The Echo Network
The Birth of the Echo Network
It was the year 2019. Prof. K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, had the brilliant vision to launch a one of its kind national program to foster collaborative scientific research, knowledge sharing and creation of viable and pioneering solutions to some of India’s perennial problems. And thus the Echo Network was born!
The Echo Network is a unique platform that unites citizens, industry, academia, governments, civil society organisations, non-profits, MNCs and others to come together and identify gaps in knowledge regarding issues and areas in human and environmental ecosystems.
For the Noble Cause
To encourage collaborative scientific research, mutual learning between various players in the ecosystems, sharing and discussion of pioneering solutions, pooling resources to find solutions to pressing issues to India’s health and hygiene systems, human and environmental ecosystem and encouraging regenerative agriculture are what the Echo Network envisages to do. The network has been launched with the aim to provide a template for cross-disciplinary leadership in India with the specific objective of increasing research, knowledge, and awareness of Indian ecology and the environment. The network works with the threefold goals of 1) establishing an interactive network of people across countries and sectors who can exchange ideas on real-world issues 2) advancing scientific research together and 3) creating a new generation of scientists who are cross-disciplinary and work without borders.
The network has identified three broad thematic areas –
- Improving Health and Hygiene Systems;
- Regenerative Agriculture;
- Human and Environmental Ecosystem Valuation
The Journey So Far!
In 2019, the Echo Network sent out a clarion call inviting people and organisations from world over to participate in an unprecedented workshop series. In late 2020, invited interested applicants from the industry, academia, govt, citizens, CSOs, NGOs, MNCs, etc comprising 80 changemakers from 60 world-renowned organisations took part in the initial set of workshops. ICA was represented in these conversations by Abhay, Ajay, Hari and Vedita.
The 2020 workshops focused on initiating consortium-based projects – where different organisations and individuals came together to participate in this activity and identified the range of issues of interest to members of the network. These workshops resulted in 16 cross-sector research questions within the three thematic areas and covered a broad range from plastic packaging, circular economy, resource efficiency, waste, biodiversity, malnutrition and food systems. Between April-June 2021, each of the 16 questions was further explored by the relevant groups through a set of two 2-hour planning workshops. In these sessions, for every project, each consortium identified and discussed a – theory of change – basis which there were further discussions on defining the project’s research aims/objectives, research methodology, outcomes, outputs, measurable effects of the work, requisite time and personnel resources as well as the bigger impact for the society. These ideas will be taken up as research projects by a team of post-doctoral researchers who will work under the guidance of the consortia towards the network’s objectives and finding the answers to the research problem. So far, at least 12 ICA members have participated in all 16 questions. These 16 questions may be merged together if they are along similar lines or seek to find similar solutions.
The next phase will look at developing and taking forward consortium-based projects that will be primarily executed through the postdoctoral researchers, or “Science Ambassadors”, who will rotate between participating organisations and be sponsored by the Echo Network for two years. Given our cross-cutting whole-systems approach to climate change, the ICA has been a part of all projects on all the 16 research questions that have emerged from these workshops.
‘I feel the need, the need for collaboration’ – ICA & the Echo Network
ICA’s unique position with the Echo Network is that –
- We are interested in the whole system approach.
- We understand that there is no silver bullet to address climate change.
- We recognise climate action in a very broad and emergent way.
- Our mode of operation encourages innovative designs, experiments and systems insights and solutions related to climate change.
- Eventually, any solution or focus of the research questions/projects will be interesting for us and provide a way to find good leverage points for systemic transformation from a climate lens.
- Thus, ICA’s participation in the rollout of the projects will be holistic and support to the science ambassadors shall be given through the ICA’s entire bandwidth of resources, knowledge and expertise.
Excellent opportunity for ICA as a young non-profit organisation for
- recognition of our thought leadership on climate action and systems change by key stakeholders
- building knowledge and learning (the projects and process will be good learning experiences even if we might not have full visibility currently on how they will play out.)
- opportunities for collaboration and networking
- Profile-building and working with other pioneering organisations like – ATREE, Cornell, Oxford, WOTR, WRI, RICH – Telangana govt, Sanitation First, HUL, National Coalition for Natural Farming, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Natural Resources Defence Council just to name a few.
ICA’s work will benefit greatly from this association, and at least one interesting collaboration has already been sparked off as a result of these sessions with the National Coalition for Natural Farming.