The Local Innovation Effect: Lessons and challenges from MIT’s International Development Innovation Network

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The Local Innovation Effect: Lessons and challenges from MIT’s International Development Innovation Network
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What happens when people who do not consider themselves to be innovators or makers are empowered to create solutions that improve their lives and community? At MIT’s International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) we are developing approaches to innovation and development that shift the focus from ‘design for’ or ‘design with’ to design by people living in poverty. At the end of our session will invite you to put on your design hats to help us crowdsource ideas about what kind of support ecosystem is needed for local innovation to thrive.
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so it is Landman
hello everyone and it's very exciting to be here it's the 3rd day of the conference with a lot of exciting speakers a lot of exciting ideas on I come from MIT a dealer and and so on as the introduction mentions what I do is I work in the design development and dissemination of technologies that affect the lives of people living in poverty so we do this in several ways and I will talk about that during the presentation the 1st of all I want to set the stage we actually like doing things with their hands on so I would like to all the and to invite you all to an interactive game so 1st
of all I am looking inside your pockets inside your backpacks or um anything that you have with you and pick 1 objects you have 10 minutes to do that on 10 seconds to do that and if possible to find something different than a pen or a phone but that if that's all you have that's fine as well
pick an exciting objects club do you have your object has everyone please put it out and great
now I invite you to find 2 other people so get into groups of 3 4 OK to the the and so this is the challenge you will have just a few minutes to do this but think of the object that you have a shared with the other people in your team and to think of an
object that doesn't exist yet that incorporates all the 3 objects that you're holding you can use the there are what the object is about what's or it can be a new function so think creative way think about something innovative the
and you and in the and if we have a new people coming in feel free to join 1 of the existing groups just bring an object with you the the
question is make an object that incorporates all 3 things that you're holding create something with all those 3 things the creative
the yeah and and and
and the at the end I'm going to give you about another minute so keep talking keep innovating the the the and the and the the the 2nd the the 20
seconds the it and and and the OK everyone
can I get your attention I know this is a
fun game but but I actually now will invite some of you on stage wants to come up here and share with the rest of of the audience what they came up with so come up here and in a quick 20 30 seconds to tell us what the objects where and when your team created yes the the and and the that of the latter may be right so I'm sorry this might so we had losses we had a note book we have token for free via and we had over phone and
thought a gaming platform in the learning gaming platform that uses virtual reality which will reality Augmented Reality yeah cool project very exciting this because of the reduced
and Rudolph are objects that's fantastic I think that that that different ideas of what was ready here from
the number 10 yet uh it's suppressed fold of key ahead and a couple of call things so it's quite easy
it's a that go around crossing cultures involves and the support given fold and drink coffee especially airports contested can we have 1 more
maybe once you from the back anyone want to share yes yeah we had an iPhone cable and a bicycle key and the person we made a hand free tool to never lose anything and a half of great also a round of applause for everyone in partaking in the exercise of faith faithfully and so why did I start off my presentation like this I
work in the lab at MIT that thinks a lot about creativity and innovation and some may say that's uh creativity and innovation are as old as humankind itself we'd like to make progress by thinking of new ideas but creatively solving problems and that the way forward with developments as well but how creativity happen is it serendipity is it just in 1 instance when you come together and it comes in your minds or is it something that can be learned and something that can be taught in also practice and exercise had the lab we think about this through I design thinking so design thinking is a set of tools of approaches that help you think through the whole innovation and creative process and it's a way to go from problems to solutions we also think about technology allots there in development the challenges are complex the challenges the big yet so there is space increasingly not just for traditional development approaches that is for the traditional actors which are in geos governments but also of technology how can you deployed and how can you utilize technology to solve some of these problems in terms of water and sanitation energy and really get to those that need solutions most
so um there's is growing trends this design revolution designed for the other 90 % of 1 statistic that I wanna share with you is that about of 90 per cent of R&D dollars in the world today go towards designing
products for 10 per cent of the world's and so there's a tendency to think about how can we flip were at least change some of that ratio and part of this design revolution which is designing for the other 90 % or other ways in which you may have heard of it so it's it's too terminology like human-centered design or designed for inclusiveness designed for extreme affordability there's a lot of data that is thinking about bringing technology into solving these complex development problems in what's also interesting is who the actors are they're not necessarily just designers from design firms but increasingly their social enterprise yours the engineers the universities almost like the university that I work for students i ends and to
people that are really crowding into the space yes so I I wanna talk to you a little bit about how this is happening and then how we are doing it differently so I wanna start with the story it's called a story about play pump how many people have heard about this technology before it can see a shown OK so some of you not so
many on this is actually a technology as you see a Merry go around many of you probably have played when you're young this and
founded in your playgrounds what this did is it took the same technology it linked it up to a bore holes in Africa and so the solution was that smiling children there's lots of them in class because would gets to play on the pump they would pump water and solve the water problem and then the water would go up on a tank and then be accessed by the community this was a sensational story immediately about 60 million dollars from celebrities from
governments they went into this technology and so there was a goal to install 4 thousand and these are all over in different villages in Africa so it was quite a bit it got a lot 1 of my friends actually told me that this was like his country Brazil it's called the CNN effects
and it was 1 technology that all of a sudden is this solve this big problem so then what happens the walk away test you install these technologies in the fields and in the beginning there's a smiling children and then you ask what happened 6 months after what happens 1 year after you install the technology in this case
on on the picture was not so exciting no longer were you seeing the smiling children you saw things like 0 women when the children were gone and the women were pushing these Merry go around in the heats trying to pump up the water and sometimes they took them
completely out the pull them out of the ground and Restall their old pumps at other times actually put animals to to make them go around because it was the only way to be able to pull enough water out of the ground so what happened there what is something we can learn from this very exciting story and then there's also just a sensational fairly on so all what are some of the lessons and no pictures of it but it doesn't matter and so there's this idea that designing for means automatically leads to success but that's not the case what's is perhaps the most of the strongest thing to think about this and the story is that of the individuals that were supposed to benefit from this technology are the ones that actually around were were harmed to buy it the most so in many villages of
people were not consulted when this technology was will be took out the old wells and put this back and it turns out that the technology was complicated if it broke down and no 1 in the village knew how to fix that it was expensive so these things really rested and so deftly their some engineering challenges to the story of this failure but it's also a story of outsiders and yet again coming in and solving solutions for communities that they believe are indeed so I have to say 1 thing is that everyone takes on this technology it's not new if you read about developments but people have heard of it it's easy if you got a lot of press
afterward said it was a meal and it was a big failure even though million as of dollars were put into there and I'm not here to to pick on 1 particular technology or that state or to say that during these kinds of interventions were doing technology for the developing world is something easy in fact it really isn't it why is that our 1st of all there's all these market inefficiencies when you're talking about places like this in rural Africa people are spread out they usually don't have of communication or transportation very accessible so getting products there it is quite difficult but the other thing is that that the income of these individuals is rather small when you're talking about so having people that are making a few dollars a day the liquid assets how much money they have to spend on new products is very very tiny and they're very risk averse so on it's not easy to get life-saving products into these these kinds
of markets even if you're doing it through the market and not through an NGO which was the case of the place of but I guess of the thing that I really want you to take away from the paper mn stories that there's still this idea that were pushing innovations in these communities and then it's no surprise when them people abandon them and so I walk away or make them and use them for alternative sources I mean another 1 is bednets rights everyone must have
heard of a mosquito nets that are given away in in certain villages the you go back and sometimes you find that they're used up for catching fish because people like to appropriate and the creative as we 1st exercise so I really wanna revisit this idea of a design revolution and to think a little bit about shifting the paradigms so good intentions aren't enough to create change at the local level and there is a sense in the seventies so there had been movements in the space the 1st is appropriate technology that about getting technologies that are appropriate and work well in the local context this is a new but the technology is much like the play comes story were all were
coming from the outside and the 2nd thing is inclusive development that also not new since the eighties and nineties we started talking about involving individuals in the projects that in in the projects that will matter and change our lives but what didn't change is 1 individuals were consulted their consultant in the beginning may be involved in the project was being designed and then perhaps at the ends when the project was being evaluated how do we fill the gap utterly make it all the way through in between so um I want to talk to you about
thinking and new thinking about new radical way of moving forward especially comes a technology designed for the developing world and this requires a shift in our thinking so not to view people living in poor communities as vulnerable rather not to look at them as capable really capable creative individuals and if we change the way that we think about this then what happens so on the ideas that's this space is not a sink 1 we put stuff in but it's actually a well when we draw
creativity when we draw technologies we draw innovations to incorporate everyone in in that process and so that brings it back to what I do and it's design education and and now I'll tell you a little bit about how we do it so all of the thing is shifting the paradigm right it's not about designing for individuals but it's about designing with them but in in a very long-term process or actually designing bias so introducing people to design methodologies to the skills and then allowing them to come up with the technologies themselves
so the international development innovation network so we said at the lab detection consortia of universities that get together and and we do a series of different kinds of program they mostly focus on taking the designed curriculum that often taught to engineers in these schools they baby master students page cheese and then taking it and making it accessible 2 people that don't necessarily presume literacy that that they may
not have literacy skills but then also change the methodology in a way that the 2nd thing that we do is that we bring together diverse groups of people sometimes creativity is about bringing together very different disciplines people from very different backgrounds and then seeing what has sparked in that's so we focus some prototypes not papers so we are from an academic setting so we were both on the technologies but also on the technologists so the people that come up with this output with these very simple affordable designs empowering them is just as important to us as I as the outcome and so creative capacity building and co-creation so we do this in 4 ways 1 is designed Summit Caesar immersive month-long summits forum brings together about 50 different
people from different walks of life they go from the age of 18 to 80 found some have different kinds of sectoral of backgrounds summer farmers summer midwives some of our own mechanics and then I'll share the story of some of these individuals the so we do these designs Summit we do them all over the world it had about 10 now we do about 3 or 4 4 year every year so we've got 1 in
Colombia coming up around 0 waste we've got so no 1 in India are medical technologies and 1 in Botswana around technologies for desert livelihoods what happened after the Summit we try to create an ecosystem of support for the individuals that are trained ends up the other thing that we do is we do innovation centers which are kind of like maker spaces but with the impact to kind of goal and finally we also do research in in local iteration so not tell you the story is how is it difference if you follow this approach Bernard Bernard is from a he is a bicycle mechanic yet she worked in the orphanage because he really cared about giving back to his community and so what he did was he got bikes and brought them in to work with children and he fix them he came to 1 of our summit ends when he wants it back
in learned the design process he thought hey I know have fixed bikes what can I make with bikes so then he went back in the developed a bicycle power corn sheller that
using this technique in his community he developed a bicycle powered facts all because he worked a lot with his hands on the next technologies that he uh did of bicycle powered irrigation system now there's a lot of organ local organizations they're thinking about picking it up and um she also decided to make of Blender using everything that available on his local shops so really simple materials but then that has spurred a lot of like small due juice bars in his community on so now Bernard has innovation center in his teaching individuals to take em replicate the design process this is Roberts he's a Zambian mechanic he came to 1 of the design summits and then he started thinking about some of the problems that faces community and so 1 of the ones that became really salient was the fact that his community dependent on fishing in the controller a river in Zambia that's where it lists a lot of the livelihoods are dependent on that so he started thinking about what he could do to solve the problem that there is no electricity in the village sufficient would catch the fish dry them price goes down lots of poor they would buy huge blocks of ice and try to store
the fish that way very expensive very inefficient so he built this with the small microgram all by himself what is it's it's under DRM-free turbines foot powers generators by the side of the river where fishermen can store of the Finnish edit creating a whole ecosystem a new way of
doing business in the village so last stories to abide she's an Indian engineer on and as many of you may know so that the 1st 24 hours after birth are very difficult for women and children in the developing world that is where most of the does happen and it's usually due to very unhygienic of birth conditions so Zubaida as she was 1 that firsthand experience this issues about 6 for about a year after the birth of her 1st child so the technology that she develops is a clean
birthing kits so it costs 2 dollars it has all the essential things that you need for a clean birth so it has a couple of something to disinfect your hands it has clothes and it also has a pads in which some if if a woman is hemorrhaging that that the that it it will be able to actually tell an inexperienced midwife because of excessive blood flow from this pod and at all cost 2 dollars and now she sold it in India and now there's about she sold about 150 thousand of them in 10 countries and what's interesting about survivor that innovation is not just in the product herself but she is using interesting SMX SMS texting to
allow individuals to get training alongside the kids and she's also using a franchise model so these are made locally and so and it it allows women that uh wouldn't necessarily have employment to develop these kids cell this is kind of the maker model that we think about is I know we know we wanna get life-saving technologies out there and it's it is many of you may have heard about maker culture during this conference you might have thought about impact signed by you to think about impacts in a different way there's impact that comes from a products you get a product of data and it changes lies in there's good stories of plants that have come from the outside so it's not about taking
that approach away but it's rather about introducing also a new way of thinking about the impact that happens along the whole design process what happens when individuals are empowered to think creatively to be the creators of their own solutions and then also involved the whole community in the sustainability and the upkeep of those products so how do we think about designing that's beyond that it's it's with capabilities increasing the capabilities of individuals so it's about social change that happens when people meet their potential ends I wanna close with really 1 statements that Amy Smiths that's the founder of the uh the program that I work for and she mentioned she said that if we think about development and technologies design as more than 1 billion mouse defeat but we think about it as 2 billion hands engage that what does that call to action look like and what does that mean how does that change so think you I think I am getting
close to my time you yes thank you thank you very much so no but we still have a couple of minutes time for questions at the end the please don't hesitate so is that a project that the only employer and in developing countries or is that also an idea that you could use and cities in the US or here as Vega question I think that's you can definitely use it everywhere because I think that there's a tendency to think about these creative economies and how people can collaborate to the realities and the situations they wanna live in so I think that it can go either I know we primarily work in the developing world the no questions that the when a biological what to Academy just a very short question how do you select the people that participate in your design
workshops and so on it's it's really depression and we've
been thinking about that methodology quite a bit we actually go for diversity and also a way that we want to select people that have a tendency
to work with their hands and crying and care about so community betterment so these are really the 2 criteria for we select them across all different sectors were sector agnostic and all different kinds of ages and fields so and that the non criteria as that you don't have to be like a design person before you come to the summit but hopefully you take back some of those tools afterwards hello because
and how can people places will call
to supply to hold to some of these events this has lighting if more and so that's
1 thing that I didn't really get into that think Ricardo for asking the question so there's 2 ways that individuals can get involved and if you're from a developed country you can actually be a participant there's a
small amount of participants that come from developed countries so we have about 3 for every year and so we have a website so you can send your application say why your passionate work in this field and then we select group and then usually when we we work in embedded with communities a month long process of the ones that are coming up as I mentioned is India Colombia Botswana also Pakistan Uganda right that the growing number and then the 2nd thing that you can do is you can actually of applied to host 1 in your community and we are usually open up applications once a year around the March time and so you can say about what your idea for uh a designed some it is you can pick for example medical technologies you can pick maternal health you can pet waste and sanitation and then we help support a local groups to put together the designed curriculum facilitators and also some seed funding OK think we have time for
1 last question that yeah to this to a we human analysis of you follow up with the participants of the desired inference yes so that's my job actually that's what I do in this whole process of unknown engineer designer myself but I work as a network coordinator that about 450 people that had been part of these workshops so far and what I'm trying to do is create an ecosystem in which they can
continue to move the project forward and the ecosystem is 1 that's both online and offline because a lot of the participants are ones that are traditionally connected to Internet so we employ some interesting SMS types of of communications we also our starting local chapters that are embedded in these communities and we find local partners and then we do a lot of the usual suspects that give them technical support ongoing financial resources other opportunities for engagement and then we track the projects moving forward but the idea is that it's so not 1 off capacity development and design events but that it's inclusive an ongoing and it's a network for life and so on OK last question is so by um I just
wondered how much you work with social scientists in terms of addressing social
political economic impacts on on the how the technologies get taken up in the communities normally working in it's great question and so are a Earth
focus I would say is mostly 80 % we just work on hardware writes a lot of like stuff that can be
introduced and and up by the local communities to the local community so pedal powered by different kinds of machinery of pressure is of it in all kinds of factors and really and we've been increasingly thinking about working with other people in the social field to and we do this for circuits for our research program so the idea is with the thing a lot about local innovation and wide happens in some places and why doesn't happen a lot of the existing research and innovation actions at the country level so ecosystems you can build at the country level or at the firm level right there so much literature out there about how to make your company more innovative but there isn't really that much work on on this so we we have introduce what we call a leaner research approach and we're build saying almost a consortial of researchers that are helping us look at both impacts but also kind of outcomes of at the local level and hopefully we we will know how to do this better and not engage individuals the OK think again Jonah thank you very much but are we ready to for the the so I'm