What are the costs of failing to innovate?

Last month, Asif bhai (Communications and Social Innovation Lab) attended the Summit of the Bellagio Initiative in Italy.  He wrote up a reflective piece on the event, summarizing the discussions.

The whole piece is available online, and I’m pasting just a short excerpt here that really relates to conversations about why innovation is so central to those of us working against poverty:

“A new participant joined the panel today — Samia Nkrumah, a Member of Parliament in Ghana. Her words came right on cue, as if we needed someone to give us a reality check on the purpose of our work. She talked about her experience in Ghana’s hard to reach areas and how easy it is to forget them in the pursuit of growth.

Having just returned from East Africa before this conference, where I visited a number of  BRAC projects, I could relate to this more than ever. I remember the faces I have seen — the young,smiling teenagers who were cramped in a small room at an adolescent club in Jinja looking for new skills; the micro-loan borrowers on the outskirts of Dar-es-Salaam looking for savings mechanism;the young, new mother who walks miles with her yellow tank to get some water in South Sudan; or even the faces of those landless farmers in Sylhet, Bangladesh. These are the people – the most vulnerable yet resilient – whose wellbeing is what we work for. On one hand, it’s a great thing but on the other hand the responsibility is overwhelming.

For every single opportunity that is missed, for every single innovation that cannot be scaled, it is these people’s wellbeing that suffers. That IS the consequence. Beyond all the numbers and the strategies and the conferences, there are real lives that are affected by our actions or the lack of them. As soon as all of us, who work in philanthropic organisations or with the implementers at the last mile internalise this fact as part of our value system, the greater urgency we will feel to collaborate, coordinate and innovate in this field.”

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