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Inclusive innovation: beyond the Silicon Valley conception

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationEditorial

Robyn Klingler-Vidra, Alex Glennie, Courtney Savie Lawrence

King's Authors

Abstract

COP27 closed with a breakthrough; an agreement to create a “Loss and Damage” Fund for Vulnerable Countries. The details of the fund are still to be determined—including the size of the fund. It is at this stage that its key that we get the direction right for how the “direction” of the fund, in terms of who is involved, and how. This comes as the wider conference left us acutely aware of the need for coming together—working together—to deliver the change needed for people and the planet. Statements about the importance of unity abounded over the conference, but with many of the usual, elite faces gathered in Sharm El Sheikh.

At the same time, recent technology headlines continue to be dominated by household, even infamous, names. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover of Twitter, and WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann’s raising $350 million in VC funding for his new startup, Flow, despite his chequered record and lacking prototype.

These developments underscore how few people dominate the design and implementation of the technologies that shape our daily lives, and, benefit from an unfair ability to secure high-powered capital.

In short, it augurs against the notion that we are all in it together. The unity calls coming from the elite gathered in Egypt feels disconnected from a reality that rewards insiders and does not yet do enough to include the voices, and interests, of the millions – and billions – who remain under-represented.

This exclusionary bend, especially in the context of innovation, can be ameliorated. Innovation offers potential: to cure diseases, to better connect people, and to make the way we live and work more efficient and enjoyable. At the same time, innovation can fuel inequality, decimate livelihoods, and cause environmental degradation.

It’s essential that we remember that innovation has a direction; people decide which challenges are addressed, who is included in the process, and who targeted beneficiaries are.

A more inclusive approach to innovation is needed to inform the new Loss and Damage Fund. “Inclusive innovation” describes the pursuit of innovation that has social and environmental aims, and local context, at its heart. Inclusive innovation centres around the understanding that inclusion is necessarily about people and the planet, and so ecological concerns need to be at the centre as they were in Egypt.

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