ABOUT OBAMA- SINGH 21ST CENTAURY KNOWLEDGE INITIATIVE (OSI)

The Obama- Singh 21st Centaury Knowledge Initiative (OSI) is a joint initiative of Indo – US Governments, aims and focuses on the formation of higher education partnerships between US and Indian Institutions of Higher Learning.
Programme goals
» Encouraging mutual understanding » Facilitating Educational Reform » Fostering Economic development » Engaging civil society through academic cooperation Thematic Areas » Energy Studies » Sustainable Development » Climate change » Environmental Studies – MGU is selected under this thematic area » Education and Educational Reform » Community Development and Innovation Objectives » Development or revision of courses, curricula and programmes of study to support mutual understanding, educational reform and economic development » Indian Junior Faculty Development programmes in respective fields » Development of collaborative research » Promotion of administrative reform through faculty and staff development. » Exchange visits of teaching faculty, researchers, post-graduate students (India & US) and administrators. Obama – Singh Knowledge Initiative & Mahatma Gandhi University The recent selection of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, for the Obama Singh programme opened a new horizon for Indo-American academic exchange. Mahatma Gandhi University joined the top notch league of “Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative” for institutional partnership projects in research and educational activities in science and technology between India and the US, entering into the first set of eight awards announced jointly by the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Mr. Kapil Sibal and the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton in Washington in the second week of June 2012. The programme will be started from September 2012. According to the official announcement from the US, the “milestone educational partnership” is intended to further strengthen partnership between the two countries through faculty exchanges, joint research, and other collaboration in priority fields, including food security, climate change, sustainable energy, and public health. The Obama - Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative was launched during the visit of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh to USA in November, 2009. Both the Governments have pledged US $ 5million for this endeavour which will fund University linkages and Junior Faculty Development. Out of the four projects selected from the Indian side from among all the major Central and State Universities, IITs and research organizations, MG University boasts the unique position of the lone affiliating State University, whereas IIT Kanpur, IIT Delhi and Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi have also found a place in the final list. Under the partnerships and projects announced by Mr. Kapil Sibal and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Mahatma Gandhi University will partner with the Brown University, Duke University and Plymouth State University in the US in a project titled ‘An Interdisciplinary and Community Oriented Approach towards Sustainable Development.’ The project approved by the joint selection committee was proposed by the School of Environmental Sciences, and the Advanced Centre of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development (ACESSD) – an Inter University Centre, Mahatma Gandhi University. The project enables the varsity to work jointly with the Department of Civil Engineering, Brown University, the Centre for Environmental Implication of Nanotechnology, Duke University and the Department of Social Sciences, Plymouth State University from the US side. The proposed programme is a combination of upgradation of curriculum, cutting-edge research in environmental science and extension programmes aiming at sustainable development. This programme, submitted by MG University, is unique in many respects. Firstly it is the only one proposal among 4 selected, which collaborates with three major US universities. It is also the only one proposal which contains cutting edge scientific research as well as development of public utility system with community participation. The project links both science and social science research. The major objectives of the project are strengthening of existing curriculum, participatory community involvement, collaborative research in clean energy and water management and dissemination of the knowledge generated to the sustainable development of the region and the communities. The MG University has planned for three major programmes to achieve these objectives. The first programme is‘Clean water and better sanitation through community rainwater harvesting and biogas systems for improving the lifestyle of an impoverished community’ for which the School of Environmental Sciences will collaborate with the Brown University. This programme mainly involves development of rainwater harvesting system as a sustainable drinking water source for the marginalized people of Kuttanad and designing and development of a biogas plant model suitable to the local conditions. Major thrust will be given to community participation from this area. The second programme is ‘Clean Energy: an alternate route to fuel cell through chitosan based nano-membranes’ for which the Advanced Centre of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development along with the School of Environmental Science will collaborate with Duke University. The programme mainly aims to take up membrane based research for improving the efficiency of fuel cells. Fuel cells are emerging as the future energy machine and it is proposed to develop eco-friendly nano-membranes for the harvest of energy. The programme plans to utilise the eco-friendly chitosan (a product from chitin, extracted from the shell of crabs and shrimps which are abundant in Kerala) instead of synthetic nafion membrane in fuel cells. The institute at USA is a specialised centre for both membrane and environmental impacts of nanomaterials. The third programme is ‘Livelihood adaptations and sustainable development of indigenous communities in the Kerala Western Ghats’. This is also an initiative of the Advanced Centre of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Plymouth State University, USA. This study aims to generate knowledge about the ongoing livelihood changes and subsequent adaptations among the indigenous communities living along the Southern Western Ghats Ranges in Kerala. It may also facilitate ground level interactions with different groups among the communities which will contribute to the learning and documentation of processes that will be valuable in formulating updated curricula in human ecological topics. This kind of study would bring valuable information on the tribal livelihood changes, institutional mechanisms which drive the changes, gender equations among the communities etc. in the Western Ghats region.