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traditionally excludedOne of the gravest mistakes made when discussing development initiatives is presuming to know what communities’ most relevant problems are without involving those experiencing them. The members of traditionally excluded communities have the necessary knowledge to not only identify the best solutions to the challenges they face but to articulate and call attention to these challenges in the first place. Including traditionally excluded communities in the innovation process is a key ingredient in tackling some of the biggest development challenges of today. IDB Lab is an innovation lab born out of the Inter-American Development Bank Group that aims to do just this, promoting solutions that have been developed with and for excluded communities.

Incubating Innovation

IDB Lab mobilizes financing, knowledge and connections to support creators of inclusive solutions geared to improve lives in Latin America and the Caribbean. These innovative projects target people who are usually excluded from traditional markets. The projects also target populations made vulnerable by economic, social or environmental factors. Such people often do not get to participate in the decision-making process that influences public and private services designed in their favor. IDB Lab prioritizes the involvement of beneficiaries to ensure that relevant solutions are proposed and implemented.

Since 1993, IDB Lab has deployed more than 2,300 operations across 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries, amounting to more than $2 billion put toward development projects. These have included 161 loans, 144 equity investments and more than 2,000 technical cooperation projects. The creative thinkers who champion these ideas come from universities, non-governmental organizations, private firms, and importantly, excluded populations.

The Process

IDB Lab relies on crowdsourcing so that excluded individuals can voice their challenges as well as their preference and knowledge of solutions. Crowdsourcing is essentially gathering and applying the wisdom of a group, a practice that has become increasingly popular and feasible with the emergence of smartphones and social media.

Crowdsourcing fills knowledge gaps and the people in need of the solutions are engaged in it. IDB Lab follows a seven-step process when crowdsourcing data.

7-Step Crowdsourcing Process

  1. Excluded individuals voice their challenges
  2. The group of excluded individuals ranks these challenges
  3. Creative thinkers supply innovative ideas as solutions
  4. These ideas compete with one another and become solutions
  5. IDB Lab and partners fund the winning solutions
  6. Impactful innovations are generated
  7. The innovations developed ideally solve the problems

Informed Decisions, Effective Solutions

IDB Lab favors interdisciplinary collaboration as opposed to a single-sector approach, recognizing the complexities and varying perspectives present among the challenges faced by traditionally excluded communities. Technology facilitates inclusive communication, thus, the group has a strong tech basis. These technologies also ensure democratic and demand-driven development. Technology also offers efficient tools to tackle international development in inventive ways.

Successful social innovation requires sourcing and employing the knowledge of traditionally excluded populations. The more accurate the understanding of a community’s hardships, the more effective the proposed solutions are going to be. IDB Lab recognizes this. IDB Lab finds those who are experiencing hardship and offers them a voice. Crowdsourcing techniques enable IDB Lab to identify and support the development initiatives that are most relevant, inclusive and impactful.

Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr