Grassroots innovations in South America

An Argentine researcher investigating grassroots innovations for sustainability visited SPRU on Thursday 17th June 2010.

Mariona Fressoli from the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires has an IDRC-funded project that will be investigating the development and use of ‘social technologies’ in five South American countries. At Adrian Smith’s suggestion, Mariano presented his project to the STEPS Centre at Sussex University.

In September last year, Adrian presented the ideas underpinning the Grassroots Innovations pproject to a couple of events in Buenos Aires organised by Mariano. One was a presentation of the niches approach to understanding change to a mixture of policy-makers and activists at INTI, the National Institute for Industrial Technology, in Buenos Aires. The second event was to a conference of Science & Technology Studies acadmics.

Whilst some of the challenges and opportunities for the innovaiton of alternatives in civil society settings are generic and widespread, the different histories of the particular places where this takes occurs means those opportunities and challenges differ massively. But so too do the purposes and normative orientations invovled.

Mariano’s seminar argued, for instance, that opportunities for the kinds of networking presumed in niche-building, and evident in the UK, were largely absent or very fragile in South American countries – though some large programme slike the Social Technologies Network in Brazil are doing trying to correct this situation, as is Mariano’s own research project.

Such differences nevertheless provide a valuable basis for reflection and mutual learning. Thanks to an ESRC Visiting Fellowship award, Mariano will be visiting SPRU for a month in October in order to develop mutual perspectives with Adrian.