The Shringaar Calendar- An Innovative Breakthrough for Female Reproductive Health


When you’re talking to a female population of 49 million; 88.71% of which reside in rural spaces and 46.67% of which are illiterate; it is essential to understand that service delivery strategies should not be innocent of user behavior. Through extensive field work in Bihar (India), done over a span of 18 months, it has been observed that the system and the beneficiary, speak two different languages. A simple observation was in regard to the concept of time – while the system’s understanding of time is in obvious accordance to the globally accepted Gregorian calendar, the end user remains largely oblivious to the basic understanding of the very months in the Gregorian calendar. Needless to say, the repercussions are endless.


88.71% of women in Bihar (India) live in rural spaces; 46.67% are illiterate.


Complexity within the Healthcare System:
The maternal and child health care system, depends almost entirely on the woman’s understanding of time leading to self-mobilization, further aided by the fleet of Frontline Health Workers (FLWs) acting as external triggers. The interactions begin with the woman registering for pregnancy and end with the child’s complete immunization. We start at the very beginning, understanding how women register their pregnancy – In order to register a pregnancy and generate the Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) the system requires the woman to recollect the date of her Last Menstrual Period (LMP). It is essential to understand the woman’s psychology and factors that affect her during this stage of service delivery. It has been observed that women refuse to disclose the news of their pregnancy to FLWs while in its early stage, finding it inauspicious to talk of their pregnancy publicly. Since this leads the mother to register her pregnancy later than expected, when asked about her LMP the mother must recall the said date. Now, due to the lack of perceived importance of this otherwise vital information, and a skewed sense of the Gregorian Calendar, the beneficiary is unable to accurately trace back the exact date furthermore finding it difficult to communicate it in Gregorian terms.

Time and its blurred perceptions

Time and its Blurred Perceptions:
The quickest answer to the problem, is for the system to start adhering to the beneficiary’s concept of time, abandoning an otherwise alien Gregorian system. But this local concept of time that we’re referring to is never homogenous. A few may follow the Panchang calendar, while the rest a completely independent but accurate system. While interviewing an ASHA facilitator in Sheikhpura-Bihar (India), we were told that many Muslim ASHAs have trouble understanding the paksha (shuklha paksha-krishna paksha-poornima-amaavas) concept that many Hindu women refer to. While they themselves preferred quoting the position of the moon. We realised that even though the paksha concept too referred to the position of the moon, it was primarily the mutually incomprehensible nature of mere terminologies that created a false barrier in simple communication.


The Nexus:
The visually rich lunar calendar, when mashed with the Gregorian calendar produces something that is easily comprehended by both- an illiterate beneficiary and the healthcare system. An added feature that this visual calendar boasts of is the course corrective nature of design. In a scenario, where the beneficiary is clueless about what day she stands on, she can time to time course correct herself by simply observing the actual position of the moon and recognizing it on the calendar.


Menstrual Tracking:
In practice, these calendars are distributed to eligible couples within villages by the FLWs with clear instructions of use. The system demands the woman to accurately point out her LMP, hence we get her to start tracking her period regularly. Since LMP can never be predicted, the most effective way of tracking it is by simply tracking every menstrual period. Once every period is being marked by the mother on a very visual calendar, it allows her to understand her menstrual cycle as well.

“Their understanding of their mens (menstrual cycle) is such that they feel that unless their mens (menstrual cycle) ends on the same day every month then it is irregular.” – ASHA, Samastipur


Family Planning:
The basic understanding of her menstrual cycle by the mother in an otherwise family planning depleted environment proves to be an extremely rich proposition. The understanding of the menstrual cycle allows one to employ the Standard Day Method of contraception. With the simple identification of her fertility window, the calendar allows the woman to be in control of family planning. Additionally, the Standard Days Method is 95% effective (right behind condoms, which stand at 98%). In a country that contributes to 17.1% of global unwanted pregnancies, methods such as this, which work only by understanding user behaviour, could prove to be vital interventions.

The Standard Days Method and its working.

The Standard Days Method and its working.

Once the woman’s LMP is accurately marked by the FLW, it becomes easier for the system to predict her EDD (37 weeks of foetal maturity) allowing the FLW to predict and alarm the system in case of preterm labor.

If the child is born two months before our estimated due date (EDD) (which happens often) then it completely negates whatever birth preparedness information we can possibly give to them. – Kunal, CARE BHM , Singhia PHC Samastipur


After correct identification of preterm using the calendar, measures can be taken to prevent foetal mortality. In India alone 300,000 infant deaths occur annually (the highest in the world), with 10% of India’s IMR being attributed to preterm deaths. With the simple administration of Antenatal Corticosteroids, 30% of such deaths can be averted.

The Calendar hence projects to impact issues such as period tracking, better birth preparedness, accuracy in data collection, early identification of preterm cases, and effective family planning. Monumental impact is rarely attributed to such low cost solutions. With the Calendar, as a leap towards that dream, the Lab continues to strive towards low-cost-high-impact solutions driving up public health standards globally.


Health Experts from the Bihar Innovation Lab with the CARE Samastipur, Bihar (India) team.

The Patient Health Identity Tokens team is piloting a first of its kind ‘Shringaar Card: A Menses Tracking Tool for Rural Women’ in the district of Samastipur in Bihar (India). This tool will aid married beneficiaries in accurately tracking their menstrual cycle, enabling family planning while also nudging them to register their pregnancy at the earliest and avail services currently offered by the Public Health System in Bihar. To know more about this tool do write across to Adithya Prakash at and Atishay Mathur at

The Buddhist Economics of E.F. Schumacher

The noted economist E.F. Schumacher was the first to develop the concept of Buddhist Economics, based on his experiences as an economic consultant to the Burmese government in 1955. In contrast to most economists of his time, Schumacher was concerned with both the internal and external consequences of the economic system, and its affect on the individual as well as on society and the environment. He talked about the philosophical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of work, rather than focusing solely on quantities of production and percentages of profit.

In his paper, Buddhist economics, first published in 1955 and later republished in his influential book Small is Beautiful, he begins by talking about how “Right Livelihood” is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s noble eightfold path, and therefore that work is a central tenet to Buddhist philosophy, and not considered at all deviant from a spiritual path. [Read more…]

Happy Birthday to Us: 10 Years of CKS

It has sneaked up on us, but CKS is 10 years old today. I conducted an interview with our Founder and CEO, Dr. Aditya Dev Sood, on how the company’s journey has progressed over this past decade, and where he sees it going in the future.

Ayesha Vemuri:
How did it all begin? What have you accomplished in this time? 

Aditya Dev Sood:
We conventionally date the company back to February 9, 2002, when I hired Uma Maheshwari to help with ‘content’ — we had no concept of design research at that time. Along with my ‘secretary’ Malini Munisamaiah who had found her, we became a three-person team, and so, in theory, an ‘organization.’

When I’d set out I really wasn’t sure how design and social research could or should fit together. We hadn’t created the innovation cycle or any of the innovation training documents that we later developed. We didn’t have a multi-terabit archive or a blog or any kind of track record or network of alumni who have graduated on from CKS to other things in life. We hadn’t developed any of the insights, understandings or approaches that now characterize the ‘CKS Way.’

[Read more…]

HBS Study Reveals Insights into the Social Innovation Field

A recent study, conducted by Harvard Business School professor Julie Battilana and doctorate student Matthew Lee, reveals some interesting insights about where the Social Innovation field is right now, and where it might be heading. The study uses six years’ worth of applicants for an Echoing Green (an organization that offers fellowships to promote social innovation) fellowship as the sample base for this undertaking, in an effort to systematically understand the main trends in this newly emerging field.

[Read more…]

CKS Promotes Healthcare Innovation in Bihar

February 1, 2012. Patna. Today, one of our Senior Design Researchers has gone to Patna, Bihar to be a part of an intensive workshop on healthcare in Bihar. The workshop was organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and brought together all the different stakeholders and funding grantees of the Ananya project for healthcare. CKS has worked extensively with the Gates Foundation, specifically in the realm of healthcare services in Bihar, and were invited there to talk about our experience with employing methodological, systematic processes of innovation in ongoing healthcare related work.

CKS works with Sam Pitroda and the NInC towards a Centre of Design Innovation

February 1, 2012. New Delhi. The National Innovation Council, headed by Sam Pitroda, is working on building twenty educational centers across India that focus on Design and Innovation. In order to accomplish this, they invited several relevant entities, of which CKS is one, to present their ideas and provide their expertise for constructing such a center. CKS presented its proposal for one of these centers today, and looks forward to knowing the outcome.

On Futuristic Architecture, Public Participation and Hedonistic Sustainability

This excellent TEDx talk by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels could potentially transform the way city planners, architects and even public policy planners view the structures within which we operate. The buildings he designs transcend both the structure and the purpose of traditional architecture, with futuristic, warped structures that go beyond merely creating spaces for living and working to creating whole, synergistically functioning ecosystems.

Some of his buildings may seem almost impossible, like creations from an alternate universe, sci-fi style, but in fact they seem to be amongst the most intelligently designed, highly livable buildings, with greenery, water bodies, clean energy and beautiful, unobstructed views incorporated into the structure.

ColourNext Themes: Crystal

‘Crystal’ was the final theme discussed at ColourNext Dialogues, led by a panel of M.P. Ranjan and Shimul Javeri Kadri. Shimul described the theme as ‘beautiful, elegant, and relevant,’ a theme that necessitates reflection, a requestioning of form, space and light. She also spoke of the subtlety inherent to theme, which was also reflected in the associated palette, consisting of colours that were variations in hue rather than highly contrasted. M.P. Ranjan picked up from this and talked about how this theme indicates quality, nuance, and the underlying structure of form, thought, and even colour. He spoke of the fractal shapes and geometrical configurations of the installation as imbibing the sophisticated but natural language of mathematics, which is the basic structure of all forms, objects, and possibly even perceptions.

Participants also discussed how each element of the installation and even the colour palette could stand alone as complex and interesting objects inviting deeper reflection, but that all the component elements also work together to create a harmonious whole. They spoke also of the quality of uniqueness of each element as being integral to the theme, in addition to the lightness and simplicity it managed to convey despite its many complexities.

Associated images along with a description of this trend are given below the fold.
[Read more…]

ColourNext 2012: The Process

ColourNext is an innovative trend forecasting initiative for Indian interiors, developed by Asian Paints and conducted in collaboration with the Center for Knowledge Societies. The ColourNext process includes gaining an understanding of emerging societal trends and changes in consumer behavior, and thereafter predicting their impact on design and décor choices. The resultant output includes an in-depth analysis of four prominent societal trends, along with information about relevant social events, media and brand associations, moods, emotions, and an expertly curated colour palette related to each trend.

ColourNext 2012 marks a decade of this work, which has been widely influential in defining colour choices in interior decor over the course of its evolution. This time around, however, certain changes were made to the process in order to make it a more wide-ranging trend forecasting, where the focus was not solely on colour and visual trends, but on larger societal trends.

The process began with preliminary secondary research of online sources, where researchers collected both textual and visual data of prominent changes and news from different industries. Alongside this, researchers also conducted a ‘visual scan,’ a comprehensive record of various kinds of visual data prevalent in everyday contexts, from magazines, newspapers, high fashion and design to hoardings and billboards. They then began to assimilate a realistic picture of what these various changes in society, technology, media, design and culture could mean for visual design and aesthetics.

Seven strong social trends emerged from this phase of data collection, which were then presented to experts during in-depth interviewed in order to validate and refine them. Visual design trends were correlated to these seven societal and lifestyle trend stories, garnered from a visual bank of over 1000 images. 700 of these were selected to be presented as stimuli during ‘creative studio workshops,’ where the team invited experts from a range of different backgrounds to collaboratively predict visual and design trends for the coming year, of which eleven were considered pertinent for the coming year.

This was followed by focused interviews with experts in different industries such as media, space design, architecture and interior decor in order to ground the trends in local happenings, whilst keep global influences in mind. Collaborative creative workshops were held to validate these, followed by a discussion on these trends by a panel consisting of seasoned sociologists and media experts in order to filter these down to the strongest trends.

Thereafter, workshops were held in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, engaging 32 experts and 60 students in various creative settings. These day-long intensive creative studio workshops created a vast pool of fresh visual themes, that were filtered down and fine-tuned to make up the final themes of ColourNext 2012. This happened in eight collaborative workshops where the Asian Paints and CKS teams worked together with colour consultants to cluster and filter the entire set of themes.

The information from all these sessions was collated and presented at Style Leader Workshops, where leaders and design thinkers from various industries like architecture, photography, art-direction, product design, apparel design, media and design education came together to decide upon the best possible thematic visual directions for the year 2012. Once the themes were voted upon during these workshops, the project teams from Asian Paints and CKS were able to finally crystallize all the information into the four major themes being revealed later today, at the ColourNext 2012 launch.

As a final step, the team collaborated with colour consultants to translate the final themes into colour and material palettes. These palettes sought to capture a critical part of the visual expression of every theme as well as the meanings, emotions and moods that themes are meant to express. The launch today will present installations on each of these themes, which will also be the subject of discussion for ColourNext Dialogues, to be held the following day, the 24th of January (see agenda).

Peter Drucker and the Discipline of Innovation

Peter F. Drucker, renowned widely for his contributions to management theory, was also one of the first people to focus on the management of innovation. Rather than viewing innovation as the magical end-product birthed by an almost mystical ‘entrepreneurial personality,’ he held that the process of innovation is work, like any other, and therefore needs to managed, like any other corporate function.

Drucker defined innovation as the ‘effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential,’ and claimed that the best innovations usually arose not out of an individual’s eureka! moment, but rather from a conscious and purposeful, usually collaborative, search for opportunities for innovation. He identified seven areas of opportunity, four of which lie within the organization and three of which are external to it, all of which would be scrutinized constantly by a good innovation manager. These are:

1. Unexpected Occurrences: On occasion, a product or service may be found to fail in its intended purpose, but be immensely successful in an alternative, unanticipated context of use. Alternatively, an initial failure may give forth immense future successes because it teaches the person or organization what not to do, and also encourages them to revisit and redesign their product/service to address the initial lacks. Finally, unexpected occurrences external to the organization may also occur, which may open up new opportunities for work, or create a niche for the organization’s work that did not previously exist.

2. Incongruities: Incongruities or conflicts between opposing functions, requirements or values may be the start of an innovation. These may be incongruities between expectations and results, incongruities within the logic of a process, or may be incongruities between needs and realities. All these, however, may provide an opportunity for innovation to happen, whether through the development of an entirely new product, service or technology, or simply through a reconfiguration of viewpoint.

3. Process Needs: An old proverb says that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and indeed, it is often also the mother of innovation. Gaps in processes, and the desire to make them as efficient as possible, are often the inspirations for creative thinking, and by extension, innovation.

4. Industry and Market Changes: Industry and market structures can change almost overnight with the introduction of a new technology or a new process. Traditional market leaders often fail to anticipate these changes, and too often focus more on maintaining their dominance in the existing structure than trying to adapt to the new one, therefore making it possible for new players to enter and take over the industry or market.

5. Demographics: Demographics have long been a major source of innovation, creating opportunities for new types of products and services. The needs of the young are different from those of the elderly, and as new technologies and processes are developed that can better lives, these are then often tweaked and tailored, often in ingenious ways, to meet the needs of a specific demographic segment of the population.

6. Changes in Perception: An example of changes in perception as source of innovation is the following. In older days health was seen as related to body mass, meaning fatter people were perceived as more healthy. In the last century this perception changed as a result of medical studies that revealed that being overweight was a risk factor. Since that time many light products and sugar substitutes have come to the market.

7. New Knowledge: Last but not least new knowledge has produced many opportunities for new products. The emergence of micro-electronics and new programming methods and tools, biotechnology, nano-technology etc have been the main motors of innovation and progress over the last decades, and may continue to direct innovation trends in the future.