Scouting, Documentation and Database Management (SDDM)

Thousands of examples from India and elsewhere have shown that the people at the grassroots, farmers, artisans, mechanics and the like have been relying on their own ingenuity to solve their local problems. In absence of an external aid, the only option left with them is to come up with their own solutions, which, in many cases, may be able to solve similar problems elsewhere.  Since time immemorial traditional communities have been optimally utilizing the available bio-resources for medicinal and other uses. The need is to properly identify such unique herbal practices and innovations, and document them. Apart from preserving bio-diversity and promoting the culture of creative thinking, such documentation serves another very important purpose, which is to preserve fast eroding knowledge about optimal use of bio-resources and of contemporary technological innovations. Scouting or looking for such knowledge/innovations is the first step towards attaining this goal and is undertaken to discover and recognize grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge practices from rural and urban areas. The nature of problems is different in these areas and so is the focus of innovations. But what is worthy of underlining is that even in most developed regions, urban fringe areas, slums and other places, viable and functional traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations can always be found. Local knowledge systems help in seeking solutions to such problems in a spontaneous manner individually or collectively.

Scouting means looking for creative indigenous ideas/innovations/traditional Knowledge.

Scouting of the innovations is the first step towards the fulfilment of the mission of NIF. The art of scouting involves the extensive fieldwork; travel in rural and urban areas, search for 'odd balls' the experimenter, local community and knowledge experts in the society. Students in summer vacation also are encouraged to scout such creative people. In order to achieve the scouting and documentation of the innovations the following activities are required:

  1. To coordinate with various governmental and non-governmental agencies to mount national campaign to scout innovations with the help of grassroots level functionaries of education, agriculture, rural development, small scale industry, Panchayati Raj institutions, etc.
  2. To screen, document and verify the claims about these innovations through various networks of scientific and other institutional initiatives as well as through Honey Bee collaborators, existing databases and field visits.
  3. To generate mechanisms for graduated incentives for innovators and involve them in scouting process itself.
  4. To provide assistance in forging decentralized networks of inventors/knowledge experts and strengthen the Honey Bee Network.
  5. To obtain Prior Informed Consent (PIC) of the providers of knowledge.
  6. To share the innovations permitted in public domain with the knowledge providers through Honey Bee newsletter and other media to enrich the repertoire of the local communities and informal knowledge experts and to support shodh yatras in different parts of the country.

Scouting involves extensive fieldwork to search for experimenters and knowledge experts in local communities. The scouting of innovations and traditional knowledge has traditionally been achieved through the following modes.


Through the following means NIF actively attempts to look for innovations and traditional knowledge practices/grassroots innovations. Various means are used, which are mentioned as below.

a) National Campaigns: NIF organizes national level biennial campaign for scouting grassroot innovations and traditional knowledge. The national campaign is a means to build solidarity among creative people, by unfolding the potential of genius at grassroots. Several values (7 E's) are being blended such as ethics, excellence, efficiency, environment, education, equity and empathy. Creativity in that sense is being combined with compassion, conservation and concern for the disadvantaged people. So far NIF has organized nine national biennial campaigns and the tenth one is currently going on. Entries are solicited from innovators and knowledge holders and innovations and traditional knowledge practices. Entries received by NIF are screened for their possible validity, uniqueness, potential social impact, and creativity or embedded valuable traditional knowledge. The selected entries are evaluated with the help of group of experts and Honey Bee Network collaborators. The most outstanding entries are given awards at the hands of Honorable President of India. NIF also extends the support for prototype development and scaling up depending upon the social criticality, potential impact, eco-friendliness, and economic condition of the innovator, potential for value addition through linkage with science and technology institutions and prospects of diffusion through commercial and non-commercial channel.

b) Shodh Yatra (a journey of exploration): Shodh yatra is a walk through the villages and towns in search of knowledge, creativity and innovations at grassroots. It is an attempt to reach out to proximal as well as remote parts of the country with a firm belief that hardship and challenges of natural surroundings in many cases may be the prime motivators of creativity and innovations. We have organized some Shodh yatras in urban fringe areas also to study the rapid erosion of traditional knowledge and create a consciousness about the need to conserve useful knowledge on an urgent basis and recognize relevant innovations by people too at the same time. Every year, Shodh yatras or the journeys of explorations' are organized twice, once in extreme summers and winters, where people walk through villages around a distance of 100 to 200 kms in a span of seven to ten days. Innovative farmers, artisans, students and scientists join the Shodh yatra and walk with the objective of participatory learning, dissemination of information, as well as spreading experimental and inventive ethics among communities.

c) Shodh Sankal (a local network of grassroots innovators): The concept of Shodh Sankal (a chain of experimenting farmers) to generate a lateral learning environment among grassroots innovators was started by SRISTI. The idea was to bring together experimenting farmers and discuss the results of trials that farmers have taken up on their own to solve various local problems. The discussion also enhances the esteem for local knowledge systems apart from speeding up the process of technological change in regions where formal technology generation system has not been very successful, such as dry regions, mountainous regions and other disadvantaged areas.

d) Involving the Media: Interested journalists are identified and persuaded to publish articles on grassroots innovations and innovators. Many newspapers and magazines also write about the innovations and traditional knowledge scouted and recognized by NIF & the Honey Bee network. It has been a mandate of NIF to bring together various stakeholders on a common platform in the mission of giving visibility and creating a market for grassroots Innovations. Many other times regional newspapers and magazines publish stories of people who have done something 'different' and have attracted the attention of others. Such news items are picked up by us or are provided by supporters of our work and philosophy. We work on these interesting leads and try to get the information though local scouts, resource persons, volunteers or collaborators. Apart from these initiatives, advertisements are regularly issued for the national campaigns in all the major newspapers of the country in different states. The newspapers are selected on the basis of approximate circulation in different regions and languages. Special attention is given to local language/vernacular press targeting the rural pockets of each State rather than mainly the urban areas.

e) Including scouting in course curricula:  In 2006, a college in Tamil Nadu, Lady Doak, started a course on the importance of traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations.

f) Kite festival: Uttarayan is the kite flying festival in Ahmedabad, which is celebrated widely. We flew kites with messages written on them asking people to contact us if they knew of any innovations. 5000 such kites were distributed. The idea behind it was to make our message reach at various places along with popularizing innovations through the festival.

g) Identifying other interested networks and involving them in scouting and documentation: NIF has initiated steps to identify similar networks in different parts of the scout to involve them in scouting and documentation activities.


a) Through the Honey Bee Network: NIF takes help of all the regional collaborators and other network members for identifying such local geniuses from all over the country. NIF has tried several methods to scout and document grassroot innovations and TK from various parts of the country and these methods include publication of local language versions of the Honey Bee newsletter, organizing workshops of innovators and volunteers, network members, local press conferences, arranging the visit of volunteers in villages in search of innovators and knowledge holders etc.Apart from English ,there are seven publications: Hindi,Gujarti,Oriya,Tamil,Telugu,Malyalam and Kannada. The network collaborators and coordinators help to reach interiors regions which might have been bypassed by the state as well as markets. There are six regional publications of Honey Bee magazine for networking and reaching out to people. More than eighty percent of the total entries received at NIF are the contributions of the Network collaborators.

b) Through Innovators:  Unlike the agricultural practices, the search for artisanal and farm machinery innovations is far more complex. One village may have several hundred farmers but only one or two artisans. To meet 100 artisans, one may have to survey 50-100 villages. However, over a period of time we discovered that social network of artisans is reasonably strong. Once we identify an innovative artisan or mechanic, we ask him to look for others of his kind. This process has helped in discovering many innovators. Also, many of our innovators themselves start looking for other people like them and encourage them to submit their innovations/traditional knowledge practices to us. This in turn contributes to the growth and strengthening of the network. It also helps in spreading the message as the word of mouth is the best form of information dissemination.

c) Electronic submission:  Understanding the tremendous potential of information and communication technology in furthering the cause of grassroots innovators, NIF has taken special efforts to use it for scouting purposes also. The network websites viz.,,,, and have popularized the missions of Honey Bee and other collaborating institutions. We receive quite a few entries through these websites as well along with emails addressed to and

d) Direct entries:  Though numerically less in number as compared to the ones received from the collaborators, NIF also receives many entries through regular mail. The entries received through websites and emails are also included in this.


a) Through survey of odd balls in villages by students: Students from different universities and colleges are sensitized about the need to scout and document grassroots innovations, knowledge and explore their potential for development of a community. The possible benefits are also shared such as award/recognition at national level, business development, ability to learn from each other, generating low cost solutions to persistent problems etc . They are encouraged to appreciate the innovations created by their family members and neighbors in the village to begin with. They are also asked to narrate some of their own experiences, which are interesting, intriguing and/or inspiring . These students are then motivated to scout such innovations/TK from their respective regions. By underlining what is relevant for the search, students are given examples based on their own experience. When outsiders (some times more educated and expert in specific field of knowledge) share in a humble and honest manner that some of the insights shared by students were not known to them, it reinforces the self confidence of young explorers. One of the most successful results of documentation has been achieved by the network of students from Gram Vidyapeeths (rural colleges based on Gandhian philosophy of education). A large number of students, mobilized every year from 15-20 vidyapeeths , work for two months during their summer vacation at SRISTI. They are given orientation about the richness of local knowledge/innovation domains, and are trained in scouting and documenting innovations. In the whole process, while listening to their experiences, efforts are made to convey to them precisely what kind of practices they should look for and how to identify traditional knowledge/grassroots innovations.

b) Agricultural, cultural fairs and exhibitions: Fairs are vibrant traditional institutions, where people assemble in large numbers, either for religious or cultural celebrations. This platform is used for scouting and disseminating. Many farmers, artisans, community leaders and professionals visit the stalls and get information about the innovations developed by other farmers. While accessing this knowledge base, they also share their own innovations with network members. Some of the common platforms of such kind have been the organic hats (open markets akin to weekly rural markets) organized as part of the traditional food festival. Farmers from different parts of the country display/ sell and share with people their knowledge about 'not so popular' food grains and millets.

c) Traditional food festival (SATVIK):  NIF has been supporting the traditional food festival organized by SRISTI with the help of GIAN to focus on the organically produced traditional food by farmers. The object of the fair is to stimulate demand of local crops and their varieties. In this event stalls are set up by various organizations, farmers' collective and individual farmers to display and sell organic foods. Recipe contests are also organized during the food festival. Through this process, NIF received a large number of nutraceutical and food processing related practices. This food festival is also used as a platform to reach out to as many people as possible to sensitize them about the importance of thinking creatively and the need to not live with an unsolved problem for long. On the spot idea and innovation contests are organised daily for the visitors. Idea boxes are put in strategic places in the venue and posters/banners announcing the idea competition are displayed all over. We receive some very interesting and useful ideas during this exercise.

d) Scouting fellowships:  Fellowships schemes has been started for innovators, scouts, and research students to enable them to go to their field and collect traditional knowledge practices and innovations. This fellowship covers their travel expenses, stationary and packaging and forwarding of the data collected. These fellowships have been given to different individuals in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Chattisgarh. They are provided all the necessary guidance from NIF.

A) Preliminary documentation:

Whatever may be the source of the information (directly from the innovator, through a scout, through media or other channels), the preliminary document may generally contain the innovator's name, address, contact number, educational qualifications, occupation and the description of the innovation and the details of the traditional knowledge. Further, samples of plants/herbs, exact methodology, etc., may not be available with the preliminary documents as these are mostly from the grassroots herbal healers. However, in many cases even basic information is not available. In the case of herbal knowledge, local name may be mentioned. Thus, further investigation cannot be done till herbarium specimen is collected and authenticated.

B) Verification of practices and secondary documentation :

All the necessary details are collected from the innovator/traditional knowledge holder. This is followed by a field visit by a team member where all the details including samples of plants, their local names, quantity/proportion of ingredients, method of preparation, symptoms of the diseases, precautions if any, dosage, photographs, videos, etc. are collected. All verified practices are stored physically as well as digitally in an electronic database. It is absolutely necessary, that detailed documentation may be done with the help of people who understand technologies from different disciplines, i.e., technically specialized persons.

C) Tertiary documentation:

Another round of documentation by a team member may be needed to further the understanding about the traditional knowledge practice or document the modifications done by the herbal healer over a period of time.

Prior Informed Consent (PIC) - Taking consent of the Knowledge Providers: an ethical imperative:
The purpose to obtain the PIC from the grassroots innovator/traditional knowledge holders (henceforth innovator) is to get the proper authorization from the innovators/TK holders to enable Honey Bee Network (HBN) / or any other agency pursuing documentation, to work for, and on behalf of them. Also, the purpose of the PIC is also to create trust and reciprocity between the Innovator and HBN, member institutions or agencies responsible for building value chain around green grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge. Once an entry is accepted, NIF sends a PIC form in local language to all the innovators/TK holders to seek their written consent and choice of conditions for dissemination and value addition of their products/process/idea. Innovators/TK holders may decide among various options for scaling up their technology through commercial or non-commercial means or any other preference they may have. It is realized that many of the grassroots innovators and traditional knowledge holders can not read the PIC. In such cases, video PIC has to be taken. When an entry is short listed for any particular purpose, say value addition or research and development or business development, the PIC provides the framework of disclosure of the technology to the third party or taking up any further work. In addition, PIC helps in enforcing the accountability of formal institutions towards the knowledge providers (individuals and community) and grassroots innovators. So far, the rate of receiving duly filled up PIC forms has been relatively low compared to the rate of receiving entries. Even consent from communities/groups has not yet been obtained in many traditional knowledge entries adequately. But the efforts are under way to improve the situation. It must be remembered that never in the history, had the people been asked to give their consent for such a purpose. PIC is a cultural revolution and it is also a sign that people's knowledge matters.
The concept of having Prior Informed consent for the knowledge documented originated with the evolution of the Honey Bee philosophy. The start was with a single PIC form, which evolved over the years, changing shape and content many times, based on the learnings on the way. Now there are discussions to have three separate PICs for different stages in the journey of knowledge/innovation, from initial documentation to value addition to possible business development and benefit sharing mechanism.

a) Why? :  Sharing of knowledge is a voluntary act and the participation has to be informed, both verbal and written, in a way that is understandable by the innovator. It is mandatory on the part of the data collector to explain the purpose of the exercise, in written, verbal way and video documentation.

b) What? :   Using the PIC note, every clause of the PIC form should be explained to the innovator and then his replies entered on the PIC form to enable the organisation to know, based on the innovator's preferences, what exactly can be done with the provided knowledge.

c) How? :   The advanced stage PIC form should clearly define the way benefit sharing is desired by the innovator if the organisation goes ahead with a possible business development plan of his innovation. Clear explanation should be given to the innovator for all the options and then his preferences noted down.


PIC Explanatory Note for Traditional Knowledge

PIC Explanatory Note for Technological Innovations and Ideas

PIC Traditional Knowledge

PIC Technological Innovations and Ideas


Name of Projects

Period of sanction


Area of work


Scouting, Documentation and Dissemination of Innovations & traditional knowledge in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh-Shri Rajesh Parashar, Madhya Pradesh

August 2015

6 months

Madhya Pradesh


Mobilizing of Ideas/Innovations from students through for IGNITE Competition-Diksha Foundation, Bihar

January 2015

6 months

Bihar & Uttar Pradesh


Scouting and Documentation of Innovations and Traditional knowledge in Eastern Uttar Pradesh-Shri Sanjeev Dubey, Uttar Pradesh

January 2015

6 months

Uttar Pradesh


Scouting and documentation Grassroots innovations and Traditional knowledge from Rajasthan-Swabhiman, Rajasthan

July 2015

12 months



Scouting and documentation of Innovations and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge from Jharkhand-SUT, Jharkhand

July 2015

12 months



Verification and detail documentation of Innovation and Practices received from NIF-Tripura University, Tripura

April 2013

12 months



Scouting and Documentation of grassroots innovation and indigenous traditional knowledge for 10th comp-Innovate Orissa Initiative, Orissa

July 2015

12 months



Scouting and Documentation of Innovations and Traditional Knowledge in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana-PalleSrujana, Telangana

August 2014

12 months

Andhra Pradesh & Telangana


Scouting, Documentation and Dissemination of Innovations and Traditional knowledge in Uttarakhand-Shri Lalit Sati, Uttarakhand

April 2013

12 months



10th round competition for Scouting and documentation of grassroots Innovations in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and neighbouring states-SEVA, Tamil Nadu

August 2015

9 months

Tamil Nadu &Pondicherry


Scouting and Innovative practices and Scientific documentation of Various practices from NIF Database-St. Georges College, Kerala

March 2014

12 months



Scouting, Documentation and Dissemination of Innovation and Traditional knowledge in Maharashtra-Vishwaseva Foundation, Maharashtra

April 2013

12 months



Scouting, Documentation and Dissemination of Grassroots innovations and Traditional Knowledge in Himachal Pradesh-Makheer, Himachal Pradesh

April 2013

12 months

Himachal Pradesh


Verification and documentation of Grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge practices from Gujarat for 8th Competition of NIF-SRISTI, Gujarat

August 2013

12 months



To conduct IGNITE competition in primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools of five districts of Chhattisgarh-BachpanBanao, Chhattisgarh

March 2014

12 months



Scouting and documentation of grassroots innovations from the State of Kerala for 10th National Competition-PDS, Kerala

July 2015

12 months



Scouting Documentation and dissemination of Grassroots Innovations and Traditional knowledge in Manipur-SPTWD, Manipur

April 2013

12 months



Scouting, Documentation and Dissemination of Innovations & traditional knowledge in Arunachal Pradesh, Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh

July 2015

12 months

Arunachal Pradesh


Scouting and Documentation of Innovations and Traditional Knowledge in Gujarat-CRSD, Gujarat

September 2015

8 months