CARE’s Innovation Team stands on a proud history of social innovation. We embrace technological solutions and products (e.g. solar powered cook stoves) as critical ingredients for progress but never as stand-alones, always as aides to changes in human capacity and systems.
Our belief in innovation for the sake of social justice distinguishes our approach from that of the private sector and even from some of our peers:
Justice over Efficiencies
Much of private sector innovation measures success in terms of making processes more efficient. While lean processes are important for optimal functioning, they are not in themselves innovative to us as a desire for efficiency too often overrides a practice of inclusivity. As a team, we prioritize just and values-aligned practice as true innovation.
Systems over Products
Even in the private sector, a product invention itself has a lower return on investment than one that innovates against other categories (such as profit model or customer engagement). In our sector, it can be an easy temptation to valorize the objects we can see and thus scale; but we most always ask ourselves: are we actually scaling the magic of social change or are we prioritizing a sense of achievement?
Proximity over Novelty
The best innovations by all measures —cost, effectiveness, ownership—are created in proximity to the problem they are trying to solve. To take this seriously, we acknowledge innovation as a force for localization and decolonization. As a team, this means we creatively facilitate the perspectives, resources and talent of local voices to design novel solutions to intractable problems.
Open Innovation vs. Firewall
Innovation must be freely traded on the open market of novel solutions. The boundaries and internal structures of CARE do not exist to cloister innovation and scale only our offerings – they exist to support and seed this emergent marketplace by allowing an influx and outflow of innovation. This permeability fuels a collective good — allowing scale-up through unanticipated sources, propelling us forward with the ideas and enthusiasm of others and helping to build innovation and creativity into the very environments where we work.