Education & Career Trends: Grassroots innovation is the need of the hour

4 min read

Edition: May 10th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

We need grassroots innovation for a more inclusive and sustainable economy and society. (Image Credit: Freepik)

Excerpts from article by Kenneth Kwok, published in

Grassroots innovation, serving local needs, can play a much larger role in the post-COVID world – inspiring transformation to a more inclusive and sustainable economy and society.

However, accelerating grassroots innovation requires a coherent and holistic hand-holding ecosystem.

Initiatives such as crowdsourcing of global innovative ideas, fostering grassroots community, mobilising academia and youth, etc., can help accelerate grassroots innovation.

Here are 10 principles that will help boost grassroots innovation and create an inclusive future for all:

1. Crowdsource global innovative ideas to develop on Sustainable Development Goals

In 2021, importance of sustainable solutions continues to grow as communities across the world face the twin threats of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovation and sustainability are inextricably linked at the grassroots level. We need to crowdsource global innovative ideas to develop on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

2. Encourage local governments to become active stakeholders

Around the world, local governments are increasingly tasked with regulating environmental concerns that do not conventionally lie within their purview. In local government policymaking, affected residents are the grassroots. Citizen participation in local government is an effective method to educate citizens about governmental activities and remove barriers to advancing the SDGs. 

3. Foster a grassroots community to share research, know-how and talent

A basic principle of grassroots innovations is to not depend on external systems and incentives for solving local problems. We must foster a community of innovators who individually and collectively build up a tremendous track-record of co-creation.

4. Provide technological mentorship for advancing a circular economy

Innovators may not necessarily be entrepreneurs. In such cases, the technology can be licensed or transferred to interested entrepreneurs who could commercialise it. Also, the entrepreneurs can provide mentorship to facilitate development towards a sustainable circular economic framework. (A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment.) 

5. Correct systemic racism, injustice and oppression

Dialogue in relation to systemic inequalities means growth for grassroots innovation, as the wider community sees the scalability of innovation towards everyday matters. The more we talk to one another, the more we are able to break down our internal conscious and unconscious biases, and promote social cohesion. 

6. Measure the impact on marginalised youth

The large number of children growing up in marginalised conditions is concerning, especially given the negative developmental outcomes that persist into adulthood. Poverty has been found as a risk factor to negatively affect academic achievement and health outcomes in children. Our innovations must be aimed at finding effective ways to give disadvantaged children equal chances early in their lives.

7. Localise the solutions meant to support disadvantaged communities

The social impact of many innovations can help address the needs of disadvantaged communities, in particular in their local setting. To support the social diffusion of grassroots innovations, we must first generate awareness on how these innovations can help people overcome their constraints and improve their productivity & income.

8. Build a digital culture of accessibility, diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion not only define our internal culture, but also shape how we approach our mission to help others achieve more. The majority of people in the world are touched by accessibility issues, whether personally or through a family member or friend. When societies and organisations are inclusive in their approach to accessibility, we can all innovate towards designing products and services that can be seamlessly used by everyone.

9. Mobilise academia and youth to keep driving the momentum forward

Linkages between grassroots innovators, academia and youth are essential for innovations to be identified, validated, recognised, developed and diffused. Youth approach problems unencumbered by experience, and often find ingenious solutions to problems that bedevil adults. One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there has not been a time in recent history where youth are more fired up about making a positive impact.

10. Become a global thought leader in inter-generational innovation

Tapping into an established pool of mature, experienced talent as well as a growing ecosystem of young, bright minds provides ongoing thought leadership and a holistic development blueprint. We must engage with age-diversified populations and help create opportunities for innovation that can be adapted to local needs.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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