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Innovation in International Development.

Alternative title: Innovation in International Development

Awarded: NOK 2.1 mill.

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Project Period:

2023 - 2026

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Although innovation has been an essential part of international development for the last ten years, it is still an under-researched issue. This research will explore how tech-driven innovations are unfolded and adapted in a mixture of local participation and sense-making, and partnership with external actors and technological devices. The overall concern is to enhance our understanding of how innovation interventions may create technical products that successfully improve poor people's lives. On an aggregated level, the research aims to contribute with an enhanced theoretical understanding of tech innovations' contribution to the rethinking and the anticipated improvement of doing and thinking in international development. The project will work at the intersection of innovation studies, Science and Technology Studies, and design anthropology in an ethnographic analysis of the development, piloting, and implementation of tech-driven solutions in various locations in Africa.

Three questions are raised in the research project; How are tech-driven innovations emerging in developing contexts, how are the innovative solutions modeled; and what does it take to bring the successful innovations to adapt and eventually scale?? The research investigates how tech-driven innovation processes are unfolded in development contexts and how complex macro innovation systems unfold as a means of development practice. The study is particularly interested in exploring if these processes include co-construction and cultural translations and whether they support local people's work and investments to make a better future for themselves and their families in Africa's least developed countries and communities.? The research will further explore the significance and relationship between people and technology in unfolding and, in particular, in materialising innovation. A significant part of materialising innovations is developing and adopting appropriate business models. The second key research question is thus how the humans and objects constitute the innovative solution development and adapt business models aiming for social and environmental impact. Although there are examples of scale being reached in development contexts, scaling innovative solutions is still few and constitutes a severe challenge in international development. This is surprising, as scaling up is at the core of the development model that donor agencies purport to follow. On the other hand, it is also understandable, as innovation approaches are still in the making as disruptive ways of working in international development. The third main research question is thus what it takes to scale a solution within international development. As this research focuses on international development, Oslo Innovation Consultancy AS is particularly interested in how a range of interventions reach a large number of people and how they can transform the lives of poor people.

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