“The reality is that a scarcity of resources has pushed the development sector of South Asia to a point where innovation is not a buzzword, it is essential.” BRAC, the world’s largest NGO focused largely in South Asia, has initiated a project to map and connect innovators at all levels from across India, Bangladesh, and soon, Pakistan.
The Social Innovation Lab was launched in 2011 as a way to search for, test, and ultimately share innovative solutions used at the local level where necessity has truly mothered invention. Their incubator program tests new projects found in the field at a micro level to determine if BRAC as a whole should run a pilot project. This allows fledgling ideas the chance to truly change the world using the resources and reach of a huge organization.
Innovation Lab members regularly visit BRAC’s program staff in the field to learn about what they have been working on and to share information that may be helpful from other projects. They act as a sort of traveling information hub, providing both outside support to projects and a connection to the rest of the BRAC network.
Finally, the Innovation Lab focuses on scaling some of the best ideas into large-scale programs to be implemented more widely. Funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, problems of scale are worked through, with each stage documented to allow refinement and the ability to teach methods and technologies to new users.
As they work through BRAC’s programs to highlight innovative ideas, they also focus on other important issues that don’t necessarily fall into any one program’s scope. Issues of gender, disability, and access to technology are researched using surveys, then brought to senior leadership to help them introduce new ways of increasing inclusion and access throughout the organization.
To bring all of these ideas together, they have created an interactive map that allows users to search for projects based on location. While many listed projects have yet to be verified or researched, this creative tool allows a quick overview of the Lab’s work and shows both the width and depth of innovation in South Asia.
We look forward to future developments on this project. For example, while technology is certainly a hurdle, increased interaction between innovators would allow more direct sharing and refinement of ideas. A comprehensive database would allow new levels of analysis and the potential to link with outside funders, inventors, or producers. Keep an eye on their work going forward, it’s certain to make waves both in South Asia and in the development industry as a whole.
Find a link to the Social Innovation Lab on the right, or click here for a post on their blog describing their programs and approach.
Developed by BRAC.