Right after every disaster it seems that the aid world gets inundated with offers of new technologies - often described as "innovation" - that aid workers are then under pressure to try to use. In the middle of a big disaster response is probably the wrong time to try out a new tech. But then we often don't follow up after...
I'd be interested in the experiences of others:
How do you/your organization vet, test, and mainstream new technologies and innovations?
Especially if your organization is a large one, how do you make decisions around mainstreaming new techs?
What do you see as the best practices? What are the stages in the process?
What are the challenges? Where do the test/mainstream discussions typically bog down?
Share your thoughts in the thread below and or blog about it in AidSource!
some initial thoughts...
in my view, the technology is the easy part, but us as humans are the tough bit. it is rare that organisations spend enough time and energy on thinking through the change process that is needed for the technology to help. Additionally, it is rare that the design process for technology spends enough time with the end users ensuring that there is buy-in, but also that the technology is user-friendly and actually "useful".
technology development has a process called "agile development" which I think is very helpful and should be used much more in aid organisations for developing innovation and improving existing practices.
Amos - good thoughts. I agree with you: the technology part is easy (easy to develop a new tech which, in the sanctity of a laboratory or garage ought to be awesome. Far more difficult to develop and/or find techs which get real traction in the real world.
I also agree that most NGOs probably invest far too little effort into finding techs that work.
Okay, so it looks like Amos and I are the only ones in this conversation... but oh well.
So, what about this one? Four African Teenage Girls Create a Pee-powered Generator.
Sounds great, right? I mean, it's got all the cliche awesome innovation hallmarks: it's "African", it was invented by "Adolescent Girls" (teenage - almost the same thing), it's about electrical power (can use to charge cell phones, turn on lights...), and it's powered by human urine (sustainable... like, forever). That plus the fact that it was featured in GOOD make me want to roll my eyes. But then again, every disaster, we're flooded with these..
So, okay, for the sake of discussion: How do we test vet, test, whatever this thing? How do we figure out and decide whether it's the thing that will save the Third World from poverty, or just another Hippo Roller?
And let's say it's The Thing. How do we mainstream it into aid programs?