I love Ethan Zuckerman’s list of 7 tips for innovation success but was most struck by the first one:
1. Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
Earlier today I was having a discussion with a group of UK university students about the concept of developmental entrepreneurship - that is where developing nations utilise the power of innovation and enterprise to drive growth and development. We looked at the example of Malabon City (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malabon_City
) which is a large slum dwelling in Metro Manila, the Philippines. Perversely Malabon City is sometimes referred to as the Local Venice, a name not derived from it's wonderful renaissance architecture or singing gondoliers but from the fact that twice daily much of the area is flooded by the ocean tide which brings with it most of the City's waste and raw sewage.
Most of the families who live in Malabon City live on less than US$2 per day (average 6-8 people/family). Amazingly a vast proportion of the residents earn money by making and selling craft-type products (and some food) from waste materials which they scavenge. Literally anything, paper, tin cans, plastic parcel strapping, rags, is "processed" and turned into fantastic, often beautiful products which are then sold on the streets for a pittance. . This is innovation alright! These people are clearly enterprising but this is entrepreneurship born out of necessity - innovation through constraint as Zuckerman puts it. If they didn't make and sell these products they would starve - simple! Even the small amounts of money made this way provide food for the table and also pay for some of the children to go to school.
This is not the end of the story though because with a little outside intervention the craft makers of Malabon are now learning to make more money from their micro-enterprises. I'll post more about this soon.....