Grassroots Innovation: 'Be the sympathetic outsider'

The great thing about this type of innovation is that users and creators are the same people

On November 21st, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Partos, the Prince Claus Chair and the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA) organised a half-day seminar on grassroots innovation. After some debate on what this actually means, practitioners found the stage to show their initiatives.

Grassroots (from the bottom up) or frugal (within the capacity of available means) innovation basically is about the idea that a problem is not solved by the market, the government or some other external party but by the individuals and the community that face the problem themselves. The great thing about this type of innovation is that – unlike all the initiatives from well-meaning outsiders that are not from these communities – users and creators are the same people. This means the solutions will be more adequate and more likely to be adopted. So how can we support these movements? ‘Be a sympathetic outsider’, said former Prince Claus Chairholder Saradindu Bhaduri, ‘Listen closely and don’t talk too much. You have to be trusted first.’

The great thing about this type of innovation is that users and creators are the same people

After a panel discussion with Bhaduri, Peter Knorringa (director CFIA) and Linda Johnson (director ISS), led by Josine Stremmelaar (Hivos), practitioners took the stage to present their grassroots projects, that were debated in separate workshops. ‘There are so many beautiful initiatives out there’, said Peter Knorringa. ‘It’s our task to disclose all these examples, to get away from the idea that all new solutions should come from a design workshop in the global North. On the contrary.’

Want to know more about this topic? Contact Anne-Marie Heemskerk via amh@partos.nl.

Grassroots Innovation meeting

 

 

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