First off, thank you so much for your feedback! You raise some great questions that got us thinking, and we hope that these answers can help to clarify.
*On the evolution of our approach* D-Lab's approach has always been grounded in the principles of participatory design and co-creation. This new program introduces three main updates to that pedagogy, based on data and feedback:
First, this program shifts the focus from directly supporting local innovators to supporting innovation ecosystem builders (who, in turn, support local innovators). We made this shift due to data showing (1) great interest from our alumni in creating these initiatives and (2) deeper impact in places where we have invested in these initiatives in the past.
A second related shift applies the design process to organizations/initiatives, whereas in the past we have focused on designing prototypes/products.
Third, this fellowship represents a shift from supporting individual initiatives to geographic clusters of initiatives. We have seen powerful network effects when clusters of nearby organizations collaborate and provide diversified support, and this fellowship program leverages this place-based, systems approach.
*On our potential results* We agree; the very nature of design and innovation is that you don’t always know what you’ll get at the end! However, after five years of the IDIN program, we have some early evidence and strong hunches.
The direct beneficiaries of the program are the Innovation Ecosystem Fellows. These fellows will then serve our indirect beneficiaries: local, community-based innovators.
This fellowship program will enable ecosystem builders to strengthen their organizations, reaching more local innovators with better services (training, mentorship, funding, tools, workshop space, incubation, acceleration, etc.)
Armed with these services, more of these local innovators will bring their innovations to life, and more of their local enterprises will succeed. This will improve access to effective solutions and boost the local economy.
As many ecosystem builders focus on youth, we also expect to see more students engaging in problem solving, entering STEM fields, and producing solutions once they graduate and enter the world.
As our fellows grow in success and influence in their environments, we hope to see a paradigm shift in the education field toward more hands-on learning, and a shift in the design and development fields toward more locally-driven, participatory and co-creative approaches.
Feel free to check out the IDIN Program Impact Report for more detail on how we have measured impact in the past!
*On past innovations* Over the last five years, International Development Design Summits have produced over 100 innovations, half of which are still active today. Here are just a few examples: Avomeru (Tanzania) is a venture that works with avocado farmer cooperatives in northern Tanzania to dry and press avocados to produce valuable oil for cooking and cosmetics. The venture was first developed at IDDS Tanzania in 2014. Website here: http://www.avomeru.com/ MAECOL (Colombia) is a venture that converts industrial waste into affordable construction materials. The venture originated at IDDS Zero Waste in 2015. Blog here: https://www.idin.org/blog-news-events/blog/building-waste-colombia-conversation-cristhian-acevedo-founder-maecol Rah-e-maa (Pakistan) is an interactive voice response system to engage Pakistani fathers in maternal health care. It originated at IDDS Lahore in 2016. Website here: http://www.rahemaa.com/ However, we now understand that none of these products would have seen success without the local innovation ecosystem builders that supported them. For Avomeru, that ecosystem builder was the Twende Social Innovation Center. For MAECOL, it was the team at C-Innova. For Rah-e-maa, it was the Innovations for Poverty Action Lab (I-PAL) at Information Technology University. Twende, C-Innova, and I-PAL were all founded by our alumni, and they represent the types of initiatives we’d like to support through this fellowship.
*On user feedback* As a data-driven design organization, collecting user feedback is in our DNA! We will collect extensive feedback from all of our fellows through surveys, focus groups, social media platforms, and informal conversations, as we have done throughout the IDIN program.
Thanks eldy wullur ! We really appreciate the support. We do not currently have partners in Indonesia, but we are looking to expand our partnerships in South Asia over time, so perhaps a few years into the fellowship we could explore the possibility of hosting a cohort there.
Hi Kate Rushton ! Great question. We are currently working on developing our idea from a few different perspectives:
1) We are still gathering user feedback. I recently traveled to Nairobi, Kenya where I met with some of our key stakeholders and was able to share the concept in person and get on-the-spot feedback. Some of the strong ideas that emerged were a) emphasizing the role that MIT can play in connecting fellows to power players, particularly in contexts with hierarchical social structures, and b) perhaps providing a conference stipend to fellows to help them make good connections for partnership and fundraising over the course of the year.
2) We are internally developing curriculum for this fellowship by learning more about the content that's already out there and can be easily curated, as well as understanding what content is not available that we will need to develop ourselves.
3) We are seeking partnerships and simultaneously working to decide upon a regional focus for the first year of the fellowship. Central America and East Africa are strong contenders, but it may depend on where we are able to secure funding or the appropriate local partners. We would also like to expand our connections to organizations doing advocacy and governance work. Our Network is rich with makers, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and systems thinkers, but not as much with advocacy and public policy types. This is something we would like to expand over the next year because we believe this kind of fellow will be a critical part of achieving success at a systems level.