Grassroots Innovation

Adrian Smith
SPRU, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 - 11:00

Grassroots innovation movements are salient once again, although networks of activist-innovators go back to interest in appropriate technology in the 1970s and earlier. Common to these movements is a vision for innovation processes more inclusive towards local communities in terms of knowledge, processes and outcomes. After introducing some examples, this presentation considers different perspectives on grassroots innovation movements: grassroots ingenuity; grassroots empowerment; and structural critique. Each reveals three enduring challenges common to grassroots innovation: attending to local specificities whilst simultaneously seeking wide-scale diffusion; being appropriate to existing situations that one ultimately seeks to transform; and, working with project-based solutions to goals (of social justice) whose root causes rest in structures of economic and political power. Each challenge effectively frames grassroots innovation differently, and responses generate valuable forms of ethnographic, instrumental and critical knowledge. Overall, these movements contribute valuable plurality and diversity for innovation policy that is more inclusive and just.

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Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación
Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 4ª (Cubo Rojo)
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia | Camino de Vera s/n

Short CV: 

Adrian Smith is a research at SPRU (a centre on Science and Technology Policy Research) in Sussex Univ. He has been working on innovation for sustainable development for the last 20 years. In the last decade, his work has focused on grassroot innovation in the UK, including collaborations in India, Argentina and the USA. For more information see: