Local Innovation Ecosystems Initiative

ORGANIZATION NAME: Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-Lab /

LOCATION: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

SUMMARY: In 2018, MIT D-Lab will build upon experience from its decade-long International Development Design Summit program to pilot a new local innovation ecosystems initiative. This pioneering program will enable diverse leaderships teams across the globe to build community resilience through increased capacity in innovation, design, and problem-solving.

PROBLEM SPACE: “Local innovation ecosystems are not producing and supporting sustainable solutions to address the needs of people living in poverty. This failure is the result of an international development industry permeated by misaligned incentives and disconnected resources. In most countries, innovation activity is siloed in elite universities and corporations who are incentivized to design for high-income markets. Low-income communities do not have the purchasing power or political capital to drive research and development toward their needs. Meanwhile, well-intentioned designers living outside these contexts do not understand the challenges faced by these communities, resulting in a proliferation of irrelevant solutions with low take-up.

Most importantly, the local innovators best positioned to address these needs are not connected to capital, knowledge, and infrastructure to develop and scale their solutions. In line with the trimtam principle, we believe that empowering these innovators with the resources they need can enable them to break down barriers that move not only their own initiatives for forward, but also the initiatives of those around them äóî a small investment can create a ripple effect toward meaningful change at a systemic level.”

SOLUTION: “Rather than deploying an innovation focused on a single challenge, MIT D-Labäó»s new local innovation ecosystems fellowship is a pioneering approach that addresses systemic failures by building community-level capacity to solve the challenges they see around them, whether food insecurity, lack of economic opportunity, or limited access to quality healthcare and education.

D-Lab works closely with fellowship teams made up of leaders from emerging innovation ecosystems to create and implement community action plans, blueprints for creating change through innovation, design, and problem-solving at the local level. Depending on a team’s goals and context, a community action plan may include opening a maker space for innovators to connect and collaborate, introducing design thinking into primary or secondary school curriculum, creating a small grants program for local entrepreneurs, or advocating for policies promoting and supporting entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses.

Each community action plan will converge around the primary goal of increasing local community capacity to design, innovate, and solve the development problems they see around them. D-Lab will provide teams with tailored support including training, mentorship, grants to implement their action plans, and a community of practice where innovators and students from different countries can share ideas and learn from one another.”

CONTACT: [email protected]