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    What is inclusive innovation all about?

    download the book to explore

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    explore the frameworks and field stories

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  • from theory to field 

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    our starting point

    working towards bridging the gaps

    Innovation offers potential: to cure diseases, to better connect people, and to make the way we live and work more efficient and enjoyable. At the same time, innovation can fuel inequality, decimate livelihoods, and harm mental health. This book contends that "inclusive innovation" - innovation motivated by environmental and social aims - is able to uplift the benefits of innovation while reducing its harms.

    why inclusive innovation matters

    amplifying the known and uplifting the unknown

    For us, the term “inclusive innovation” describes the pursuit of innovation that has social and environmental aims, and local context, at its heart. As we strive to bridge the gaps in practice, we are focused on also recalibrating a mismatch in language. We believe that in some cases, those who are doing inclusive innovation are not adequately acknowledged. At the same time sometimes policy is not designed as effectively as it could be, and more generally, the innovation ecosystem is not as collaborative, or inclusive, as it has the potential to be.

    clarifying what inclusive innovation is, in today's terms

    a working framework that covers people and planet

    Our inclusive innovation framework centers around the understanding that:
    (1) inclusion is necessarily about people and the planet, and so ecological concerns need to be at the center,
    (2) innovation should be understood more broadly than information technology, so that low-tech and social organization innovations are equally counted,
    (3) and innovation is a collaborative process in which problem owners are crucial problem-solvers.
    We examine inclusive innovation by focusing on the questions underpinning the source and the means of innovation, in terms of how, what, and where. For us, as you will see in the book, the “who” is understood as the problem-owner and is at the center. The “why” of inclusive innovation has to do with the observation of an unjust equilibrium.

    the backend of our research

    "Inclusive Innovation Story and Learning Lab” Series

    Our creative process included crowdsourcing and capturing the latest emerging trends, examples and personal stories related to inclusive innovation. We did this through a series of lab sessions, ran primarily through network collaborations. In this sense- we learned from individuals working on the ground, in academia, intermediary organizations and government. These stories are featured throughout the book and below for easy access. If you would like to learn more and get involved we invite you to join our LinkedIn Community of Practice here, or reach out here.

    why we are building on layers of learning

    and building a field guide as we go

    This book layers upon studies of inclusive innovation - including this report from 2020 (co-written by our team)- a collaboration between Nesta and the UNDP Regional Innovation Center of Asia and the Pacific - as well as this UNDP Viet Nam study, and the UN ESCAP and Honeybee Network research on promoting grassroots innovations and inclusive policy. You will see we have started by spotlighting examples from Southeast Asia - this was done as part of our team lived and worked in the region, along with the majority of writing contributors.We remain grateful to have had the opportunity to write this book based upon our analysis, fieldwork, and friendships with those "doing" inclusive innovation in policy and practice spaces. We hope to have done justice to the insights that have been shared with us. All the credit for this book’s engaging content goes to our interviewees, advisory group and research assistants, while responsibility for any errors or omissions sits with us, the authors.

    what happens next?

    learning loops and the evolving inclusive innovation field

    Sometime it is argued that as soon as something is published it becomes out of date. In some ways this is true, yet mostly because the field is so dynamic. We are excited to announce we have kickstarted a working group to develop an "Inclusive Climate Innovation Playbook". While the Inclusive Innovation book here was intended to provide a 360 academic frame, the playbook, with an emphasis on climate change and the dynamic ways cross sector entities and communities have a major role to play is emphasized. In this sense, we continue to work towards moving beyond theory with the intent to highlight fascinating and effective approaches, examples and tools, that can be applied around the world with a "climate lens". If you would like to get involved please reach out directly to Courtney Savie Lawrence who is facilitating the Inclusive Climate Innovation Playbook development.

    about the book itself

    a collaborative, volunteer effort

    No payment nor any financial gain from the proceeds of this book go to the coauthors or contributors. Our volunteer team has worked hard to make this book open access and free for the world. This has been an unpaid endeavor as a fully academic book published by Routledge Press which sells their hard copies and other formats to universities and public libraries. We would like to thank our advisory review group of nearly 30 incredible practitioners and thought leaders whom are noted in the opening acknowledgements section as well.
  • about the contributors and advisors

    This book has benefited from interactions with, and support from, a number of colleagues and friends. Our academic and professional communities at King’s College London, Nesta, and the United Nations Development Programme provided encouragement and instructive feedback throughout. Conversations, and in some cases collaborations, with the following colleagues, policymakers, and practitioners were essential to the book coming together. Different people wore different hats, at different stages, as advisors, reviewers, lab participants, and, in some cases, direct contributors writing case studies or sharing their own compelling story.
    In this context, we are thankful to the following: Maesy Angelina (Pulse Lab Jakarta), Payal Arora (FemLab.Co), Stephanie Arrowsmith (Impact Hub and WWF), Omar Crespo Cardona (Link4), Amarit Charoenphan (Impact Collective), Sowirin Chuanprapun (UNESCO), Pyrou Chung (Open Development Initiative), Carolyn Curtis (TACSI), Marta Pérez Cusó (UNESCAP), Kuldeep Dantewadia (Reap Benefit), Carlo Delantar (Gobi Partners), Samuel Díaz Fernández (School of Slow Media), Xoán Fernández García (Social Innovation Consultant), Anil Gupta (Honey Bee Network), Elizabeth Hoffecker (MIT Local Innovation Group), Kyaw Kyaw Min Htut (BEAM Education Foundation), Ishtiaque Hussain (a2i Africa), Zainab Kakal (UNDP Fiji and the Pacific), Parkpoom Kometsopha (Reviv), Aarathi Krishnan (Berkman Klein Center at Harvard), Benjamin Kumpf (OECD), Bas Leurs (UNDP Accelerator Labs), Julien Leyre (Future of Governance Agency), Rex Lor (UNDP Philippines), Rohan Malik (Ernst & Young), Thabiso Mashaba (These Hands), KA McKercher (Beyond Sticky Notes), Odin Mühlenbein (Ashoka), Chris Oestereich (Linear to Circular), Elbert Or (Pushpin Visual Solutions), Jayshree Patnaik (Indian Institute of Technology), Roshan Paul (Amani Institute), Giulio Quaggiotto (ex UNDP), Diastika Rahwidiati (CHÔRA Foundation), Karl Satinitigan (WeSolve), Adam Selzer (Civilla), Claudia Sosa Lazo (IDEO.org), Suthasiny (Moh) Sudprasert (Happy Grocers), Beenisch Tahir (UNDP Pakistan), Felicity Tan (The Rockefeller Foundation), Michou Tchana (Move92), Peerathorn Seniwong (known as P’Thorn) (Zero Baht Shop), Berlin Tran (University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City), Ida Uusikyla (UNDP Strategic Innovation Unit), and Liu Yan (BoP Hub), Tanya Accone (UNICEF Office of Innovation). In addition, our thanks go to the collaborators and advisors on the first legs of this project. These include Hoang-Yen T. Vo (DRD Vietnam), Madeleine Gabriel (Nesta), Ye Liu (King’s College London), Juliet Ollard (Nesta), Lan Phan (UNDP Vietnam), and Isaac Stanley (ex-Nesta).

  • about the authors

    The core writing team is comprised of Robyn Klingler-Vidra (Senior Lecturer, King’s College London), Alex Glennie (Principal Researcher, Nesta), and Courtney Savie Lawrence (Senior Climate and Systems Innovation Consultant, Cofounder Circular Design Lab, Bangkok, Thailand)

  • Features and Events

    March 2023

    In this Kings College London short explainer, the team put together a short video to capture some of the key points behind the academic research. You can see more here as well.


    January 2023

    In this RSA hosted event we covered the core thesis: how can we uplift the benefits of innovation while reducing its potential harms? The talk also featured 3 incredible changemakers around the globe making inclusive innovation the centre of their practice and whom we featured in the stories above. This is a thought provoking event for any entrepreneur, business leader and doer looking to innovate in a more ethical, regenerative, and inclusive way.
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    November 2022

    In the Global Policy Journal at Durham University, our piece focused on the intersection of #InclusiveInnovation and the need to go beyond the Silicon Valley 'model'. From COP27 to living examples of how the venture world can become more intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion- we lay out a case for what an intentional version of innovation can look like.

  • the inclusive innovation lab network

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  • praise and reviews by others

    “This book gets us on the right track when thinking of innovation for social and planetary wellbeing. Drawing on case studies particularly from Southeast Asia, it grounds our thinking on what is resilient, redistributive, and regenerative beyond the staid binaries of the local and global, and low and high tech. This is an important and granular work for those invested in going beyond the usual soundbites of inclusive innovation. It immerses readers in concrete strategies of co-participation and decision-making with those most affected by the global challenges that are upon us. “

    Payal Arora, Erasmus University Professor, and Author of the Next Billion Users


    "Imagine the movie Lord of the Rings, the whole trilogy, but told from the perspective of the dwarfs! Or spend a moment thinking about mothers across the world. Yours and mine, quietly toiling away at work and at home to make sure our families overcome the myriad daily hurdles and seemingly impossible long-term challenges. That is what keeps us all going. That is the secret to our continued success as a global civilization but also, what keeps the human race from imploding in the blink of an eye.


    And that is what this book is. Nothing ostentatious, but a mere acknowledgement of the universal, enlightened mission and cause that brings people together from all walks of life, all over the planet, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, belief, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc., to address social and environmental challenges and bring about positive change in their own lives.


    Like our moms, the unsung heroes of inclusive innovation don't seek to be celebrated. They just want what's best for their families. By extension, collectively, they just want what's best for the world. As this book so vividly illustrates through personal stories, ultimately, that is what inclusive innovation is all about too. And how we can all chip in is by acknowledging them and helping to 'spread the work' so that they can influence policy in a way that, at best, is more conducive, and at least, doesn't get in the way of ordinary people trying to make their lives just a little bit better."

    Ishtiaque Hussain, a2i Africa, Kigali, Rwanda


    The book's central focus is on "inclusive innovation", and the authors provide a useful framework for navigating and implementing this concept. Fundamentally, inclusive innovation is a methodology/mindset for ensuring that solutions for development challenges are built with local stakeholders - e.g. by and for the "problem-owners" - and that they take a holistic approach to understanding impact. Adopting this formula can maximize impact and sustainability over the long-run, particularly when working in vulnerable communities. Suffice to say, defining "who" you engage in the design process, and "how" you integrate them, is an important, yet often overlooked, indicator of potential outcomes.


    Jamil Wyne, George Washington University Adjunct Professor, Climate Change and Systems Thinking


    The past decades have revealed to us that 'innovation as usual' leaves our most critical and complex social and environmental challenges unaddressed. A different kind of innovation is needed. One that works with problem-holders in responding to their contextualized needs and aims specifically at addressing these wicked problems more holistically. This book contributes to the formation of a new kind of inclusive innovation. It illustrates several examples of this practice around the world today and works as a good view into a more purposeful kind of innovation that the world needs at this time.


    Joss Colchester, Systems Innovation Hub


    "A refreshingly grounded view on innovation, away from innovator heroes and ephemeral unicorns. This analytically rich book takes us through the origins of “inclusive innovation” and subsequently defines the concept as innovation by and for the problem-owners, innovation for both social and environmental good and last innovation that can take place everywhere. The large number of case studies on inclusive innovation from South East Asia, are a much needed academic contribution to enhance understanding of these tech-savvy and dynamic economies and the inclusive innovation processes emerging bottom-up to mitigate social and environmental challenges. This is an important book."
    Dr. Sidsel Grimstad, College of Human and Social Futures, University of Newcastle, Australia
    "This book serves as a great toolkit that will guide both the grassroots innovation or community supporters and the actual beneficiaries of the work itself. It gives a realist view of gaps, successes and case studies that can be adopted and adapted per place setting to support changemakers to thrive."
    Thabiso Blak Mashaba, These Hands Botswana
    Inclusive Innovation is an excellent reading for development practitioners seeking to support initiatives to develop and apply novel products or processes that will improve the lives and livelihoods of marginalized individuals and groups.

    The book’s framework to advance inclusive innovation identifies constituent elements that are pragmatic and actionable. Particularly refreshing was the authors’ effort to redefine “problem-owners” (i.e., the individuals, local communities, regions, and sectors experiencing challenges that need innovation) as “problem-solvers”, and their reminder that “innovations from grassroots" are distinct from “innovations for grassroots,” in terms of their frugality, inclusivity, and sustainability. In that sense, inclusivity is not a nice-to-have for innovative solutions, but rather a key foundation to ensure that these solutions can take root and thrive. In my experience this is very true: many innovations in developing countries fail, not necessarily because they are technically defective, but because they aren’t well-tailored to the realities on the ground.

    “Inclusive Innovation” is also very timely in how it extends inclusion beyond social impacts alone and accounts for ecological challenges, which is a point often forgotten. Social and environmental impact are two sides of the same coin – and inclusion that restricts itself to social impact is an inclusion that builds on shaky ground. This message is very pertinent to climate initiatives as well, which often suffer from the opposite problem: an over-focus on environmental challenges in detriment of social inclusion.

    Overall, I recommend this book to any development practitioner seeking a good framework (and plenty of examples) to ensure that its development activities to support innovative solutions are also inclusive."
    Manuel Bueno, Director of Climate Finance, Abt Associates

    "As is my habit I scrawled things on paper that impressed or interested me as I read. The STEM app and programme for girls 13-18 really touched me, as did the quotation from one of the AIOZ team in Vietnam who said he “joined because he found academics too theoretical.” That certainly echoes my experience and that of many people I have talked with over the years. Too many academics don’t want to get out into the world and learn from regular non-academic people. Too many academics and other experts are simply shopping solutions they already have. They have solutions looking for problems whereas many people have problems and need solutions. Your book is an excellent guide to finding, monitoring and executing the search for problems or needs and then the solutions. Your plea for cross-fertilization hits the target square on; too many are afraid to enter into the valley of cross-fertilization...


    It was so refreshing to read that things should be “by, for, and of” society. I have heard similar sentiments expressed by members of the blind community. And yes, indeed, there needs to be bridges between policy and practice as well as awareness of the dangers; yes, the well intentioned might be easily sucked under, or in, by those with different ideas on what should be happening beneath splendid looking intentions and surface indicators.


    You close with a Call to Action which is a splendid way to end. But even before coming to that I kept asking myself “What next?”. As I read Inclusive Innovation I could not help but think of the next book or books."

    Dr. Norman R. Ball, Director (retired), Centre for Society, Technology and Values, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


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    An Upcoming Playbook and Field Guide.


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    Want to get involved? Know someone interested in something similar? Drop us a line below!

    Join us. The current core project team currently includes Courtney Savie Lawrence (Climate and Systems innovation Global Advisor, UN), Olivia Zeydler (Energy Transition Regional Acceleration Lead, World Economic Forum), Claudia Sosa Lazo (Senior Business Design Lead

    Ideo.org), Sarah Saeed (Program Manager, Social Innovation, Climate Innovation, The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt University), with inspiration from the Inclusive Innovation Book coauthors and the Oxford Climate Tech Initiative coleads 

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    let us know your thoughts and ideas for collaboration below,

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