Can resource-scarce contexts spark sustainable innovations that help to reconcile some of the tensions between two wicked sustainability problems – extreme poverty and overuse of natural resources? At the outset, these objectives appear mutually exclusive as addressing pressing poverty problems such the need for clean water, food, access to energy and decent shelter requires the use of natural resources.
In the seminar frugal innovations will be discussed, i.e. resource scarce solutions – anything from products to business models – that are designed under resource constraints, are affordable even for very low-income people, and are good enough to meet the basic needs of individuals and communities which would otherwise remain un(der)served. Frugal innovations are typically developed by local grassroots entrepreneurs or large corporations. Grassroots innovators face several challenges from lack of resources to skills needed for scalability, while corporate innovation may encounter and produce other types of problems. Drawing on Aalto University’s multi-disciplinary action research projects, Professor Halme will discuss a third approach: multi-stakeholder co-creation of frugal innovations in which low-income communities, researchers, students, business firms and NGOs participate in frugal innovation endeavours. Early results on sustainability impacts of frugal innovations will also be highlighted.
Minna Halme is Professor of Sustainability Management at Aalto University School of Business and Visiting Professor LUMS. Her research focuses on sustainable innovations and co-creating inclusive business models in low-income contexts.
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