Millions of people, especially in the Global South, currently live without access to basic services such as electricity, education, and WASH. Inclusive Innovation, a process that enables entrepreneurs to develop new products and services with and for marginalised communities, could provide a solution. There is something truly meaningful in the creation of value for those at the base of the pyramid in a way that actually includes them.
There is ample motivation for more entrepreneurs to engage in Inclusive Innovation as well. According to this article, opportunities to use Inclusive Innovation to generate business will be worth USD 6 trillion in the next decade. Despite this, Inclusive Innovation is not yet a mainstream approach. The field is still in its nascent stages, and few people have the skills so successfully undertake the Inclusive Innovation process when developing a business. There is also a shortage of training in Inclusive Innovation, which means there is still have a long way to go before it becomes a go-to method when serving marginalised communities.
For the past two years, the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) in partnership with Bopinc offered one of only a few such training courses, and both organisations wish to see more Inclusive Innovation support become available to entrepreneurs. It is out of this wish that the publication 8 Ways to Strengthen Your Inclusive Innovation Training Course was brought into existence. Drawing from Bopinc’s practical experience with Inclusive Innovation training, this publication provides tips that would-be trainers can use to make their courses more impactful.
The Eight Tips in Brief
1. Know what you want to achieve, but be flexible
Knowing what you want to achieve is key when you start building your training programme. However, once the plan has been drawn up and the time comes to implement it, you might find that your audience’s requirements differ from those you wanted to address. In such a case, it is better to match your training to your audience’s needs as much as possible.
2. Balance online and offline to get the best of both
The internet offers huge opportunities in terms of reach, but if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, there is a trade-off between reach and audience engagement – especially in the beginning of a course. Therefore, it is a good idea to use offline sessions as well as online to ensure that your audience is truly invested in getting to the course’s end.
3. Enable your trainees to train others
If you are engaged in training organisations supporting entrepreneurship and startups, there is an opportunity to spread your training even further. Make use of this opportunity by enabling your training participants to train others in their networks.
4. Use self-assessment exercises to defeat inventor bias
Many innovators fall in love with their ideas and then go on to make the mistake of investing time and money into bringing their idea to the market without truly testing it first. They assume their idea is perfect as it is and fail to see the (sometimes glaring) flaws.
Self-assessment tools are necessary to help innovators look at their ideas from different angles and overcome their biases. Once they are able to spot the issues with their innovations, they can use the skills they learn from your Inclusive Innovation course to improve their solution’s ability to meet market needs.
5. Help participants to apply knowledge to their own case
Inclusive Innovation training cannot provide a one-size-fits-all method to succeed with one’s solutions. The markets addressed by inclusive innovations are simply too fragmented and granular to allow for such a blanketed approach. In the end, the best way to prepare one’s trainees to succeed is to provide them with the skills they need, and then to support them in practically applying those skills to their own business cases.
Doing this strengthens each trainee’s business and helps them to solidify the methods and theory passed on during your training.
6. Use communities and incentives to increase commitment
One of the hardest things about hosting an online training course is to keep participants engaged until the end. Leveraging a participant’s intrinsic motivations (i.e. the internal, personal factors that make them want to do certain things) is one of the best ways to maintain engagement. One way to achieve this is by linking participants into a community with common goals. People want to belong, and participating in a community focused on your course will provide them with motivation to keep them going. Moreover, if an influential person such as a community leader commits to a course, more people will follow their example.
7. Make training content open source so that others can reuse it
This point also connects to Recommendation 3. For Inclusive Innovation training to make a larger impact, it is necessary to enable participants to spread the knowledge they have gained.
Making use of a creative commons license for your content is another way to encourage Inclusive Innovation knowledge to spread. A creative commons license gives participants permission to share the content with members of their networks. The participants can also include the content in their own trainings, perhaps simplifying or translating the content to meet their audience’s needs, allowing the knowledge to spread much further than just the training courses you hosted.
8. Get participants into sustainable support networks as soon as possible
A participant’s need for support does not simply end once the training programme does. They might have further questions or struggles to apply their knowledge, and having a support network could be key for them to continuously use the knowledge they have gained.
However, participants tend to be unwilling to join support networks that feel like they were tacked onto a course as an afterthought. It is better to create a support network and encourage participants to join right from the start of the training. Doing this allows those who do join to form a community and to strengthen bonds with other participants to make it sustainable even after the course has come to an end.