The M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation is now nearly three decades old. A few hundred people distributed in different parts of India. When I was called to conduct a workshop for them, I felt honoured. After straddling science and media, on the one hand, and science and education, on the other, I felt I was being given a chance to work in the interface between science and development. The most satisfying lack of discipline that one can find.
14 people, mostly senior staff participated in the workshop held from 28th November to 2nd December. The participants had a wide variety of backgrounds – from Sociology to Communication and Journalism to Women studies to Economics to Statistics to Marine Biology to Agriculture to Microbiology to Geology… Such diversity amongst staff is indeed important and critical for the functioning of a foundation focused on sustainable development, biodiversity and livelihood generation in remote and tribal areas.
Some participants did not have adequate scientific training to undertake scientific writing. A few, though having a background in science, were not too comfortable with English. But the enthusiasm and energy was high. So were the individual expertise and experiences of the participants.
From writing project proposals to project reports, writing scientific papers to reporting and popularising science, from reaching across to target communities with brochures and pamphlets to advocacy communications through newsletters that target opinion leaders, the needs of individual participants varied. Yet there was one element that was common – effective communication, especially using the textual mode. So I focused on building capacity to this end, to fulfil individual needs whilst aligning with the goals and mandates of the MSSRF.
Five days. It went by too fast. One of the best workshops that I have done. Of course, it has not ended. We are just starting the work.