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Can the pandemic create a new generation of public problem-solvers?


Mihika Shankar

May 05, 2020


It is only in times of adversity that we get to see a spectacular display of the human courage, generosity and gumption. While completely unexpected, this pandemic has nevertheless opened up opportunities for all of us to examine our own attitudes towards solving the problems we face as a community. Our previous episode of Out of the Box with Beyond 8 with renowned politician-technologist-urbanist Dr. Ashwin Mahesh set out to do the same. In case you missed it live on Facebook, here is a round up of the top takeaways from the session.

People are not the problem - they can be our strength

We are a country of over a billion people but that need not always be perceived as our disadvantage. If we work towards skilling up our people, they could well be our greatest assets. As the virus proliferates rather quickly across our planet, Dr. Ashwin believes that scientists and administrators shoulder the most responsibility at this stage. While the scientists work tirelessly to find a vaccine or drug, it is the duty of the administrators to hold fort and maintain safety, law and order. It is by no means, a straightforward task to find the middle road between economic harm to migrant workers and overall public health. On the other end of the spectrum, as laymen, our sole responsibility lies in practicing safe social distancing and supporting the initiatives mooted by State and Central Governments.

Public problem-solving must be a way of life

Dr. Ashwin believes that if we want to be the problem-solvers of tomorrow, we must begin laying the foundation today. For any skill to be our second nature, we must make it a habit or a way of life; it does not happen overnight. He believes that young learners needn’t despair if they aren’t equipped with relevant skills or knowledge yet. They can be gained if their minds and hearts are aligned in the right direction. To begin with, it makes sense to start small with initiatives such as errand support for the elderly and feeding underserved sections of the society. He urges youngsters to educate themselves in detail about the peculiar nature and unpredictable trajectory of the virus to better understand the challenges we grapple with. Finally, it is important to understand that our problem-solving efforts cannot be limited only to the time of the pandemic - its real value can emerge only when we sustain it well beyond into the new normal.

Together, we can

If it is the absence of a team that is holding one back from putting one’s ideas into action, then try to turn the situation on its head. Dr. Ashwin suggests that it would be a better idea to join someone who is already working on a solution. It is almost ironic that at a time when we are socially distancing from each other physically, there is a growing need for us to put our minds together to find answers to our common problems. With more collaboration, it is possible to bring public projects to fruition much faster - an emphatic truth that emerged even in our previous episode with Mr. Alladi Mahadevan .

Learning public problem-solving in schools

In the post-pandemic world, public healthcare and community health will become a main focus. We will also eventually have to move over from solving ‘purposeless exercises’ in the words of Russel Ackoff towards instilling skills needed to solve bigger problems plaguing our society, to which solutions are waiting to be found. Whatever strata of society we belong to, we all have a role to play in uplifting the communities we live in. Even if we may be unable to make an impact large enough for the entire world to benefit from, we can start with our own neighbourhoods. As Mother Teresa once said, we can do no great things - only small things with great love. Watch the entire session for more comprehensive insights.

Join us again this Friday, May 8, 2020 at 11:00 AM on our Facebook as we go live with Mr. Srihari Shivraj from FitKits on another episode of Out of the Box with Beyond 8 where we will discuss how sportspersons can tide over the quarantine period.

About Out of the Box with Beyond 8

Be it the way we learn or teach, there are always better ways to do it and often they lie out of the box, on the paths less taken.Out of the Box with Beyond 8 is an initiative that encourages the education fraternity to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo.

We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

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