Project dates: 2011 to 2016
This project examined grassroots innovation and the present-day programmes and social movements which promote it. It looked at possible strategies and approaches to support and harness grassroots innovation. The project ran from 2011 to 2016 and is linked to a research programme on Grassroots Innovations.
What is “inclusive innovation”?
Grassroots innovation is a diverse set of activities in which networks of neighbours, community groups, and activists work with people to generate bottom-up solutions for sustainable developments; novel solutions that respond to the local situation and the interests and values of the communities involved; and where those communities have control over the process and outcomes.
Throughout the history of modern environmentalism and development there has always existed an undercurrent of grassroots activists working directly on sustainable local solutions. Whether in the global north or south, in urban or rural settings, and across all sorts of domains, such as food, energy, housing, manufacturing, leisure, health, communications, education, and more.
We analysed six case studies:
- The movement for socially useful production (UK: 1976–1986).
- The appropriate technology movement (South America: 1970s and 1980s).
- The People’s Science Movement (India: 1960s to present).
- Hackerspaces, fablabs and makerspaces (international: 2000s to present).
- The Social Technology Network (Brazil: 2000s to present).
- The Honey Bee Network (India: 1990s to present).
We also organised workshops with practitioners in Delhi, Buenos Aires and London.
Book: Grassroots Innovation Movements
Adrian Smith, Mariano Fressoli, Dinesh Abrol, Elisa Arond and Adrian Ely
Grassroots Innovation Movements examines six diverse grassroots innovation movements in India, South America and Europe, situated in their historical contexts, and looks at how each movement frames innovation and development differently, resulting in a variety of strategies. The book explores the spaces where each of these movements have grown, or attempted to do so. It critically examines the pathways they have developed for grassroots innovation and the challenges and limitations confronting their approaches.
Download the Accepted Manuscript of Chapter 1 (pdf, Open Access)
Buy the book from Routledge (20% off with code FLR40)
- Mariano Fressoli, Fundación Cenit and STEPS America Latina, Buenos Aires
- Dinesh Abrol, JNU, Delhi
- Elisa Arond – Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts.
- Can the open hardware revloution help to democratise technology? (posted 7 September 2016 on The Guardian website)
- Digital fabrication – whose industrial revolution? (posted 3 August 2016 on 4S Backchannels website, written with Johan Södeberg and maxigas)
- What are we doing when we do open science and inclusive innovation? (posted 12 September 2015 on STEPS Centre site)
- Prototyping or debating sustainable developments in makerspaces? (posted 22 September on Sussex Energy Group website)
- Why should we seek sustainable developments in makerspaces? (posted 22 September 2015 on Sussex Energy Group site)
- Tooling Up: Civic visions, FabLabs, and grassroots activism (posted 4 April 2015 on the Guardian newspaper site)
- Mind your (innovation) language (written with Saurabh Arora and posted 12 March on the STEPS Centre site)
- ‘Thousands of models’: Planetary boundaries, values and power (posted 16 January 2015 on STEPS Centre site)
- Innovación desde abajo? (posted 28 October 2014 on the itdUPM website)
- ¿Revolución tecnológica? Los nuevos senderos que se abre la impresion 3D (posted 27 October 2014 al sitio de Pagina 12, al fondo de la pagina)
- Considering social innovation from a social movement perspective (posted 14 October 2014 on the Transformative Social Innovation Theory (TRANSIT) website)
- A day with Argentina’s ‘street engineers’ (posted 22 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Why STEPS is creating a new research hub in Latin America (posted 18 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Makers, fixers and circular economies (posted 25 June 2014 on the Sussex Energy Group site)
- Building and nurturing a community: the importance of material and emotional dimensions in grassroots innovation (posted 23 April 2014 on the Sussex Energy Group site)
- Recordando el Plan de Lucas: que nos puede decir el movimiento de producción socialmente utíl sobre la innovación inclusive hoy? (posted 14 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre website)
- Inclusive innovation: learning to listen to the excluded (posted 24 March 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Scaling-up inclusive innovation: asking the right questions? (posted 20 March 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Every case is its own study? Every movement has its own goals? (posted 11 February on the STEPS Centre site)
- The Lucas Plan: what can it tell us about democratising technology today? (posted January 2014 on The Guardian newspaper site)
- What the new Ahmedabad Declaration means for grassroots innovation (posted January 2013 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Rio plus 20 must make inclusive innovation a stepping stone to a sustainable future (posted June 2012 on The Guardian newspaper site)
- Supporting grassroots innovation (posted May 2012 on the STEPS Centre site)
- Dilemmas in the search for appropriate technologies (posted February 2011 on the STEPS Centre site)
Working Paper: Socially Useful Production
STEPS Working Paper 58
by Adrian Smith
A history and analysis is provided of the movement for socially useful production, which flourished for a brief period in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s. Swimming against the rising tide of neo-liberalism, activists provided both a critique of the existing institutions for innovation in society, and developed a set of practical initiatives that explored and anticipated more directly democratic processes for socially shaping technologies.
26 October 2015: How can makerspaces, fablabs and hackerspaces help cultivate sustainable developments?
Machines Room, London, 9am – 5pm
8 Feb 2014: Delhi workshop on Grassroots Innovations movements
- Blog Delhi workshop on Grassroots Innovations movements
- Programme 8 Feb Delhi workshop on Grassroots Innovation
5 Feb 2014: Seminar: Adrian Smith on the Lucas Plan SPRU, University of Sussex.
Lucas Plan documentary
This film documents the story of the 1976 Lucas Plan, an unusual episode in British corporate history. Shop stewards from Lucas Aerospace, facing massive redundancies, developed their own plan to safeguard their jobs by moving the business into alternative technologies that would meet social needs, as well as new methods of production.
It was unearthed from the Open University’s archive by the academic consultant on the film, Dr. David Elliott. It has been posted to coincide with STEPS Working Paper 58, Socially Useful Production, which examines the movement for socially useful production which flourished briefly in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.