Nell van Walsum, M.Sc., PMP
As a leader I have learned that listening and empowering those who will be most impacted is the fastest path to success. Empowering those on the front lines, to voice their ideas and be the architects of change, creates the greatest impact and is most sustainable.
While I was volunteering in Kenya we drilled a well to bring potable water to a small rural school. Our success started with Listening. We, those with resources and the equipment, sat with, listened, and learned from the community. We listened to the members of the school, we listened to the women of the community, and we listened to local drillers. The people of the school told us the children don’t have potable water and therefore were often sick and absent. The women of the community told us to get potable water for their family they had to travel over 4 km – they said the school would be a great location for a well as it was central to the community. The local drillers told us the water was not shallow, it was necessary to have a large drill rig to successfully find sufficient water for the community.
We contributed funds and we brought technology, however, to ensure a successful project those who benefited most from the well needed to be the architects of the project. Years later this community, well equipped with a simple handpump, continues to provide potable water for the children, the school, and the larger community.
This project may not look “innovative”, however by being inclusive at all points in the project scoping, developing, execution, and operation and maintenance, it has been successful and sustainable. The innovation: there is a secure drinking water supply in a community where previously there was no potable water.I see this dynamic replayed in so many projects. Too often those in “power” positions make decisions based on their knowledge, though they are not often in positions of “action”, on the front lines, where the “rubber hits the road”. The incubation and subsequent development of innovation is often far removed from those who implement and those who were “meant” to benefit. I facilitate co-creative discussions with the intent of bringing ideas to action, action that is meaningful and sustainable for those who are meant to benefit.
I am excited to be part of the Inclusive Innovation Hub, to contribute to a space where those who are to benefit express their needs, use their voice, and share their ideas to drive new ways of being. These can be simple acts (or innovations), though when tailored to those who need it most, they can be very impactful.
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Ruth Bankey, B.Arch., MA, Ph.D.
…At that time, I had been working on a variety of initiatives to think about greater inclusivity within Artificial Intelligence Systems (AIS), and I found myself drawn to the conversations of other individuals with similar issues and pain points. I found myself listening to the different ways in which they were addressing their concerns and wanting to engage more and learn more from them. That sense of connection to the wider group, and the insights I was gaining from them (and applying to my own work in government) ultimately led to my interest in being more involved with the i2hub as a part of its board of directors. But I am not alone in feeling that the inclusive innovation hub has something to offer, which is why the i2hub was selected as an example of an innovative prototype for systems change and accepted into MIT’s Presencing Institute u-school u lab 2x as a part of the 2024 international cohort. It was clear when we presented our vision and purpose to them that the i2hub is actively involved in creating a space conducive to building leadership and networks capable to facilitate “mindset shifts, relational shifts, and action shifts” in and across individuals and multi-stakeholder communities. They felt we shared a vision that by working together we can bring about new ways of organizing our communities, institutions, and larger social systems such that they support and enhance the well-being of all, and that foregrounds what innovation really can be. I am looking forward to connecting the work we will be doing for this “u-lab 2x journey” to the activities and programs that the inclusive innovation hub will be offering over the next couple of years.