Radha Gopalan

Radha is senior mentor and course designer at GenWise.

Her view of the world is one of hidden connections and she believes that a significant part of learning is to unearth these connections. She is an environmental scientist by training, with a deep interest in exploring and practicing "transformative education for sustainable living". Towards this effort she is engaging actively with rural and urban communities to further the idea of food sovereignty.

After 18 years as a global environmental consultant, Radha also wore the teacher's hat for several years at the Rishi Valley School, teaching Environmental Sustainability. She is a Visiting Faculty at the School of Development, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru and engages actively in popular education efforts around sustainability.

Radha has a bachelor's degree in Genetics from the Madras University, a Master's from Osmania University, and a Ph.D from IIT Bombay in Environmental Science.

New Thinking for a New World

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein


Apr 26, Jun 14

Often when we want to understand something complex we try and break it down into its constituent parts, try to comprehend them and then make sense of the whole. The world around us and most of the challenges we face into the future, as a planet, cannot be broken down into neat compartments of natural sciences and humanities. The relationships (in human society and in Nature), that shape our world are lost in this process of fragmentation. The whole, as they say, is not just a sum of its parts! In this course we will attempt to make sense of our complex, constantly changing world by focussing on understanding relationships and how they lead to various changes: how does the water reach our taps? Where does it come from? How is it conveyed to us? Why is it that some of us get water 24x7x365 and others need to queue up for it in the same area? Why are some parts of a State / Country/World water scarce and others water abundant? Why is it predicted that the future wars will be around water? Is there any connection between climate change and water? We will examine the continuous loops of cause-effect-cause of some of these changes so that we can equip ourselves accordingly to respond in this dynamic environment.


Students will learn how unintended consequences ‘bite back’ when we look at the parts of a complex system in isolation. They will also learn about the limits of ‘technology-alone’ interventions and will be introduced to strategies that can bring about change in complex situations like those mentioned above. The role of human mindsets and behavior, and how structures and systems influence these, will especially be emphasized. Students will thus start thinking in new and connected ways- the only way they can start building a new world.


To make this an immersive experience, we will use observations in nature, real-life examples, analyse readings and short documentaries, role plays and debates. The learning will be through a scaffolded process where the instructors will provide strategic inputs to provoke the students to think critically and in-depth about issues, understand the importance of scientific reasoning, analysis and inferencing. At the same time students will also learn that there are multiple ways of knowing about this world (modern science, experiential knowledge etc.) as well as multiple ways of influencing change.