When Tradition Meets Social Innovation

by Yann Cramer

The Bread Collector

When Tradition Meets Social InnovationTo the keen but unaware observer, the morning routine that takes place in the modern streets of Delhi might seem strange. A man pulls a small cart painted with cows, rings his bell, and collects bread from every household. He doesn’t come to distribute something as the famed milkman would do in other parts of the world; he comes to collect fresh bread.

For centuries, Hindu families have offered the first bread of the day to a cow. In times gone-by, many households would have a cow in their backyard, that would fulfill the daily dairy needs of the family and be naturally part of this holy tradition. With increasing urbanization, though, backyards started to disappear, but since cows are considered godly and could not be culled, they ended up roaming Indian streets. The first bread of the day tradition therefore evolved. It became a daily duty of a house lady to find in the morning a cow and feed her with freshly baked bread.

But now, with the exponential development of infrastructure and traffic, cows are becoming rarer in modern Indian mega-cities, making it impossible for most households to fulfill the first bread of the day duty. The Delhi chapter of the Rotary Club then recently implemented this brilliant idea of a bread collector, who comes with his small cart, collects bread from every household and then takes it to a cow shed on the outskirts of the city. He gets his daily bread from doing the job, the cows get theirs, and families around the city have a way to perpetuate the tradition of daily bread offering.

A classic case of social innovation meeting several needs in one simple and meaningful initiative.

Photo and story by Rashi Gupta from Delhi, India


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Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.

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