Technology “wears a hoodie”, whilst international development “wears cufflinks.” One is cool, fast moving and agile, while the other is big and slow. In this article, from the Stanford Social Innovation review, Chris Fabian and Robert Fabricant discuss how a simple adoption of shared principles and value systems can go a long way to enhancing innovation within international development.
The authors are in no doubt that “Silicon Valley has proven that ‘creating multi-disciplinary teams’ and ‘failing quickly’ add value to Facebook and Google.” However, they also pose the question of whether “we [have] been able to prove that ‘agility’ (for example) adds real value to large-scale human development?” As such, they propose the following framework, combining the best from startup culture and international development:
– Innovation is humanistic: solving big problems through human ingenuity, imagination and entrepreneurialism that can come from anywhere
– Innovation is non-hierarchical: drawing ideas from many different sources and incubating small, agile teams to test and iterate on them with user feedback
– Innovation is participatory: designing with (not for) real people
–Innovation is sustainable: building skills even if most individual endeavours will ultimately fail in their societal goals
This framework is built on nine operational principles highlighted in the article, but it should come as no surprise that ‘being data driven’ and using ‘open data’ are two key components. The writers use the example of UNICEF, flagship open source platform, RapidPro, to show how these principles can effectively be implemented in practice.
Fabian and Fabricant’s conclusion is that the adoption of shared ethical frameworks will push “innovations [to] have the best impact on the world’s most marginalized populations.”
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