Tag: innovation

What if the best way to be innovative is not to try?

This guest post comes from Oxfam’s James Whitehead ‘Is it innovative?’ ‘How can we be more innovative?’ When asked, my problem, which is slightly awkward as Oxfam’s Global Innovation Advisor, is that I’m not sure how useful the word ‘innovation’ really is. I’ve just written a research paper on the factors that enable or block innovation […]

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Why ‘what’s your endgame?’ is a better question for aid agencies than ‘how do we go to scale?’

Maybe it’s partly an age thing, but a lot of senior people in the aid business seem to obsess about scale. What’s the point of running a few projects, however successful? No, the only worthwhile end is ‘going to scale’, affecting the lives of millions of people, not a few hundred. It’s understandable and laudably […]

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Risk = ‘to dare’. Why funders need to rethink their attitude to risk if they really want to support innovation

Following on from last week’s piece on the role of Foundations, here’s an excerpt from an excellent piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Although it is aimed at Foundations, spending the income from their endowments, it has important messages for others, including NGOs. ‘Risk stands at the center of an inherent creative tension within […]

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I had no idea that working across disciplines (on innovation, complexity and scale) was this painful, but it might be worth it

I went off to New York last week at the invitation of the UNDP Regional Center in Europe and Central Asia to discuss using complexity thinking to design a new ‘Finch Fund’ to support innovation and scaling up. Most scale-up exercises take successful pilots and just try and replicate them (one of the UNDP organizers, […]

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How can advocacy NGOs become more innovative? Your thoughts please.

Innovation. Who could be against it? Not even Kim Jong Un, apparently. People working on aid and development spend an increasing time discussing it – what is it? How do we get more of it? Who is any good at it? Innovation Tourette’s is everywhere. Most of that discussion takes place in areas such as […]

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Will the next generation of thinktanks be more NGO-friendly? Geoff Mulgan on ‘do-tanks’ (sorry)

I don’t often listen to lectures online – in these ADHD times, a 4 minute youtube video is usually my limit (unless it’s Breaking Bad or The Wire, of course). But I’m glad I made an exception for this lecture on ‘how do thinktanks think’ by Geoff Mulgan. No tricks, no powerpoint, just a lot […]

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Should you keep innovating as a programme matures? Dilemmas from (another) ground-breaking accountability programme in Tanzania

Certain countries seem to produce more than their share of great programmes. Vietnam is one, and Tanzania appears to be another. After the much-blogged-on Twaweza workshop in Tanzania last week, I headed up North to visit the Chukua Hatua accountability programme. It’s one of my favourites among Oxfam’s governance work, not least because it has […]

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What can the aid business learn from Google v Death?

Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. Google begs to differ. On both. First it becomes a byword for tax avoidance, and now it’s taking on death too, according to an article on Time Magazine’s techland blog. Time interviewed Google CEO Larry Page on the latest in […]

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African techno-euphoria and the origins of Kenyan mobile exceptionalism

I’m struck by one of those periodic waves of Africa techno-euphoria as I catch up on my post holiday reading (Google Reader, twitter, email, random subscriptions – is there no end to it?). The Guardian has pieces on how the web is changing Africa and 15 innovations that are transforming the continent. Meanwhile the Economist […]

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Do research funders have to chose between rigour, innovation and impact?

Another day, another committee discussing funding for development research (again, no details, sorry). This one produced a really interesting conundrum, perhaps even a trilemma, that suggests it may be impossible to simultaneously achieve three ‘Good Things’ sought by research funders: innovation, rigour and policy impact. First, rigour: Western research funders do their level best to […]

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Three top books on Innovation: what lessons for development agencies?

So since we are always being told to be more innovative (has anyone ever asked you to be less innovative?) I thought I’d see what some innovation gurus have to say. I could pretend this is part of my New Year’s Resolution to read more books and fewer papers, but I’d be lying– I read […]

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Random highlights of a week in Tanzania (workshop dancing, hyenas v goats, cricket attack – that kind of thing)

Any trip contains numerous golden moments that don’t fit into a neat blogpost. Here are some of them: The way a training session with activists regularly breaks into singing, dancing and general hilarity. If only all Oxfam meetings were like this. A vote on export bans: the government reintroduced a ban on exports of maize […]

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