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Bounded to the Land and Sea: A systemic design approach to revitalising the Palmyra palm economy

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Culture & Society, Topic: Policy & Governance, Topic: Socioecological Design

S Shankar, Praveen Nahar, and Sahil Thappa

Interdependence among species plays a crucial role in sustaining life at a planetary scale. To advance a regenerative, inclusive global economy, it’s imperative to integrate the socio-economic context, natural surroundings, collective wisdom, and technological advancements to facilitate envisioning equitable futures. From the outset, this project undertook an exploratory journey to delve into the intersection of traditional ecological knowledge and Open design within a social framework, uncovering possibilities at the crossroads of context, design, and technology.

The Palmyra palm economy in the villages of Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district, India, served as the driving factor. With six crore palm trees, constituting 60% of India’s total count, these trees have historically sustained local communities. However, contemporary challenges have raised doubts about its relevance, jeopardising the economic activities around the tree. This project aimed to construct alternative narratives surrounding the Palmyra economy—co-creating scenarios, envisioning potential future artefacts and interactions, resurfacing disappearing knowledge, and restructuring the ecosystem encompassing places, communities, knowledge, and infrastructure.

Continual stakeholder engagement, generative research, field studies, and participatory workshops unearthed challenges and concerns. These informed the crafting of intervention frameworks, generating product-process ideas, and effective resource management methodologies. Opportunities for innovation-led entrepreneurship prioritising regeneration, scalability, and sustainability were identified to present fresh conversations and realistic possibilities for envisioning hopeful futures—fostering a revitalised sense of engagement among people, stakeholders, and the environment.

Overall, the project seeks to identify reinvention opportunities amid emerging needs. It proposes strategies and policies that empower resourcefulness and creativity—transcending contexts through adaptable frameworks tailored to distinct circumstances. By doing so, the project aims to foster innovation and address the evolving challenges different communities face.

KEYWORDS: forestry, distributed design, socioecological system, planet-centric design, regenerative design, social impact

RSD TOPIC(S): Policy & Governance, Society & Culture, Socioecological Design

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Citation Data

Author(s): S Shankar, Praveen Nahar, and Sahil Thappa
Year: 2023
Title: Bounded to the Land and Sea: A systemic design approach to revitalising the Palmyra palm economy
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/systemic-design-palmyra-palm-economy
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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