Learning Workshop: the Materiality of Rice, World Institute of Sustainable Energy, Pune, and Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme, SIAS, Oxford.

Initial Learning Workshop: the Materiality of Rice, World Institute of Sustainable Energy, Pune, and Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme, SIAS, Oxford.

February 14th - 17th, 2011, with seed funds from the Oxford University Fell Fund.

The idea behind an experimental 'learning workshop' is that learning is at its most creative when scholars from different backgrounds can teach one another and learn at the same time as they discuss.

The formula requires inviting a small group of 10-15 people with different backgrounds who are motivated to acquire knowledge in new fields. The format is that of a research workshop, each session having one or two papers presented and formally critiqued before general discussion.

The difference is that few participants present their own work. The vast majority present published papers written by others that have been selected as representing the cutting edge in the fields of knowledge being explored.

There is no objective other than mutual teaching and learning; and no single outcome to the workshop. The Pune workshop was the second run by the CSASP. The first - in December 2010 in Oxford explored (micro)finance and ecological services. We have reason to believe they have both been successful.

The Pune workshop included engineers and technologists, a vet specialising in agro-pastoral systems, a trade union organiser, NGO development practitioners, and scholars from politics, environmental economics, development economics, development studies, political economy and environmental science.

The fields of knowledge explored were as follows: paradigms of policy analysis, science and technology studies, the informal economy, value chains, labour and employment and life cycle analysis (from materials science).

The substantive objective of the workshop was to examine how these fields of knowledge could be synthesised to better understand the material inputs and outputs of a range of systems of cultivation and distribution of rice. Tools developed for the case of rice would have potential for widespread applications in other sectors of the economy.

The Pune-based NGO 'Anthra' and WISE compiled the learning materials into a bound volume of 800 pages which can be used as a future resource in other contexts.

 

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