The Messenger: Issue # 1





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The Messenger
The Messenger: Issue # 1
By Socratus • Issue #16 • View online
We are back after a long hiatus, and the Wicked Minds newsletter has been relabeled as “The Messenger.” The Messenger will convey the essence of wicked problems in an easy to understand format.
Which is to say: instead of a text heavy newsletter, the Messenger will focus on sketchnotes, illustrations and other graphics. We might add a podcast to the mix in the future.
This first messenger is a summary of the work Socratus has done in the last twenty months. It’s a long letter, but starting next week we will be sending out short and sweet messages.
All illustrations by Srinivas Mangipuddi
PS: A longer version of this update is over here if you want the gory details.

When Ananth and I met over coffee at the end of 2018, we discovered that we were both committed to a flourishing India while recognising that climate change will complicate our road to flourishing. What’s our path to development? How do we get there? These were the questions we kept coming back to again and again over the next few months.
The language of wicked problems and systems change remained abstract when we made the rounds in January 2020, but in an unexpected and unwelcome development, the world was about to demonstrate its wickedness to everyone. By April, we were all in lockdown, the first simultaneously shared event in all of human history.
In short, Socratus is a COVID baby.
We have been very lucky in attracting a diverse team over the last two years. The wicked minds of Socratus are spread across the country, divided between core staff, project fellows and part-time staff who are helping us with art, tech & design. We also have a thriving community of friends, volunteers and close partners, many of whom are captured in the picture below.
The Socratus Community
The Socratus Community
Flourishing India
India is an ancient civilization, but it’s also a young country - younger than the computer - and Indians are far younger on average, not even 30 years old. Today’s dominant images of wealth and success are those of carbon prosperity, but for better or worse, climate change will prevent India from ever becoming “developed” on that path. India needs new ideals of flourishing for a young, dynamic society. We have to imagine our future in a dramatically different world than the one in which the first world developed, and as the last eighteen months have shown, there are many obstacles on the way.
Flourishing India
Flourishing India
In other words:
  1. India has been an agrarian country for all of recorded history, but farming is now increasingly unsustainable: financially, socially and environmentally. How can farmers lead a dignified life under these circumstances?
  2. Migrants found themselves homeless after the lockdown, with tens of millions being forced to walk hundreds of kilometres back home. How can we prevent such tragedies? How can we ensure that migrants are treated as full citizens?
Food Systems
It’s no secret that India has been in an agrarian crisis for the last several decades. Sometimes farmer suicides or protests hit the news but the crisis doesn’t abate. As a result, we are at a crossroads; India has about 800 million people of employable age, a number that will increase to 1100 million by 2050.
You can find out more about what we did in Food Systems here and here.
Of these, the vast majority have historically been farmers and will continue to be so unless there’s a dramatic shift towards an urban mode of living. If that happens, almost 600 million which are currently living on agriculture will be driven out of their livelihoods into an economy which cannot support such a huge workforce. Our only choice is to recast our future to ensure small farmer livelihoods, rural non-farm livelihoods and ecological sustainability.
A short video on our work on natural farming (with RYSS and ATECF) below:
Vision 2035 - Natural Farming in India
Vision 2035 - Natural Farming in India
People making policies, say, about the extent of the lockdown, suffer from moral hazard: they are removed from those bearing the brunt of those decisions. Even in the best of circumstances, middle class readers and viewers don’t see migrants and other marginal communities as equals, as fellow citizens.
What’s the alternative? Can we reverse the gaze between the powerless and the powerful? Janta ka Faisla (JKF) seeks to address the needs of migrant workers and represents them as full citizens of India.
A video on the first JKF in Chhattisgarh in July (in Hindi)
देखिए कैसे रायपुर, छत्तीसगढ़ में प्रवासी मजदूरों पर पहला जनता का फैसला कार्यक्रम सामने आया |
देखिए कैसे रायपुर, छत्तीसगढ़ में प्रवासी मजदूरों पर पहला जनता का फैसला कार्यक्रम सामने आया |
Towards Greenup
India, like many developing countries, faces several critical challenges in addition to the climate challenge. Key among these is eliminating poverty, an imperative for jobs and access to effective basic services. We are calling this cluster of ideas and actions “Green up,” a deep transformation of the Indian economy including measures for innovation, adaptation and resilience.A Greenup plan for India would provide an opportunity for a very wide community of actors to participate in, and contribute to, helping India navigate the consequences of a warming world and other ecological risks, meeting its socio-economic goals and forging a vision for a young country with enormous aspirations.
India Story, Climate Grammar
A final few words on the ‘how’ we go about our business
We call that way of thinking about climate change: India Story, Climate Grammar. In our approach, citizens take charge of the systems they we want to create in the future: education systems, transportation systems, and health systems, but then embed a response to climate change into every single one of them
Space has an excellent quality: both metaphorically and literally, it can house a disparate group of objects: chairs, dishes and knick-knacks find a place within our homes. Socratus takes spacemaking seriously, and much of what we have learned over the last twenty months is to architect spaces in which a range of ideas and methods live together without feeling the need to merge into one ‘correct view.’ 
The Messenger is one of those spaces….
See you next week!
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Illustrating Wicked Problems

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