Why Convergent Innovation?
Since the onset of the industrial revolution, technological innovation has brought tremendous prosperity to the Western world, and extended the human lifespan. In the past century the rest of the world has, to varying degrees, followed suit and achieved some of the same benefits. In spite of these positive strides, the technology-led model of growth has failed to alleviate hunger and poor health in many of the poorest and most vulnerable populations. It has also created new problems to both the industrialized and developing worlds, not limited to diseases and disasters tied to a compromised environment, and to quasi-chronic crises in fuel, food, finance and health tied to unsustainable patterns of consumption.
Part of the problem is that technological innovation in sectors until now has been siloed. That is, individual innovations are developed by and for the benefit of particular sectors such as agriculture, food, nutrition, housing, transportation, and medicine. Further, actors advancing technological innovation (for-profit businesses) have remained distant from the public and non-profit sectors that are pursuing human development activities. Early attempts at technological innovation to promote secure nutrition and health have been met with limited success, as they neglect to consider how these humanitarian outcomes relate to the many other motives driving human behavior. This narrow, inward focus fails to exploit cross-sectoral synergy that could build up humanitarian and economic output. Instead, results tend to exacerbate environmental and societal problems.
What is Convergent Innovation?
Convergent Innovation (CI) integrates the capabilities and goals of different actors in order to solve these greater problems. CI designs novel bonds between business and other actors in society and centres its efforts on developing a deep and actionable understanding of what drives human behavior. CI is a form of meta-innovation– an innovation in the way we innovate. CI aligns and bridges individual and collective innovation efforts. CI provides broader, more effective, affordable, sustainable, and resilient solutions for poor and vulnerable individuals, households and communities. The aim of CI is to inspire and to add value to the best of present and future efforts at real-world change while at the same time improve the total share of resources society can devote to such efforts. CI has a unique focus on more meaningful private sector engagement through its core capacities for innovation, industrialization and investment.
The CI vision is to contribute to a global society that amplifies the benefits of modernity and attenuates its problems, integrating both traditional and modern elements. The mission of CI is to take action that will lead to lifelong secure nutrition and home health from birth through to old age. This will ensure economic feasibility, performance, and resilience at the level of societies still struggling with subsistence agriculture and also at the level of industrialized countries struggling to recover from the ills of modernity.
CI is the outcome of a series of design workshops hosted, including:
- Convergent Innovation (CI) for Food Security Workshop Series
- August 2014 IUFoST: Convergent Innovation for Affordable Food, Health and Healthcare
- November 2013 Rockefeller Bellagio Meetings
- June 2012 Paths to Convergence for Agriculture, Health, and Wealth
View the article featured the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.