The sixth session of the Himalayan Consensus Summit provided a platform for speakers from diverse institutions working on grass root and home grown institutions to share their innovation and provide a perspective to what they think are some of the new ways in which institutions will and shall go through transformation. This session was moderated by Co-founder and Director at Samriddhi – Arpita Nepal.
Arpita Nepal started the session with three optimistic propositions. First of all she highlighted now we are making our societies, its institutions and structures more inclusive while asserting our own unique cultures and ethnic diversity. Secondly, she reflected on how the grassroots level is actively participating in policy and decision making and simultaneously moving to higher levels of accountability. Lastly, she pointed to how institutions nowadays are making conscious efforts to protect the environment and indigenous knowhow.
Suren Badral, former ambassador-at-large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Mongolia, addressed the participants of the Himalayan Consensus Summit via a video message. Badral highlighted the common traits of Nepal and Mongolia—both sandwiched between two large and powerful neighbors—and elucidated the rationale of Mongolia’s third neighbor policy which holds relevance to Nepal as well. Talking about the need for a new paradigm, he stated that empowering local communities and making them resilient is one of the most important development models and stressed on the need for a balance between wealth generation and sustainability.
Ajaya Mani Dixit, Executive Director, The Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, stressed that one needs to put out ideas on the public discourse setup and be a part of the process. He reflected that the ideas you present, the work that you do and the knowledge that you engage does get carried forward with the due course of time; as these are carried forward things change and a new discourse emerges.
Narayan Dhakal, Executive Director, Eco Himal, shared his insights on three topics i.e. participation, ownership and sustainability. He talked about how participation should be meaningful and not just about convincing donors and others, while for ownership to develop one should first feel that the organizations are working towards their needs. Lastly, sustainability comes automatically when communities take ownership and participate actively. With some examples of the work that EcoHimal is currently pursuing, he highlighted how it is working to recognize and address the local challenges.
Narayan Dhakal also highlighted how the informal structures are now getting formalized and how there is a trend where the organizations which are mushrooming which are goal oriented rather than service oriented. While talking about the sustainable innovations that are being observed at the grass root levels Narayan Dhakal focused on the innovations happening on the micro level while Ajaya Dixit focused on the innovations happening on the macro level.
Citing example of the heritage restoration work being pursued in RamgarhShekhawati, Shruti Nada Poddar, Founder Shruti Foundation, spoke about how this business model is sustainable because the community itself is engaged in restoring the heritage town. She reflected on how local skills in the town which has spectacular heritages were lost as people stopped valuing it. Realizing that the only way to get back traditional knowledge was to create an economic model, Shruti Foundation worked towards attracting the government’s attention to RamgarhShekhawati by organizing an exhibition. Understanding that without working in the tourism sector neither local people nor the government will be interested in investing their time and resources, Shruti Foundation is now successfully working towards restoring the heritage site and trying to attract tourists in the city.
The outcome of the session was realizing that the essence of the success of the grass root institutions lies in creating value for the environment and also ensuring that there are livelihoods attached to it.