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The need to collaborate – Archit Thapar, Anant Fellow

The need to collaborate – Archit Thapar, Anant Fellow

(Saturday March 24, 2018)

When a woman and man collaborate, they create new life. However, this spirit of collaboration hasn’t really become a core value for organisations and government alike. During my undergraduate experience, competition was rewarded whereas collaboration was considered as ‘cheating’. But after having spent just a few months in the Anant Fellowship, I realised how this incentive system was promoting friction rather than harmony. Because the approach to view things is extremely different here. Our cohort may not like each other, may fight for trivial things just like a family, but we stand united on a thread of ‘collaboration’. When it comes to working together or helping someone out, we set aside our differences and contribute through the multiple lenses that we bring to the table to solve the problem.

A typical day in the fellowship for me is nothing short of an adventure. I start my day by going for a walk in the campus, accompanied with a Christian from Madras and a Gujju from Bombay, where we spend some time reflecting on our life while admiring the biodiversity that surrounds us. By the time we step into our lecture rooms, I sit beside a writer from Pune with whom I usually gossip about how good or bad this module is turning out to be. On some rare evenings I decide to cycle back to the hostel while singing old Hindi movie songs accompanied with a historian from Ladakh who writes heart-warming poetry. Post dinner, I have this ritual of playing a table tennis match with an expert on sustainability from Ghana. Whosoever loses the match, ends up sponsoring the other person’s ice cream (I’ve gained a lot of weight recently). By the time I’m about to call it a day, my roommate, who is a mechanical engineer from Hyderabad, is curious to share and exchange the experiences that we witnessed during the day. When I first met him, I almost dreaded the thought of living with him, but as we started to have more conversations and sharing our insights, we realised how similar we are. I soon realised this
baggage of judgement and apprehension I carried, was because of my past experiences. This dates to my working experience in a multi-national architecture consultancy in Delhi. The process of completing a task, rested on various teams, across various departments and across various countries, but all of it happened in decentralised silos. The communication between the departments was limited. Collaboration was taking place amongst the same group of people, who belonged to the same school of thought and usually came up with similar solutions. This may have helped in achieving efficiency in terms of time, but how far can this approach go in terms of solving complex and unprecedented problems of the built environment?

The world needs to build 2 billion new homes over the next 80 years, as per world economic forum. How do we ensure that we achieve this without ruining our planet? Through Collaboration!

Through building channels of communication across diversity and through involving every stakeholder in the process of providing the solution.

Anant Campus – Fellows coming together for Live Action Project Debrief; Picture Credit – Joseph Rajini Asir I Anant Fellow

The contemporary world has realised the importance of it and we are beginning to see changes. Through my lens, the future will have more collaborations rather than corporations and competition. I already see it everywhere.

When we get to have multi-sensory experiences, our mind and body stimulates more organically. A collaboration of senses.

An orchestra is a collaboration of multiple people and instruments coming together to create harmony

In most urban settlements, a street acts as a collaborative channel of the city. People engage in multiple activities, through groups or individually. This collective engagement is what shapes the culture of cities. A cosmopolitan is merely a collaboration of multiple sub-cultures.

New age co-working and co-living spaces like ‘Roam’ is an example of creating spaces where people come together from diverse backgrounds to socialize, network and learn from each other. Much like Anant Fellowship.
Large furniture corporation like IKEA is now collaborating with niche designers like Ilse Crawford to redesign the experience of people visiting their stores. She puts in a beautiful way, ‘The best results are always with collaboration and contrast”.

NASA and LEGO are collaborating to design tools to aid education amongst kids.

Solar Impulse, a solar powered aircraft to move towards a sustainable means of transportation. It is a collaborative effort of Omega, Schindler and Deutsche Bank. To fund this initiative, they started a crowdfunding ‘Supporters Program’.

Harvard and MIT, came together to start an online learning platform, ‘edX’. A collaboration between the so-called competitors.

Social media is another industry which has vastly benefited through collaboration. We get access to a whole new world, which physically seems quite far to reach daily. A few fellows in my cohort have already collaborated to start a company which provides personalized desk solutions through art. Another fellow and me are also collaborating to form an online media company through the medium of comics. This new-found zeal amongst the fellows to come together and work on something they share a vision towards is an accomplishment of the fellowship. The space has rendered us the freedom to unlearn the social institutionalisation that raised a barrier in front of our will. Research shows that as infants, we are intuitively collaborative, but this gets lost due to age old education and organisation structures. The fellowship has empowered us to question the status quo and thus, while some of us might join existing organisations and reinvent the wheel there, others might end up setting up their own organisation where collaboration is rejoiced as a core value. Each and every fellow in the program is unique, this uniqueness is valued and appreciated in our environment which aids the process of collaboration and not of judgement. As part of my Live Action Project, I’m collaborating with a visual artist and a strategic designer from the fellowship to design a physical collaborative learning model, if successful, can be tested as a pilot for other institutions to mirror and test out.

To explain what I did with roughly 1000 words, Steve Lacy managed to put across through a sentence – “I think it is in collaboration that the nature of art is revealed.”

 

Archit Thapar is a student of Anant Fellowship, Anant National University’s flagship programme. The views expressed here are personal. 




Urban planning crisis in India

(Wednesday February 14, 2018)

Recent years have seen a spate of urban disasters in India, leading to a severe urban planning crisis. Cyclones, heavy rains and unseasonal floods wrecking large scale damage to cities, hazardous pollution levels choking them up, and potholed roads resulting in accidents and death of citizens.  

These urban disasters did not take shape overnight, and are the culmination of years of negligence, public and private indifference and large-scale corruption. Across the country, all major cities have fared very poorly in basic parameters like air quality, roads and public transport, sewage segregation and disposal, and women and child safety. Studies conducted by various organizations have revealed that urban development in India lacks proper planning and vision.

Had there been proper sewage systems in place, the ghastly repercussions of floods in Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai could have been avoided.  Several lives could have been saved and property worth millions preserved. Floods are a common phenomenon in other Asian/Western countries as well but their effective municipal governance minimizes the adversary impact.   

Due to the problem of bad roads in most cities of India, deaths by potholes have become a common occurrence. Every year, municipal corporations spend millions on repairing roads before monsoons but all that money goes down the drain. Shoddy repair work and use of sub-standard material result in the potholes reappearing as soon as they are fixed. Vehicle owners, especially of two-wheelers, have a hard time navigating these potholes and often end up paying for it with their lives.

The issue of mounting garbage is another addition to this list. With no proper garbage disposal system in place, the easiest way out is to dump all the waste on the roads. Our cities have turned into huge dumping grounds. Waste separation, which should ideally be done at source (homes/offices), is unheard of and everything is disposed together. Also, open burning of waste releases toxins into the environment, thus aggravating air pollution.

As Indian cities grapple with all these tangible issues, other societal incidents have also raised the same alarming question – how safe are Indian cities? Delhi has attained the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of India with a rape being reported every hour. Women are afraid to step out of their homes and offices not just in Delhi but across the country as the number of rapes, acid attacks, molestation attempts and stalking continue to rise.

The only way out of this urban mess is proper planning, prompt execution on the part of government agencies and whole-hearted support and cooperation from the public.

The first major reform needed now is the adequate representation of public in decision making. Urban areas elected only one-third of the total Parliamentary seats in the 2014 General Election. More representation of citizens is required in public forums to express their grievances to elected representatives. Better public-government interaction is crucial for the successful implementation of such projects.

Urban bodies across the country lack sufficient money, manpower and resources. Most municipal workers work without being paid on time and this greatly affects their productivity and morale. It is only when the needs of workers are fulfilled that they will be able to execute their duties to the best of their abilities. As urban bodies are mostly cash-strapped, state and central governments must step in to help out. Also, designing better systems and processes and leveraging technology to minimize human intervention is a key requirement.

The country’s urban centres are a time bomb, waiting to explode. Statistics have revealed that while there are around 8,000 census towns in the country, only 5,000 town planners attend to their needs. An important step in this direction can be taken at the student level with the future planners and designers being sensitized to the problems of today. Academicians must spearhead the change for better urban planning by teaching sustainable architecture, smart design thinking and holistic urban planning.

Anant National University believes education is a catalyst for change. It is taking positive steps in this direction by educating and nurturing ‘solutionaries’ who understand the challenges urban spaces are facing and can come up with unique and long-lasting solutions.