Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Training yourself out of the equation.....

Wow... first blog post on Evoke. I know enough of online gaming to call myself a n00b, but not enough to what I might become once I'm not one anymore! Ah well, hopefully I find my way through.

First task (mission? quest?)... blog about innovation tips in Africa:

It's funny, but I was struck most by the intersection between two of the tips in this page:
  • Embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.) (Ethan Zuckerman)
  • Provide skills, not just finished technologies. The current revolution in design for developing countries is the notion of co-creation, of teaching the skills necessary to create the solution, rather than simply providing the solution. By involving the community throughout the design process, you can help equip people to innovate and contribute to the evolution of the product. Furthermore, they acquire the skills needed to create solutions to a much wider variety of problems. They are empowered. (Amy Smith)
Definitely. To both of these. But what I'm interested in is the relationship that might be between the two... and the knowledge (made explicit in some of the other tips) that's implied here.

  1. No matter how much I study or immerse myself in any given culture/community, I'm unlikely to ever understand it as well as it's own inhabitants. Thus, while I might offer a fresh perspective or set of skills, my intuitive grasp of the balance between how easy an innovation might be with how useful it is may well be fundamentally limited. So, instead of making myself the solution, my best role may be to...
  2. EMPOWER individuals within a given community to innovate and promote (social, economic, environmental and interpersonal) growth... hopefully to the point where I effectively deal myself out of the equation and am no longer needed.
And how are market mechanisms related to that? While I'm no economist, it seems to me that innovation and enterprise are intimately linked! I'm studying psychology, and I would argue that so long as a technology or innovation is given away, it implies that this solution is external.... It reinforces passivity from the community you're trying to help.

By contrast, if you SELL something, you tap into mankind's (or, at least, some people's) innate affinity for COMPETITION... and sooner or later, someone local (even a local business) may find a way to do what you're doing more cheaply and undersell you by just a little bit...

AND THAT'S GOOD! If you're in the business of trying to provide aid and innovation, and operating with limited funds, there's not better outcome than someone else local taking your idea and under-cutting you... YOU lose sales to them, which means your costs are reduced (liberating funds), the innovative technology keeps being provided, and someone local is earning money!

The fly in the ointment is that many of the hypothetical technologies you might deploy are probably too expensive to sell at cost price.... they've got carbon fibres and nanotechnology and expensive filters and the rest.

Fortunately, there are already exemplar projects showing us that, when you provide the idea of the solution to a community in need, some bright spark will come along and innovate the path to that solution more cheaply.

Check out this talk on TED:


Views: 16

Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on April 11, 2010 at 12:40am
Excellent first post!
Comment by Gabriel Martin on April 12, 2010 at 8:36pm
Knew you would be a natural. You have many talents to share with the community, thats what makes this game different. You can share something in a post, and go from a noob to a teacher. Congrats


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