The India China Institute has launched the third round of its signature fellowship program with a new research initiative: Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments aims to generate new ideas, debate policies, and share collaborative solutions to the important environmental challenges facing India and China, two of the most populous and economically dynamic nations in the world today.
India and China face unprecedented environmental challenges and opportunities in their intertwined futures. Both countries are increasingly conscious of the negative consequences of their current rapid development, such as ecological degradation and global warming. In practice, however, ecological concerns, including water contamination, greenhouse gases, poor urban air quality, and industrial waste dumping, have been sidelined due to urbanization pressures, industrialization, and the current economic downturn. Although the past few years have brought positive experimentation in environmental governance in both countries, much remains to be done to bring attention and action to these pressing issues.
What makes an intervention socially sustainable, especially when addressing complex environmental issues? To address the complex and interconnected problems associated with climate change and environmental sustainability, innovative approaches are needed. Many of the environmental challenges we face today are not simply technical issues–scientific solutions for many problems exist already. Some of the most pressing environmental problems are posed by social, political, and market barriers to change. In other words, social, not just technical, innovations are necessary to overcome multifaceted and interconnected environmental challenges. Not only are innovative strategies in the social sector needed, but also collaborative processes of creation and adaptation of new organizational forms and coalitions, developing creative solutions, skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurship as drivers of polices that will mitigate the effects of climate change and help societies achieve environmental sustainability. While the focus of inquiry is on India and China, a three-way dialogue that includes perspectives from the United States will be a key feature of the research program. Through collaborative research and debates, the definitions and parameters of both social innovation and sustainability in India and China will be critically examined by the fellows of the India China Institute.