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Impact Edge

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed” - Mahatma Gandhi



New material development, using water hyacinth: transforming waste to wealth.



New ways of working, producer ownership-based models, a women owned collective enterprise.


Lead:

Jacob Mathew, Design Principal

Team:

Varun Gupta


Mandate

The primary aim of an impact enterprise is not to maximize profits but to profitably maximize impact.

The Impact Edge Lab seeks to converge design, business and social impact through entrepreneurial activity. Impact Edge works along with Industree Foundation, a not for profit that is a systemic change maker in artisanal production and is a living lab for innovations developed through Impact Edge. The lab creates new economic models, systems of application and practice in an open innovation framework. The questions that Impact Edge seeks to answer include- that current modes of enterprise ownership and wealth creation focus on the top 1% of the population, how might new models serve the other 99%. Questions such as the nature of unbridled vs conscious consumption, slow vs fast, concentrated vs distributed ownership, sustainable vs unsustainable and leaving things better and not same are probed, understood and solutions framed, tested and readied for scale.

“The fact that a belief system is deep rooted does not mean it cannot change” says Edgar Morin a contemporary French Philosopher. What is the systemic change and new business models that can effect these changes.

Industree brings to Srishti the ability to work in real world contexts with real people and promotes the notion of Creative Manufacturing as an important sector in sustainable national and global development. Srishti brings to Impact Edge pedagogical expertise, a community of practitioners and academic rigour in plan-do-validate cycles. The Impact Edge centre is envisaged as a lab incubator accelerator where ideas are explored, concepts tested out and enterprises accelerated.


Achievements

New product and materials development that is sustainable. A quadruple bottom line view of sustainability is undertaken, financial, social, environmental and cultural.

  • Banana Fibre as a potential textile material with branding, systems design, equipment design and product development. Banana fibre and banana ”silk” textiles have been a subject of study since 2014 at Srishti, and progress has been made from a proof of idea of clothing using banana silk, extraction and spinning processes and even branding for the new material.



Table top yarn twisting machine.


  • Banana Bark product making techniques with mix of materials and methods to produce accessories and products for export markets. Several groups of final year learners have contributed to uses and the extraction and processing of banana bark, otherwise considered a waste and largely burnt in the fields. Among the innovations done are new products, weave structures and currently exploration into have skill upgradation can be digitised.
  • Development of natural material yoga mats using weaving techniques from Tripura & Warangal including smart sensors. A troubling contradiction is that while yoga is considered natural, holistic and healthy the mats used are almost always petrochemical and exuding unhealthy Volatile Organic Compounds! Several rounds of innovative design have gone into using natural materials like cotton and latex to develop natural material heathy yoga mats using traditional weaving skills, to create products that are in harmony with their function.



Rubber and cotton yoga mat designed for the Warangal dhurrie making cluster.


  • Branding ,Packaging and production systems for new materials and products. Natural and sustainably made products that are good for people and good for planet need their stories told and goodness experienced. Pineapple fibre crafts are almost forgotten, branding packaging and higher productivity can revive this craft and bring it back into the repertoire of unique crafts of the North Eastern Region.



Branding and packaging for handcrafted pineapple fibre products from Meghalaya.


  • New product development using improved looms for Naga weavers in Manipur. Many NGOs work with disadvantaged communities, design and business design can play a big role in amplifying and multiplying impact. Impact Edge worked with NGO READ Global, to develop and market higher value handloom products in a community that was mired in alcoholism, bootlegging and disrepute opening up new possibilities of dignified livelihood.
  • New product development with a view to densification of products for lowering shipping costs for kauna reed products from Manipur. Kauna reed is traditionally used to make stuffed rice straw mattresses which has a limited reach and viability and is now under threat from modern polyurethane foam mattresses smuggled easily across the border from Burma. The community in Thaubal not far from Imphal has close to 5000 skilled Kauna artisans. New product development from table, home and office accessories to fold flat furniture were developed to demonstrate potential to both artisans, buyers and funders.
  • Value added non timber forest products for tribal communities in the forest ranges of Khandamal, Odisha and Araku Valley Andhra Pradesh. The product systems include natural material biodegradable replacement for single use plastics, natural cosmetic ingredients, wild turmeric, tamarind and ginger products. The recent ban on single use plastics not just in India but in many parts of the world have opened up a huge opportunity for natural and truly biodegradable substitutes and income opportunities for tribal women who subsist on family cash incomes of as low as Rs100 per month.
  • New product development from home accessories to footwear in water hyacinth for vulnerable communities in Assam. Water hyacinth an invasive plant in many parts of the world has the potential to be controlled if there is an economic incentive to manage and utilise it. Livelihoods from water hyacinth enable communities to manage what is a menace into an economic activity generator that is self-sustaining.



Handwoven shoe upper in water hyacinth for Assam artisan clusters.


Processing and value creation closer to source

The extraction economy most usually exploits and impoverishes people at the point of extraction, be it mining, gathering or even many forms of agriculture. What if value is added at the point of extraction and that value goes to develop the local economy through added spending? Further value addition makes the transportation carbon footprint of the product in relation to its value smaller.

  • Farm gate processing of Kiwi fruit from Arunachal Pradesh with better methods of farming and pollination increases production by 40%. Packaging and branding to avoid transit damage and increased value perception brings more income to the farm community. Solar desiccation of sub table grade produce ensures that even “lower visual quality” fruit is not wasted but is converted to higher value.
  • Solar based micro-drip irrigation for small holder farmers in Bihar. Solar pumps with the promise of sunshine based electricity has been shown to perversely increase the wastage of water. Solar pumps when integrated with micro-drip irrigation and market price intelligence can substantially increase farm output and price realisation whilst halving the consumption of water. Designing for context is a crucial differentiator, Bihar farmers asked to be able to transport their kit home every evening to prevent theft, farmers in Gujarat were happy to leave their kits in the field and expect to find it there the next morning !



A device to transport solar pump and panels from field to home at the end of every day for secure storage.


Models that share value with the producers. Most producers are considered as mere commodified providers of labour, small wonder that their interest are always subsumed by the interests of shareholders. Can producers be shareholders of efficient enterprises?

  • A new enterprise model, for artisanal salt farmers in the Little Rann of Kutch who are shareholders of the company they work in. These farmers used to earn Rs 10 per tonne of salt produced in very tough conditions. It is said their feet are cut off and buried when they die as being so hard and full of salt from the salt pans they stand and work in, their feet won’t burn on a funeral pier. Organising them into owners of their own company has seen their income jump from Rs 10 to Rs 250 per tonne. With a design and product intervention their price jumped to Rs 100 per kilogram for artisanal branded salt.



Artisanal flavoured salt made by a salt pan farmer owned collective company.


  • Aggregation of womens’ self-help groups in Haryana for production of Moonj grass products including livelihood and production systems.

    The women of Swamika and Chhainsa villages in Palwal and Mewat districts of Haryana, giggled when told that customers would love to buy their beautiful coil work hand made baskets. Earning for them was working as temporary labour during the sowing, weeding and harvest seasons. Everything else from minding their homes, tending to the buffalos and basketry work was never ever valued, let alone paid for. Mobilising them into earning groups has made them confident, empowered and demanding of services. Both villages have water purification systems that they demanded of their panchayats and got installed and working !



Meeting to mobilise women into a production enterprise in Chhainsa village in Mewat, Haryana.


  • Product development for hand embroidery groups across Karnataka for products and production to supply to organised value chains. Most organised retailers deign to get their goods produced in urban centres as they are easier to manage and offer better visibility to their managers. Creating a hub and spoke milk route drop off of raw materials and pick up of finished goods has allowed an underserved rural population to integrate with urban and global supply chains.
  • Design for tsunami affected villagers to make seashell products for jewellery and home accessories in Tamil Nadu.

    Investigations revealed that below the beautiful handcrafted products was a darker tale of a shadowy global trade in endangered species with extraction methods that destroyed multiple ocean habitats that supplied the raw material to poor artisanal communities along the coast. What do designers do when faced with an ethical conundrum where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t! One young designer came up with material substitution, skill training and new product development integrated solution that reconciled his environmental activism, design and ethical sensibilities.



Blown glass substitute for natural sea shells, a sustainable option for livelihoods without trafficked molluscs.


  • Tie and dye products for Indian and global markets from vulnerable communities to combat child trafficking and modern day slavery in urban slums in Jaipur. Dis-aggregation of skills to drive down prices of production has resulted in a very exploitative practice utilizing forced labour in poor environmental conditions of work. Integrating the supply chain from designing-marking-tying-dyeing-untying and stitching into clothes brings higher earning to the women and men engaged in the craft while reducing the number of middle men though not eliminating them completely as they are needed part of the value chain.



A tie and dye reversal jacket designed for production by women artisans in urban Jaipur.


  • Lacware products for Indian and global markets from vulnerable communities to combat child trafficking and modern day slavery in urban slums in Jaipur
  • Tsunami affected villagers to make Seashell products for jewellery and home accessories in Tamil Nadu.

    Children are trafficked and sold into slavery from distant Bihar to sweatshops in Jaipur and New Delhi to make cheap lac bangles favoured by Indian brides at weddings. This intervention looks at producing higher value accessories that allow adults good wages, obviating the need for low priced, low skilled child labour, using sound economics to combat social evil.

  • Biocoal, a new use for invasive plants in creating an eco-friendly fuel for small distributed rural scalable to super thermal power plants in semi-arid zones in India. Prosopis Juliflora an introduced plant to combat desertification has now become a major threat to endemic and native plants in many parts of the country, Torrefaction a process that can convert it into a coal like substance through controlled pyrolysis, in decentralised village plants can convert these invasive plants into “black wealth”. The same model can be extended to utilise cotton stalk after harvest.



Current Activity/Focus Area

Short term:New Material and business model development for natural fibres product, process and enterprise model development that is adaptable and scalable for textiles and home accessories. Key fibres include Banana fibre and Water Hyacinth. Non Timber forest produce including siali and sal leaves, bamboo, seed and pods and wild spices.

Medium term: Meeting the SDG goals through Impact enterprises.

Long Term: New economic models to usher in a gentler form of capitalism.


Opportunities

Academic program outputs

Entrepreneurship for Impact courseware development, Creative Manufacturing courseware development.

Short courses and accelerator programs (Link to SCOPE)


Enquiries

For more information about this program, kindly email Jacob Mathew at jacob.mathew@srishtimanipalinstitute.in