How can India transform itself into the vibrant knowledge-based society it aspires to be?
Part of the answer to the question above has to lie in the ideas, experience, skills and motivations of this vast nation’s information professionals.
One highly motivated information professional is Dr Shamprasad Pujar, Deputy Librarian at the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research (IGIDR) in Mumbai, who is keen to play his part in realising this ambition. He wants to go beyond providing for the information needs of faculty members and staff at his Institute, seeking to help improve the wider information environment in India, in particular by improving access to knowledge generated by India’s huge social science community.
To further his aim, Dr Pujar is currently working with the Strategic Learning Initiative (SLI) at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) after successfully applying for a DFID and Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded Commonwealth Professional Fellowship. During his 9 week fellowship Dr Pujar is learning from the experience of DFID funded services: eldis, id21, BRIDGE, Livelihoods Connect, HDI and the British Library for Development Studies.
These innovative information services (that are funded, along with SLI, by DFID through the Mobilising Knowledge for Development (MK4D) programme) work to change the ways that research informs development policy and practice by increasing access to, and use of, research-based development information. They have explicit development and social justice objectives, reaching out to huge geographically dispersed audiences, and combining communications approaches and channels for maximum impact.
The approaches, methods of thinking, and applications of technology being used by the MK4D services are proving to be both a rich source of inspiration and practical learning for Dr Pujar. He plans to apply the insights he is gaining to the Open Index Initiative - an ambitious project that aims to overcome the current difficulties faced by academics, activists, policy makers and practitioners in accessing the vast body of social science literature being produced in India. An emerging idea is an eldis-inspired portal for Indian generated research.
I have not only learnt about how the MK4D services operate - how and why they do what they do - I also have been supported to think creatively about how my organisation can respond to the particular knowledge challenges we experience in India. I am doubly grateful to DFID for this opportunity which they have made possible through funding Commonwealth Scholarship Commission to facilitate fellowships like mine and by supporting the MK4D programme to undertake capacity development of peers from Southern organisations
Dr Pujar isn’t waiting until his return to India to share his learning with his extensive professional networks. He has taken the unusual step of creating a blog to detail his experiences as a Fellow, and it is already stimulating global thought. One commentator from Kohlapur said “To the best of my knowledge, no one so far has taken such an endeavour…[the blog will] definitely showcase how to make the best use of the knowledge gained for the benefit of the professional community”.
The learning won’t stop when the Fellowship ends; connections between the MK4D programmes and services and Dr Pujar will continue through the SLI convened ‘I-K-Mediary Group’ an international network of knowledge and information intermediaries who, like Dr Pujar and the MK4D services, seek to improve the access to - and use of - research based information in development processes. An active member of this emerging network, Dr Pujar’s blog has already provided inspiration to I-K-Mediary group members.
“We have learned a lot from Shamprasad during his time here” said Catherine Fisher from SLI who co-ordinated Dr Pujar’s programme, “he has provided us with useful insights into how we can better meet the particular needs of our Indian stakeholders and how we can better showcase Indian produced research to our global audiences. We plan to collaborate on content exchange with Dr Pujar’s many initiatives after he returns”.
Dr Pujar’s programme at IDS has been created by the MK4D funded Strategic Learning Initiative (SLI) who lead capacity development programmes that share MK4D learning, approaches and skills with Southern counterparts. For further information about this programme and about the I-K-Mediary Group, contact Catherine Fisher.
Dr Pujar’s Professional Fellowship was awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom and administered by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the British Council.