Community-Based Inclusive Innovation

Luc Lalande
2 min readMar 20, 2022

“Community-Based Inclusive Innovation” is derived from the “geography of innovation” field and some of its leading scholars. However, beyond looking at a region’s innovation system from the spatial perspective of firm concentration, business ecosystems, industry clusters, technology parks and innovation districts it suggests viewing innovation as a societal and communal phenomenon that is participatory and citizen-driven creating socio-economic value primarily “with” and “by” the local. It is also distinct from the dominant narrative of technology-based and venture capital-backed innovation popularized by the Silicon Valley ideology.

Community “tiny forest”. Source: Chelsea Green

The concept of Community-Based Inclusive Innovation is framed as:

(1) Ingredients For Innovation Are Local

In this view, all the ingredients for value creation are “present” or “localized” in the community itself yet remain untapped or underutilized as a result of systemic barriers and other factors such as social isolation, poverty, socio-economic inequalities and general lack of opportunities. Local innovation resources include: a) “people-centric” gifts: knowledge, resourcefulness, ideas, dreams for a better future, ingenuity, imagination, networks, wisdom, lived experiences, histories, new perspectives, trust and goodwill; b) physical spaces, buildings and infrastructure “Third Places” that can be repurposed, reconfigured, re-imagined for new uses); and c) introduction of new tools and enabling technologies that are accessible to the community-at-large fueling the imagination and actualization of ideas. Adopting this perspective reveals that even so-called disadvantaged communities have sufficient resources rather than being considered having a deficit of means to engage in innovation practices, processes and ecosystems.

(2) Innovation as a Community-Engaged Participatory Process

Innovation, when viewed as a socially inclusive and participatory activity, creates possibilities for citizen engagement regardless of socio-economic status. In widening the circle of participation, new connections and interactions (of local innovation resources) can lead to the growth of solution and possibility spaces while strengthening community social bonds and trust. Participation can take many forms including, but not limited to, contributing knowledge to new ideas, innovative forms of volunteerism, offering spaces for learning and skills training, co-designing innovative projects for community benefit and flourishing.

(3) Leapfrogging as Local

“Leapfrogging” is a model of technological advancement, adoption and diffusion in the field of international development and typically applied in the context of developing nations and emerging economies. It is conceivable that leapfrogging can be creatively adapted for “disadvantaged” communities and neighborhoods in developed economies with their own local characteristics and unique advantages. Examples of “local leapfrogging” could include the introduction of 21st Century digital tools and technologies to neighborhood youth opening new pathways to education, digital skills development and experiential learning.

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Luc Lalande

Cultivating innovation by connecting ideas to people, people to ideas.