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12th European IFSA Symposium


1.9 Inclusive innovation


Inclusive innovation refers to the active inclusion of people who are currently socially, politically or economically marginalised in innovation processes. In this workshop, we explore the topic of ‘inclusive innovation’ in relation to three themes:

  1. The role of intermediaries in inclusive innovation
  2. Inclusive innovation methodologies for participation of marginalised stakeholders
  3. Social innovations that promote social inclusion


The innovation system approach analyses innovation as the outcome of interactive learning processes among a variety of public and private actors. While this approach has originated from OECD countries it is increasingly applied to other contexts, taking the specific characteristics of these countries into account. For instance, in African countries the importance of understanding the dynamics of innovative activities in the informal economy and for the livelihoods of marginalized groups has to be considered. In this context, inclusive innovation and inclusive development have become a concern for governments in countries of the Global South.

Often termed “pro-poor innovation”, “below-the-radar innovation”, “grassroots innovation”, “BoP [base of the pyramid] innovation” (e.g. Cozzens and Sutz 2012, Ramani et al. 2012), the term “inclusive innovation” can be traced to Utz and Dahlman (2007), and takes a more expansive view of ‘development’ than found in conventional innovation studies (IDRC 2011). It refers to “the inclusion within some aspect of innovation of groups who are currently marginalised” (Foster and Heeks 2013:335).

In this workshop, we are especially interested in case studies that relate to the inclusion of people that suffer from multiple and nested forms of exclusion within conventional approaches to innovation. We would like to explore the topic of ‘inclusive innovation’ in relation to three themes:

  1. The role of intermediaries in inclusive innovation (organisations, platforms, brokers, etc.)
  2. Inclusive innovation methodologies for participation of marginalised stakeholders
  3. Social innovations that promote social inclusion

Intermediary organizations- such as innovation `brokers`, platforms, knowledge laboratories and local hubs- may play a particularly important role in the interactive learning processes that often facilitate innovation processes in the Global South. We are especially interested to learn of examples that illustrate how such intermediaries can foster social inclusion of typically ‘hard to reach’ groups, or of those who are otherwise structurally dis-connected from such intermediaries.

In relation to the second theme, we note that much has been done to foster more inclusive innovation processes through for example Farmer First, Participatory Technology Development and Participatory Innovation Development approaches (Water-Bayer and Van Veldhuizen 2004). Nevertheless, many Agricultural Research and Development projects continue to treat, for instance, smallholder farmers as a homogenous social group and ignore the de-facto exclusion of certain subgroups that are hard to reach due to a variety of social, economic and/or cultural factors. In inclusive innovation processes, we suggest that more can be achieved in terms of integrating critical social theory into praxis around issues of social difference, diversity and inclusion. In this vein, we invite contributions that either reflect upon experience of social exclusions in innovation projects, or that outline more sensitive methodological approaches to actively foster inclusion.

Finally, we recognize that there are innovations that aim to specifically promote social inclusion in rural contexts of the Global South. Such innovations aim to reorganise knowledge processes to foster participation of marginalized groups in for example education, media, markets and politics, such as: participatory video production for community knowledge sharing; farmer-to-farmer learning programmes; “barefoot colleges” and; pro-poor associations between farmers and their market partners. We invite case studies that shed further light on the above themes. Empirical examples should connect with academic debates concerning: the nature, constellation and roles of institutional actors in fostering inclusive innovation; the potential of various methodologies for processes of inclusion/exclusion, and/or; social innovations for social inclusion.

Workshop Processes

One session of oral papers presentations following the thematic sequence of the workshop, followed by constructive discussion. Experimental and innovative presentation techniques are welcomed.


1.9 All relevant stakeholders”: a literature review of stakeholder analysis to support inclusivity of innovation processes in farming and food systems

1.9 Unravelling inclusive business models for achieving food security in low income markets.

1.9 Learning about success and failure - A systems perspective on Food Security Innovation processes for small-scale farmers in Tanzania

1.9 Going beyond “Add women and stir” in inclusive innovation processes: Facilitating participatory activities with pineapple chain actors in Uganda

Lead Workshop covenor

Pamela Ngwenya:
German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), at the Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences of the University of Kassel

Other Covenors

Astrid Szogs:
Margareta Lelea:
Brigitte Kaufmann:
Anja Christinck:

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