Innovation and Poverty

When one pictures a hotbed of innovation, an image of a university classroom or science laboratory is usually the first thought that comes to mind.  An exhibit at the United Nations arranged by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, however, is doing just the opposite.  The exhibit is dedicated to showing how urban slums can act as a breeding ground for innovative ideas.

Given the nature of life in an urban slum, the needs to be addressed are different from those in the more developed nations.  The innovations on display include repurposing steel drums into laptops, and prefabricated architectural pieces from Venezuela designed to become ‘Vertical Gyms.’  The Vertical Gym project is already exploring partnership options in New York City, the Netherlands, and Jordan.

This is not the only or the first example of innovation in less developed areas of the world.  A phenomenon, which has been termed ‘trickle-up innovation’ is one in which innovative ideas first take place in developing areas and then, if successful, make their way back to richer nations.  The practice shows no signs of abating as the United States Agency for International Development recently announced a grant designed to unlock the power of Africa’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

Posted by: Georgina Ellison

Sources: USAID, cbs.com, fastcompany.com

Photo credit: Moneymaker Block Press_2056 courtesy of flickr user hoyasmeg

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