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Innovating for people and purpose

Some people may see innovation as something about technology, something shiny, bigger and better. Yet it could be about creating a world with more beauty and dignity, says innovation consultant Sarah Owusu who co-founded Inkdot.


“[What] might be a common theme here for a lot of us is that we're trying to think about innovation as something that really fundamentally reimagines what's possible for us as humanity,” Owusu said.


Owusu moderated a discussion on innovation at the frayintermedia and fraycollege of Communications “Claiming our stories, Raising our voices” global virtual summit. She was joined by Judith Okonkwo, technology evangelist and We Will Lead Africa co-founder, Kerry-Jo Ford Lyn, director of the LGBTI Global Human Rights Initiative and Laxmi Parthasarathy, chief operating officer of Global Press.


Parthasarathy said we often let people define what “new and shiny” actually means.


“I think we also get comfortable with those with narratives, especially when we're talking about storytelling,” she said.


The coronavirus pandemic brought many of our lives to a halt; challenging us to rethink how to live and work in an infected world.


Okonkwo said the pandemic heightened reliance on virtual means of engagement and communication.


“I see with technology and as opposed to it being the innovation per se it is kind of like the building blocks, it's the enabler, it's this thing that should exist, a tool that will allow people to then go ahead and create,” Okonkwo said.


The journalism and media industry also had to find innovative and often remote ways of reaching sources. Parthasarathy said many news organisations had to then rely on “diverse voices” on the ground that had been “relegated for so long”.


“Every model of international journalism that we know requires someone who knows very little about a place to helicopter into another place to tell stories about that community. And if they were just to hand over the pen to the person who their source is they would much likely get a much better story,” she said.


Owusu suggested that perhaps the principle of innovation is really truly understanding the problem, saying: “Probably more so knowing that the people who have the need or the problem are probably the experts on the solutions as well.”


Innovation starts at a community level, at an indigenous level and out of necessity, said Ford Lyn.


“When you have nothing, you innovate,” she said.


As the world collectively navigates life through the pandemic, Ford Lyn said it is important to have a strategic response.


“Strategic in our innovation, being strategic about how we approach change because change is always happening,” she said.


Looking forward, Okwonkwo said she would like innovation to be problem-solving and that we had to be “intentional” with our actions as today’s actions affect the future to come.


Owusu agreed saying: “We might find ourselves in a trap where we define things too narrowly and end up creating a bunch of unintended consequences or externalities that really won't serve us further down the line.”


Watch the video here.









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