We were really interested to receive a recent report which was commissioned by Making All Voices Count and undertaken by Results for Development and the Institute of Development Studies on
the role of technology innovation hubs in policy engagement.
The executive summary of the report follows here, but do take the time to read the
full report which has some interesting insights. If you have any feedback on the report, we’d be really interested to hear from you. Thanks to Making All Voices Count, Research For Development and the Institute of Development Studies for sharing this report. Many technology innovation hubs are developing impactful, locally relevant civic tech solutions to pressing commercial and social issues. Given that most hubs’ ‘double bottom line’ approach to their communities and the impact they aspire to, they are faced with becoming political animals. Many of the challenges they tackle require negotiating or renegotiating power relationships, and co-creating public sector policy solutions.
There is latent, but recognised, potential for tech innovation hubs in the global South to play a more overt role in promoting social change through contributing to the ‘thickening’ of local democratic space and policy co- creation. Unfortunately, in many cases, the mutual trust, understanding of incentives and shared buy-in that would facilitate this co-creation and collaboration between tech innovation hubs and public sector partners are lacking. Often, hubs avoid policy engagement altogether, or are constrained to doing so in ad hoc, superficial or premature ways. Five emerging types of engagement can be identified.
Still, there are some telling and inspiring micro-exceptions. Many hubs have started establishing long-term, strategic advisory and advocacy relationships with policy-makers. Further, hubs’ asks to policy-makers are solidifying around becoming more open, providing less restrictive financial support, procuring locally developed innovations as opposed to foreign imports, and general policy reform to support the innovation ecosystem.
In sum, the full potential of tech innovation hubs to contribute to a more vibrant local policy ecosystem is yet to be achieved. Changes in attitude, strategic outlook and partnership- building are required for tech hubs, funders and policy-makers to jointly fulfill that vision. These changes would help hubs take the next step from innovative communities to influential political actors, should they so choose.
Sambuli, N. and Whitt, J.P. (2017)
Technology innovation hubs and policy engagement.
Making All Voices Count Research Report, Brighton: IDS.
© The Institute of Development Studies 2017.