Innovating for pro-poor services: Why politics matter

Nathaniel Mason, Clare Cummings and Julian Doczi for ODI insights: “To solve sustainable development challenges, such as the provision of universal access to basic services, we need new ideas, as well as old ideas applied in new ways and new places. The pace of global innovation, particularly digital innovation, is generating optimism, positioning the world at the start of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.1 Innovation can make basic services cheaper, more accessible, more relevant and more desirable for poor people. However, we also know few innovations lead to sustainable, systemic change. The barriers the this are often political – including problems related to motivation, power and collective action. Yet, just as political factors can prevent innovations from being widely adopted, politically smart approaches can help in navigating and mitigating these challenges. And, because innovations can alter the balance of power in societies and markets, they can both provoke new and challenging politics themselves and also help unlock systemic political change. When and why does politics affect innovation? What does this mean for donors, foundations and impact investors backing innovations for development?…(More)