with FPO leadership and KIIT students
  • Mental Models
    • Deliver 30 hr course to FPO leadership
    • Empowering students from KIIT to help the bamboo artist build a digital information infrastructure, including Cataloguing, Branding, and Marketing support.

Tribal Landscape: Narrative

For the tribal landscape, our entry point is ecology embedded in Biodiversity Conservation

Odisha is home to over 40 Tribal Clusters, with a rich and diversified culture and way-of-living which is in-sync with their environment. Most of these communities have sacred groves where they play the role of a protector/ steward/ custodian. However, due to stress of natural resources, deforestation, and pressures of out-migration, the tribal way of living and the biodiversity of their habitats is under threat.

  • We are exploring innovative finance models that incentivizes/ rewards tribal communities for their role as stewards/ custodians of their of ecological habitats including:
    • Payment for ecosystem services for watershed, tribal agro-ecology, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation
    • Alignment and amplification of government funding ties to Biodiversity conservation

Major Activities (previous 6 months)

  • Undertook ~3 field visits to sacred grove sites in Odisha, and interacted with the local tribal communities
  • Engaged with actors in PES, Forest Department, International Development Agencies and Civil Servants in Odisha and nationally, to collectivise wisdom on the possibilities
  • Understood a desk study of PES experience in India and globally, especially for the Sacred Grive PES model applied in Meghalaya.

Key highlights/ achievements

  • Secured a tacit collaboration with the World Bank to study the Meghalaya Model and explore applicability to Odisha

Way forward (next 6 months)

  • Patterns:
    • A knowledge repository/ blueprint of the community benefit models feasible for the Tribal landscape
  • Spaces:
    • Organise a convening with PES and other experts to understand in greater depth the possibilities for Odisha

Big bets Ahead

A. Demonstrate a plan of action to Odisha govt for Odisha Development Conclave

Conclave will host conversation among academicians, political entrepreneurs, leaders, think tanks, industrialists, and CSO’s to commit to a shared vision of Flourishing Odisha for next five years and agree a two year growth and development action plan on identified themes. The conclave will be designed to

  1. Build narratives to celebrate the flourishing Odisha
  2. Develop nuanced knowledge on identified themes such as Adaptive Technology, Women & Youth, Climate Action, Traditional wisdom of Food, Taking Odia pride to global platforms.
  3. Bring new networks, civil society partners and experts to work together.
  4. Invite investor and funder to resource the vision
  5. Evoke the sense of shared responsibility with communities and grassroot leaders

B. Designing a platform to solve wicked problems

Design the blueprint for a set of knowledge resources, tools and operational procedures that offer a holistic schematic to solve for our landscapes under the Odisha Sandbox, starting with the Coastal Landscape. These would cover the following:

  1. Landscape Analysis along geopolitical, economic, socio-cultural and ecological dimensions to identify strengths, gaps and opportunities
  2. Grassroots level knowledge building and community connect
  3. Orchestrating partnerships across Samaaj, Sarkar and Bazaar
  4. Creating/ plugging-in responses to identified challenges and opportunities
  5. Designing Innovative finance models to sustain the responses, that blend social and market capital
  6. Governance, Monitoring & Impact measurement frameworks to standardise and mainstream the model

The end objective is to create a plug-n-play platform for any actor to participate in flourishing Odisha, offering them the ability to both identify opportunities to collaborate based on their interests/ strengths, as well as to avenues to understand and amplify their contribution.