Highlighted Selections from:

Learning with and Across Diverse Grassroots Innovation Movements


Smith, Adrian and Julia Day. “Learning with and Across Diverse Grassroots Innovation Movements.” STEPS Center. Delhi Workshop on Grassroots Innovation Movement (2014): 1–11. Print. This combines a blogpost on the event and the event pamphlet.

p.1: A Workshop Grassroots Innovation Movement on was held in New Delhi on 8th February 2014 that brought together researchers, activists and policy-makers to learn from one another about grassroots innovation movements. The workshop was organised by Dinesh Abrol at Centre for Studies in Science Policy in Jawaharlal Nehru University in collaboration with Adrian Smith, Elisa Arond, and Mariano Fressoli (all from the project, Grassroots Innovation: Historical and Comparative Perspectives). Against a backdrop of increasing policy interest in ideas for inclusive innovation, the workshop drew upon the experiences of grassroots innovations in order to critically assess the who, what, how, where, when and why of inclusions and exclusions in innovation. Most of the day focused on movements in India, such as Peoples’ Technology Initiatives, Honey Bee Network, and free software movements in India; but debate also encouraged through contrasts with movements in South America and United Kingdom. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.2: Ingenious grassroots activity produces a variety of innovations, and which activists, engineers, scientists, and others (including investors and entrepreneurs) sometimes try to develop further and help scale-up and spread in some form. This activity can involve improvisation as well as knowledge, and both of which can be elusive for formalisation and dissemination. Conversely, activists concerned for the problems of often marginal or disadvantaged communities, and overlooked by many innovation institutions, try to bring science, engineering, and project development into dialogue with the grassroots, and to develop solutions in which communities are empowered to shape the design and execution of projects that make use of appropriate innovations (even if they did not originate within the particular grassroots setting). -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.3: Studies of grassroots movements that innovate, and that are doing alternative development, are fewer. Some exist, such as the work of David Hess. But few have looked across a diversity of grassroots innovation movements in the way we are trying in our project. Elsewhere, we have also argued how the field of innovation studies gives insufficient attention to the particularities of grassroots innovation. Innovation studies have tended to focus on systems of innovation based around firms, markets and research institutes, and if they turn to questions of alternative innovation, then they tend to apply the same conceptual apparatus developed for market-oriented settings. So a second motivation for the project is to contribute an empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed understanding of grassroots movements involved in innovative solutions for alternative developments. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.3: Terms like inclusion, scaling-up, and even innovation itself, need to be interrogated in the context of grassroots attempts to democratise innovations for alternative modes of production and consumption. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.4: In the process of developing solutions for alternative development problem frames, grassroots innovation movements generate new subjectivities, discourses, agendas, and visions for innovation in development, and not just devices, capabilities, and infrastructure. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.4: This is a position that asserts a right to innovation in a way that poses discomfiting challenges to the fundamental notions held by elite innovation institutions. It is a position that speaks to knowledge politics and relations of political and economic power. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.6: We would like the practitioners and researchers of each movement to consider the following questions:

  1. Why did the grassroots innovation movement emerge and what was the aim?
  2. How have activists mobilised support and activity, and what have been the major achievements?
  3. What challenges have confronted the movement, and how has it addressed them?

We would like policy-makers to explain why they value grassroots innovation activity, and how policy support for that activity has developed over time. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.6: Some further themes that the participants might also consider touching in the discussions:

  • Relationships between informal and formal expertise in grassroots innovation
  • How does grassroots innovation viewed as the development of objects/techniques intersect with views of grassroots innovation as mobilisation processes?
  • The economic development of grassroots innovations
  • Knowledge politics in grassroots innovation (common knowledge and intellectual property)
  • Indicators required for measuring the outcomes and impact of the ongoing initiatives of the grassroots innovation movements

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014