There is no doubt that innovation has dramatically revolutionized the way we do business and is a key driver of economic growth in our hyper-connected world.  For most companies to stay in the game, they’ve had to rethink their products and services. That said, it is difficult to ignore that although technology is advancing at a lightning speed, a large share of the global population has often been excluded from the innovation process, further contributing to increased economic and social inequalities. Economic development for all, therefore, means designing systems which benefit everyone and improve the welfare of the excluded. The new buzzword emerging on the block that gives us some kind of structure on how to design towards social sustainability is Inclusive Innovation.

What exactly is Inclusive Innovation?

Inclusive innovation is about system design that promotes the agency of those often excluded. This means innovating in ways that welcome everyone to the table, designing for the many and not just the few.

The meaning of inclusive innovation comprises of creating results at the bottom of the pyramid with the intention of increasing livelihood and possibilities in a way that is meaningful and lifelong. This is possible only by outreach to the populations with limited options. These possibilities aim to increase self-sustainability and self-resourcefulness.

Why then is Inclusive Innovation important?

To be able to solve a problem, you need to know why you are solving the problem, who you are solving the problem for and if the solution you are coming up with is relevant. To be able to test all these, you need to involve all parties in the process. It’s all about bridging the gap between business and social responsibility.

The inclusive innovation approach will help businesses be more agile, collaborative and empathetic and this is through designing transparent platforms to create an inclusive culture of innovation. When people see their ideas being materialized, they are motivated to get involved as they begin to believe they can make a difference. These platforms to address challenges will facilitate open discussions and accumulate critical inputs and valuable feedback while also holding every stakeholder accountable hence leading to impactful solutions.

Inclusive Innovation helps organisations to reshape their core values. Innovation that is social can’t be achieved unless there is total value shift to an organisation to think beyond profits and its impact on society/ group of people. For instance, M-Kopa solar; an East African Tech company that provides solar electricity on credit to low-income households. Their innovative pay-as-you-go business model allows affordability and flexibility to the end user. M-Kopa has brought the benefits of solar lighting to hundreds of thousands of rural homes enabling schools, households and small business to work late into the night. Affordability comes in the long run as business relationships count, more than money. A committed clientele base ensures future income irrespective of economic situations.


There is plenty happening in this space and many interesting conversations around inclusive innovation. To fully understand and accelerate the inclusive innovation ecosystem, both governments and corporates need to channel their efforts towards the deployment of effective inclusive innovation mechanisms.

Through purpose-driven events such as workshops, meet-ups, incubators and community development people can accelerate inclusive innovation while balancing social and financial return.

To read more on Inclusive Innovation specifically on the analysis of the new models of this form of innovation which are emerging, click here.

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