Many Minds, Shared Vision

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AppLab CGAP Launch Open Innovation

Today, Grameen Foundation’s AppLab website gets a new look and takes on a new approach .  The programs are the same – you’ll still see discussions about our Community Knowledge Workers using smartphones to provide vital information to farmers, about mobile technology helping pregnant mothers learn about nutrition and prenatal care, and about services that help poor entrepreneurs earn income by selling airtime through their phones.  However, in addition to this new look, we also want to introduce a new approach we’re taking to tackling poverty – open innovation.

Historically, we’ve innovated with a closed approach to research, development and design by using our staff and partners, and leveraging our knowledge and processes, to develop products and services.  We’ve done well, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished – but we think we can do better.  Poverty is a global challenge, and we want to engage the world in creating solutions.

Though great ideas often do come from content experts on the inside, open innovation assumes that just as often they can come from people on the outside.  So today we launch our approach to open innovation – allowing our partners to pose “challenges” for the world to tackle.  And we want everyone – from students to industry professionals, from New York to Nairobi and beyond – to get involved.  We welcome you not only to provide ideas, but also to vote on which ideas you believe have the best chance of breaking out – ideas that address a concrete problem facing the poor, that have the potential for impact, scale and sustainability.

Open innovation is a two-way street – while a challenge is running through this website, we’ll be working hard on related research, design and implementation within the Lab, and will share what works, what doesn’t, and everything else in between.  You can follow this work through the “Design Timeline” associated with each challenge, to see what we’re seeing here on the ground.

We kick this approach off with a challenge sponsored by CGAP, which asks: “How can we develop innovative mobile money (MM) products that are suitable for poor, unbanked customers and viable for our commercial partners?”  We encourage you to read the brief, provide ideas and weigh in on which ideas we should spend our time testing.

Success depends on you – the more ideas we receive, the more powerful open innovation can be.  Steve Johnson, a champion of collaboration for the formation of great ideas, notes that “chance favors the connected mind.”  We believe that a platform supporting the connection of innovative minds, ideas, on-the-ground research and implementation can help people across the globe find and share disruptive approaches to ending poverty. 

by Lisa Kienzle, Sean Krepp, Heather Thorne


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  • Shane

    There are a couple of great vecatire thinking tools. Many organizations use brainstorming games to promote vecatire thinking. These include Crawford Slip Method, Whose line is it anyway?, Mind Maps, Night and Day, Scamper System, Carousel Brainstorming. Also SWOT anaylsis is another great tool.Great ideas come from everyone in the organization. Its up to management and company leaders to promote and gather these ideas.

  • Eric Kamara

    This is a very good initiative. I believe it will be a success because of two important concepts: 1. The potential for anyone to contribute to the ideation and problem solving process 2. Accountability and openness through the Design Timeline I look forward to participating in the Open Innovation process.