The term innovation has been so overused in the last few years that it’s become a cliché: companies use it to sell products, writers use it to sell books, and consultants use it to sell so-called solutions to their clients.
At a workshop this morning in Bogotá on Social Innovation for Poverty Elimination, Environmental Anthropologist Felipe Spath and Mobile Education Strategist Martín Restrepo led more than 30 participants in an experiential training aimed at sparking social innovation, grounding it in problem-solving, and de-mystifying the innovation process.
The workshop was part of “Colombia 3.0,” a digital content summit sponsored by Colombia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MinTIC). The summit was designed to connect investors, entrepreneurs, developers, academics and digital producers from all over Latin America.
From July 29 – 31, in Bogotá’s upscale Zona T neighborhood, the conference offered nearly 150 workshops, lectures and meet-and-greets on animation, web, mobile, monetization, convergence, music, video games, government, business, and ICT.
At the Social Innovation for Poverty workshop, Spath opened by acknowledging the rampant over-use of the term social innovation. “Even soap commercials want to sell you social innovation these days,” he joked. In order to ground the innovation session in concrete problem-solving, Spath presented a short documentary trailer that portrayed the struggles of three Colombian farmers who are unable to earn a living off their land, and are facing the possibility of joining the increasing number of Colombians abandoning rural areas for urban centers.
Spath thus defined the problem at hand as how to help young people in rural areas stay there and still be connected to urban centers. He and Restrepo then presented Jinso, an interactive tool they are developing to help solve social problems and facilitate a participatory innovation process.
INTRODUCING JINSO: THE SOCIAL INNOVATION GAME
Seated in groups of six to eight, workshop participants downloaded the app “Jinso,” which accompanies a physical gameboard that guides players through the innovation process.
The game goes something like this:
1. Define the social problem, meet the players.
Players listed the change they wanted to generate, discussed the community they would be serving, and introduced their own strengths and abilities. Players themselves were coined “Heroes,” in reference to the many well-meaning individuals who arrive in communities and want to help solve social problems.
2. Discuss limitations and opportunities
Players discussed the challenges facing our chosen community (low education, physical isolation, unpredictable nature of agricultural subsistence) and opportunities we saw (rich natural resources, high levels of local knowledge, Internet connectivity).
3. Brainstorm and evaluate ideas.
Following inspiring words from facilitators, players brainstormed ideas to use technology to serve our chosen community, and selected the top three “gems” we had generated.
We storyboarded our idea from the perspective of a community member to flesh out what steps would be necessary for implementation.
5. Review obstacles and revise
Facilitators pointed out potential obstacles to success, and allowed us to revise our proposal before presenting the final version.
Our team ended up proposing a semi-virtual innovation lab to be constructed in town, where locals could get professional advice in a variety of areas from experts who had registered online to help.
Unfortunately, due to time restraints, the workshop ended abruptly before all participants could share their ideas with each other. But we did have time to receive our graduation certificated and pose for a picture.