Social Innovation
July 17, 2020

Social Innovation | insights from charcha2020

Open spaces for Innovation

COVID-19 has already led to new practices being adopted in education, remote-working, health etc. and has pushed us past old hurdles. The discussion covered healthcare, education and livelihood as the spaces to bring about new ways to learn, distribute essential services and accelerate the pace of solving critical problems.

The examples of transformative innovations all pointed to the importance of building capacity and agency at the last mile, and distributing an ability to solve problems, through a societal platform approach. For platforms to be successful, decentralising decision making and prog-rams will be key. But, decentralisation requires trust — Trust in the system as well as in the people. Progress will depend on communities, local authorities, MSMEs, and a carefully but widely implemented interplay between local entrepreneurs and global platform partnerships.

Open ecosystems deal with resilience. The importance of co-creating solutions with community emerged as a dominant thought in building resilient systems. True problem solving in the sector can happen only if one listens to the community, learns from the community, and ultimately solves with the community.

The role of parents in the education of the child as they did during Covid lockdown and the role of communities in healthcare has been very significant. It has opened up the possibility to improve outcomes by engaging the stakeholders who are most vested in these outcomes.

Entrepreneurship in the new normal

25 mn Indians join the workforce — but we create less than a million jobs each year. Systems from law and order, to property rights are broken. We have a jagir system that is silently still in place. Our graduates don’t know what to do with their education. When the automation era is here, 67% of our jobs will be under threat. Innovation and entrepreneurship are the only way to overcome this.

Reducing friction for entrepreneurs esp. the largely ignored category of entrepreneurs i.e. women.

Going local — Local workforce, Local needs for nutrition and Local needs for education take precedence over trying to create a universal program for everyone.

Showcase of innovation and collaboration

This session covered partnerships from different perspectives that were show-cased through successful case studies. The perspectives of collaboration that were presented were as follows:

  • Technology: the case study of Digital Green showed us the importance of using technology to create peer learning models and training of front-line staff that can be shared by all non-profits. This will enhance ability to execute programs at significantly lower costs.
  • Demographics: Different aspects of issues affecting a single demographic of adolescents was demonstrated through the Dasra 10 to 19 collaborative.
  • Collective Advocacy with Government: Pune City Connect illustrated how nonprofits have a critical role to play, in-curating innovations for local government and improving public systems over time.
  • Thematic: How various partners with a singular thematic focus such as education can create measurable impact in learning outcomes was demonstrated by Edelgive’s Education Coalition.
  • Geography: How can different players working in one particular geography come together and use each other’s’ strengths to create better outcomes for a community.

We also discussed new collaboratives that have come up in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This included a peer learning forum called the Covid 19 Collaborative, the Covid Pandemic Wellbeing Taskforce which provides a digital forum for government and private frontline healthcare workers and Sahayog’s own Community Collaborative which has a geographic focus bringing different partners to work towards the collective impact on a particular community.

Attracting Talent to the Sector

Panellists agreed that if the development sector succeeds in attracting highly capable individuals in large numbers early on in their career, other things will fall in place. Problems of development are wicked and complex and need committed problem solvers from all fields of work. The sector also needs generalists and people a high tolerance for ambiguity. The current situation has set us back by several decades of work in poverty alleviation, but recovery can be faster if resurgence becomes a rallying cry for the current generation.

Relief activities on Covid drew out volunteers in large numbers from all walks of life. Civil Society’s response in on-ground relief helped to contain disease spread, provide food security to the marginalised, and ensure safe passage for migrants returning to their villages. As we start the process of rebuilding the lives of India’s most impacted communities in a climate of resource scarcity, the demand for volunteer time and energy will grow across the country.

Volunteering, as a means of exploring ways to engage with developmental problems in the longer run, has become exceedingly valuable. Talent considering careers in the development sector can use volunteering platforms to explore and understand this space.

Challenges and the way ahead

In the post-COVID-19 era, the scale of problems will far exceed the volume of available funding in any area of the development sector. It is therefore critical for developmental organisations to avoid duplication of efforts, leverage synergies and make collaboration is a key tenet of their work when they redesign their interventions.

New innovations require new players. The scalable game of philanthropy/development work requires a new breed of innovators. The sector needs to proactively attract entrepreneurs and provide them a supportive ecosystem to grow beyond pilots, towards impact at meaningful scale. A platform approach for collaboration will enable good ideas to spread and scale through replication and emulation. This is a great time to invest in open source products, open data platforms and other means of creating public goods. Creation of Public Digital

Infrastructure, complemented by Private Innovation will ultimately enable us to address the demand for solutions across all developmental goals.

Pressure points

  • Innovation has become critical in the face of rapidly changing and escalating problems and shrinking resources
  • A lot of highly successful solutions have become obsolete in the post-COVID-19 normal, and will need to be reimagined for the new context
  • Problems can be solved at scale, if the development sector succeeds in attracting capable entrepreneurs and human capital
  • Collaborations and creation of public goods are key to outpace problems

Written by Priya Ajmera, CEO at AIC NCore

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