In January, 25 students from NTNU went to India to work together with rural Indian innovators and entrepreneurs. The students worked on challenges related to sustainable innovation and entrepreneurial methods. Experts in Teamwork is a master’s degree course in which students develop their interdisciplinary teamwork skills.
About the village
The students had the opportunity to interact and work together with rural innovators and entrepreneurs in developing solutions with real impact. They learned about sustainable innovation and how an entrepreneurial attitude can help in taking action to solve problems under situations of uncertainty. For many students this was the first time they engaged with a context that is very different from what they are used to, providing them with an opportunity to learn how to find solutions in a resource poor and unfamiliar context, and an exposure to and more understanding of one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies and markets.
The village entitled ‘Become a change agent! Sustainable innovation through the use of entrepreneurial methods in different contexts’ is financed through an INTPART project funded by the Research Council of Norway and is also supported by NTNU’s Centre for Excellence in Education: Engage.
Motivation to help
One of the students who participated was Iver Johannes Berg-Olsen. He believes that all the participants in this village felt an inner motivation to provide a solution that would help the Indian villages they were trying to help. Berg-Olsen thinks the trip to India was a wonderful learning experience that challenged his technical and theoretical abilities in a setting that he has little experience with.
Each challenge was motivating, and interdisciplinarity felt more like a resource than an obstacle – Berg-Olsen.
Berg-Olsen and his group worked on finding better solutions to improve the ability of farmers to make money from what they produce. With this they had two options. They could either extend the life of the products so that the farmers had both improved competitiveness, but also that they did not have to sell and then buy back from someone else when they needed it. The other opportunity was to improve these products through an increase in value. For example, convert corn into flour. For both opportunities the group needed both understanding and motivation from the farmers, but also capital and the infrastructure needed.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was delivering something that would make a difference. I felt a strong commitment to give something back to both our partners and the villagers. We had been well prepared for what would meet us in advance, yet I think you can never quite prepare yourself for the vast differences in the world.
Social structure and traditions have a strong foothold in India, which to an outsider seems like an obstacle. It is difficult to understand the importance of this social structure and why it has as strong position in their society. Many of the models we have studied, as well as several of the ones we are trying to solve in India, are facing major challenges with the caste system and social structure, further complicating the situation.
What is your best memory of the trip?
My best memory of the trip is definitely visiting the Indian villages. It’s amazing how open and welcoming the villagers are. It is also very neat and generally a fantastic atmosphere in these villages. They don’t have much, but what they have they take very good care of.