Posts Tagged ‘jua kali’

Innovation, Ingenuity and Opportunity under Conditions of Scarcity (Download PDF)

coverIn July 2009, I was inspired by working in the Research wing of the Aalto University’s Design Factory in Espoo, Finland, to launch a group blog called REculture: Exploring the post-consumption economy of repair, reuse, repurpose and recycle by informal businesses at the Base of the Pyramid*.

Within a year, this research interest evolved into a multidisciplinary look at the culture of innovation and invention under conditions of scarcity and it’s lessons for sustainable manufacturing and industry for us in the context of more industrialized nations.

reculture research bed

Emerging Futures Lab, July 2010 (Aalto Design Factory)

As a preliminary exploration, my research associate Mikko Koskinen and I timed our visit to Kenya to coincide with the Maker Faire Africa to be held on the grounds of the University of Nairobi in August 2010.

This photographic record of our discoveries (PDF 6MB) among the jua kali artisans and workshops of Nairobi, Nakuru, Thika, and Kithengela, guided by biogas inventor and innovator Dominic Wanjihia captures the essence of the creativity and ingenuity it takes to create without ample resources and adequate infrastructure.

A synopsis of our analysis is available here.

 

* The publishing platform, Posterous, died a short while later and we lost years of work. I’m looking into reincarnating REculture on Tumblr soon.

 

Innovation, under conditions of resource scarcity

When Mkulima Young, a social media community for young farmers in Kenya tweeted this photograph of a motorcycle modified to pump water, I was delighted. It had been a long time since I’d seen such an excellent example of innovative product development under conditions of resource scarcity.

REculture, the group blog hosted by the now defunct Posterous is gone, though Makeshift magazine still keeps the spirit alive. Afrigadget rarely updates these days, and I, too, have moved on in my interests in the past 5 years since Mikko and I first went to Nairobi for Maker Faire and research.

 

Grassroots innovators and the “build-test-learn” loop


Afrigadgeteers exemplify the customer centric principles of such high tech processes as the Lean Startup (r) method, or so it emerged from an insightful conversation with my Tallinn based friend Siim Esko recently, on Skype of course.

He made the connection between the need to experiment and test prototypes for market viability – rapidly and cheaply and the ‘product development’ habits of makers and creators who innovate under conditions of scarce resources such as those covered in Afrigadget, REculture or Makeshift magazine.

His insight struck me like a ton of bricks, if I may say so with little exaggeration and I’m sharing it here as food for further observations and thought. I already have a trip planned into rural Western Kenya on Monday, so now that my eyes have been opened, I’d rather ponder this further and write again in greater depth when I have some evidence to support this hypothesis. In the meantime, what do you all think?