Next Generation of Innovation for the Grassroots

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


Taking inspiration from science fiction sagas like the TV show Star Trek, the next generation of innovation is already taking shape in the South. A group of innovative facilities called Fab Labs (short for Fabrication Laboratory) in Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica are applying cutting-edge technology to address the everyday needs of people.

Like the futuristic “replicator” in Star Trek, Fab Labs allow people to design and produce what they need there and then. The labs are mushrooming throughout the South as people get the innovation bug.

Originally an idea from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, which sponsors nine of the labs, Fab Labs let people use digital technology to build physical objects, from eyeglass frames to toys and computer parts. Fab Labs empower local invention by turning education, problem-solving and job creation into a creative process.

Started by Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Fab Labs use US $20,000 worth of computers, open source design software, laser cutters, milling machines and soldering irons, letting people harness their creativity to build things they need, including tools, replacement parts and essential products unavailable in the local market.

With minimal training, children and adults are designing and making their own toys, jewellery and even computer circuit boards with the machines. It turns people from consumers into inventors.

“Instead of bringing information technology to the masses, the Fab Labs bring information technology development to the masses,” said Gershenfeld.

In Ghana, the Takoradi Technical Institute in the southwest of the country hosts a Fab Lab, allowing a wide variety of people to use the “replicator” – from local street children to tribal chiefs – to make a wide range of products. The Ghana lab has several projects on the go, including antennae and radios for wireless internet networks and solar-powered machinery for cooking, cooling and cutting. The labs have found that the younger the users, the faster the skills are picked up.

John Silvester Boafo, principal at the Takoradi Technical Institute, is proud of what he calls a fu-fu pounder. “In a Ghanaian home, the main dish is fu-fu,” he told the BBC. “Fu-fu is made of plaintain and cassava, which are cooked. After they are cooked, they are put into a mortar and pounded by hand. People go through hard labour just to get a meal to eat. So, we thought we could fabricate this machine to alleviate the hard labour they use in pounding.”

They are also working on portable hand-held chargeable solar panels for televisions and refrigerators.

In Pabal, in the western part of Maharashtra, India, a Fab Lab was established at the Vigyan Ashram in 2002 and is now working on developing agricultural instruments. They are also testing milk for quality and safety, and tuning diesel engines to run more efficiently, especially with bio fuels. Another lab in Bithoor in the state of Uttar Pradesh (operated with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur) is working on 3-D scanning and printing for rural artisans, such as producing wooden blocks used in Chikan embroidery.

In South Africa, officials are in the process of setting up four labs. The first is in the capital Pretoria, home to Africa’s first “science park”. The second is in the township of Shoshanguve, a very poor community with high unemployment.

“We have these very high-tech small start-up companies that are excited by the proximity of the lab,” said Sushil Borde, head of the government agency charged with rolling out the four labs. “The companies say, ‘We have these brilliant ideas, we have these business models, but we don’t know how to get these ideas into tangible products.”

Borde hopes the network of Fab Labs will enable South African entrepreneurs and engineers to test their ideas and “fast track the process of growth and development.”

Seventeen-year-old Kenneth Chauke has been able to build a robot in the Fab Lab in Pretoria, he told the Christian Science Monitor.

IT supervisor Nthabiseng Nkadimeng at the Fab Lab in Shoshanguve, has been encouraging South African youth to dream expansively about new technology. “We want to encourage innovation,” she told the Christian Science Monitor. “A lot of the kids, right now, they’re making toys. That’s okay, it’s a start. But eventually we want them to do things that haven’t been done before.”

“It’s the idea that if you’re somewhere in rural South Africa, and you want something for solar energy, you can go to a Fab Lab and make your own,” said Naas Zaayman, who works for the government on coordinating the Fab Lab strategy.

Published: October 2007


  • id21 Insights: A series of articles by the UK ’s Institute of Development Studies on how to make technology and science relevant to the needs of the poor:
  • Biography: Professor Neil Gershenfeld
  • eMachineShop: This remarkable service allows budding inventors to download free design software, design their invention, and then have it made in any quantity they wish and shipped to them: Amazing!

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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3D Printing Gives Boy a New Arm in Sudan

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


3D printing is rapidly going mainstream and is now starting to make a big impact in health care. One innovative solution is using the technology to manufacture artificial arms for amputees harmed by war in Africa.

While large-scale manufacturers use the machines to fabricate products and parts, from aircraft components to furniture, it is the smaller-scale use of 3D printing machines that has been getting many working in development excited.

3D printing ( usually involves a desktop-sized fabrication machine that builds a three-dimensional object following instructions from a digital computer file. It is an additive process, in which material is laid down in successive layers to create an object. The technology has been around since the 1980s but only became affordable for the general public in the past five years. Typically, 3D printers are used to make prototypes — for example architectural models or machine parts — or to manufacture one-off objects without the need to turn to mass production methods. But the technology is evolving quickly and, according to The Guardian, “20% of the output of 3D printers is now final products rather than prototypes.”

For international development, 3D printing offers the potential to close the gap between what is available in developed and developing countries. Just as the Internet has closed the knowledge gap, and enabled people around the world to access news and knowledge at the same time, so 3D printing could make it possible for technological innovations to be available everywhere. Just upload the digital plans for an object, and people can download them and print the item, wherever they are.

Some of the more enthusiastic proponents of 3D manufacturing see it as a game-changer in access to technology. They argue it could eliminate material want and place the power of manufacturing in the hands of billions, in the same way the rapid proliferation of mobile phones and the Internet transformed access to information. That is the dreamers’ dream, but it is closer than many think.

The conflict in the new nation of South Sudan, which separated from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, continues and involves UN peacekeeping forces ( The violence has killed over 10,000 (International Crisis Group) and injured many more, ruining lives through lost limbs and capabilities. One young boy, Daniel Omar, 16, lost both his hands while trying to use a tree trunk to shield himself from an exploding bomb. Losing his hands was devastating enough, but he was also so depressed at not being of full use to his family that he wished he had died that day.

He is not alone in being harmed by the conflict. In total, an estimated 50,000 people in South Sudan are physically disabled, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Prosthetic limbs are very expensive and so far are not a priority for medical services in the country. Saving lives is the priority, with rehabilitation an expensive luxury.

This is where Not Impossible Labs (, based in Los Angeles, California, came in. The non-profit startup founded by Mick Ebeling specializes in “crowd-sourcing to crowd-solve previously insurmountable healthcare issues.” The solutions are then made public on the Internet and explained in online media to help innovators either replicate the solutions or be inspired to come up with their own ideas.

The lab’s ingenious solutions include BrainWriter – a way to draw using brainwaves and a computer mouse that can allow disabled artists to carry on creating. Not Impossible Labs also developed a high-tech cane for the blind that draws on sonar technology and a laser to navigate the terrain and foresee upcoming obstacles.

Emotionally touched after learning about Daniel’s plight, Ebeling decided to act.
“I’ve got three little boys,” Ebeling told The Guardian newspaper. “It was hard for me to read a story about a young boy who had lost his arms.”

Project Daniel (!project-daniel/c1imu) set out to manufacture artificial hands for Daniel without him having to leave his country and his family. Daniel was living between the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan and his home in the Nuba Mountains.

A team from Not Impossible Labs set up the 3D printing lab in the Nuba Mountains and trained and supervised the local team to print two prosthetic arms. The design for the arm was done in the U.S. at its headquarters in Venice, California and is available for free and is open source ( A “dream team of innovators” were assembled – including the South African inventor of the Robohand (, an Australian MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) neuroscientist and a 3D printing company owner from Northern California – to crowd-solve the challenge of making a 3D-printable prostheses. A precision engineering company, Precipart (, and Intel were also drafted in to support the project.

Not Impossible believe the spirit behind the project will be globally transformative.

“We are on the precipice of a can do maker community that is reaching critical mass,” said Elliot V. Kotek, Not Impossible’s content chief and co-founder. “There is no shortage of knowledge, and we are linking the brightest technical minds and creative problem-solvers around the globe. Project Daniel is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.”

Daniel’s new artificial arm and hand took a 3D printer several days to make and cost around US $100.

In November 2013, Ebeling travelled to South Sudan with all the equipment required to “print” Daniel a new arm: 3D printers, spools of plastic and cables.

The plastic arm printed by the 3D printer works by allowing the wearer to flex what remains of their arm to pull various cables that act as ligaments, like in a real limb. When the user flexes and bends, the cables pull back and in turn make the fingers close and open.

It is not a solution for every amputee. “With the technology we currently have it’s hard to help people with no arm left,” said Kotek. “There needs to be at least a little bit of a stump.”

Shy at first, once Daniel saw the arm, he was transformed. “It was a pretty amazing thing to see this boy come out of his shell,” said Ebeling. “Getting Daniel to feed himself was a highlight that was right up there with watching my kids being born.”

Even more impressive has been the quick adoption of the technology by the local doctor, Dr. Tom Catena, who performs all the amputations in the area.

With two 3D printing machines left behind by Ebeling, Dr. Catena has been able to print a prosthetic arm a week.

The machines mostly work at night when it is cool. The printer parts are then assembled by eight local people trained to operate the machines and build the arms.

But how do they ensure, over time, this 21st-century technology doesn’t just fall into disrepair and neglect as has been seen time and again with other attempts at technology transfer? Weekly phone calls are made to check on the project and the plastic used to make the arms is sent directly from Not Impossible Labs.

And then there is community buy-in.

“At first these kids wanted arms that matched their skin tone, because they didn’t want to stand out,” said Kotek.

But in time the youths have been decorating the arms in many colors and customizing them. And the arms have been given a name: the Daniel Arm.

Published: May 2014


1) The pioneer behind developing 3D technology has been the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Fab Labs based in the United States. It has been running experimental “Fab Labs” across the global South for the past few years, experimenting with ways to apply this technology to the challenges of development and to use this technology to turn people on to the power of technology to solve problems. These experiments have explored how a 3D printer could print everything a small community could require but would otherwise be expensive or difficult to purchase through normal markets. Fab Lab is the educational outreach component of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), an extension of its research into digital fabrication and computation. Website:

2) 3D Systems: 3D Systems envisions a future in which 3D printing will return humanity to a heritage of personalized, localized craftsmanship and improve quality of life. A new industrial revolution changing the human experience from health care to entertainment. Website:

3) MakerBot: MakerBot makes a range of 3D printers for consumers. Website:

4) Stratasys: Stratasys manufactures 3D printing equipment and materials that create physical objects directly from digital data. Its systems range from affordable desktop 3D printers to large, advanced 3D production systems, making 3D printing more accessible than ever. Website:

5)  3D Printing and Technology Fund: The Fund seeks long term capital appreciation through focused investment in global 3D printing and technology companies. Website:

6) Digital Revolution: An Immersive Exhibition of Art, Design, Film, Music and Video Games: Running from July to September 2014 at the Barbican Centre in London, UK. Website:

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3D Home Printing Landmark: 10 Houses in a Day

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013


The global South is experiencing urban growth on a scale unprecedented in human history, far outstripping the great urbanization wave that swept across Europe and North America during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Faced with growth at this pace, governments – both national and local – often become overwhelmed by the rate of change and find it difficult to cope. One of the most common complaints urban-dwellers around the world have is about their living conditions. Even in developed countries, creating enough housing to match demand can be a struggle.

Quality housing is crucial to human development and quality of life. Adequate living space and access to running water make a significant contribution to people’s health and well-being. Despite this obvious conclusion, millions of urban dwellers live in squalid conditions with poor sanitation, overcrowding, crime, pollution, noise and a general feeling of insecurity. Insecure people find it difficult to access stable jobs and suffer stigma for living in poor-quality neighbourhoods.

But many initiatives are seeking to speed up the pace of home construction.

These include the Moladi construction system from South Africa ( Moladi uses moulds to assemble houses, so that the building skills required are minimal and easily learned. Built to a template that has been tested for structural soundness and using a design that produces a high-quality home both in structure and appearance, the Moladi system seeks to provide an alternative to makeshift homes that are structurally unsound and vulnerable to fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Another clever approach is a home and dwelling assembly system developed by architect Teddy Cruz ( ( that allows slum dwellers to gradually construct a building in stages as they can afford it. It is earthquake-safe and fire resistant.

Another approach turns to the fast-growing technology of 3D printing ( This technology has gone mainstream in the past five years in the form of desktop-sized 3D printers, or fabricators as they are sometimes called. The machines assemble objects in an additive fashion – layer-by-layer – using digital designs from a computer.

3D printers can make a complex object without having to resort to mass manufacturing. An accurate, one-off object can be created with the same precision as a machined object. Architects, for example, use the technology to make 3D models of their designs. And now a company in China is hoping to use 3D printers to make houses.

The WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. ( 3D printed 10 houses in 24 hours in Shanghai’s Qinpu district, reported Business Insider.

This landmark achievement was accomplished with a giant printer – 152 meters long, 10 meters wide, and 6 meters high – which manufactured walls for the house from a mix of construction waste and cement.

As a sign of the confidence the company has in the innovative construction technique, it built its own 10,000 square meter headquarters in one month using the same materials. The company’s chief executive officer, Ma Yihe, is also the inventor of the technique. It is a very flexible technology and the material can be tinted different colors according to the customer’s wishes. It is cheap to work with and is also less draining on environmental resources than traditional building materials.

The 10 houses consist of two concrete side supporting walls with glass panels at the front and back and with a triangle roof. They will be used as offices at a high-tech industrial park in Shanghai. The company has big plans, hoping to use the technology to build more homes – and even skyscrapers.

Competition is heating up as people around the world seek to perfect 3D technology to print houses to meet the growing demand for dwellings.

In The Netherlands, Dutch architectural firm Dus Architects (  commissioned the development of a leviathan 3D printer so it could print entire rooms. Modeled on a much smaller home desktop version, the Ultimaker (, this printer creates whole rooms that are then assembled into custom-built houses.

The 6-meter high KamerMaker (, or “room builder”, is being used in Amsterdam to build a full-size house.

The project is called “3D Print Canal House” ( The printer assembles the rooms individually, and then they are snapped together to make a house. The internal structure of the building blocks are in a honey-comb pattern, which is then filled with a foam that becomes as hard as concrete.

“For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population is living in cities,” Dus Architects founder Hans Vermeulen told “We need a rapid building technique to keep up the pace with the growth of the megacities. And we think 3D printing can be that technique.

“We bought a container from the Internet and we transformed it into one of the biggest printers on this planet.”

This technology can also easily use recycled waste materials and lower the pollution and cost of moving building materials around. The Dus Architects prototype house is expected to take three years to complete (so, still in its early development phase) and will look like a typical Dutch canal house with a pointy, gabled roof (

One of the pioneering advocates for using 3D technology to address the global South’s urbanization and housing challenge has been Larry Sass, director of the Digital Design Fabrication Group ( at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Three technologies have been developed at MIT since the 1950s that have made digital fabrication possible – computer numerical control (CNC), which enables computers to control machines; computer-aided design software in the 1960s; and 3D printing in the 1980s to make solid models using digital designs.

Sass told MIT’s Spectrum newsletter ( that large-scale 3D printing would mean “buildings will rise faster, use fewer resources, cost less, and be more delightful to the eye than ever before.”

He envisions a future in which architects will be able to send their designs by computer to a 3D printer and it will then be able to start “printing” the building or a house accurately according to the original designs.

The conventional way of making buildings has been stuck in the same approach since the 1800s, according to Sass. It uses highly skilled and extensive labour, it is slow and plagued by weather disruptions and urban congestion, and it is expensive, often using materials brought from far away.

Digitally fabricating buildings takes a radically different approach: the building is made in a series of precision-cut, interlocking parts and then assembled on site like a jigsaw puzzle.

“It’s the right delivery system for the developing world, because the developing world doesn’t have an infrastructure of tools, air guns, saws and power,” Sass said.

“Design and high-quality construction is mostly for the rich,” added Sass, who was raised in Harlem, a New York City neighbourhood with high poverty levels. “I’ve always wanted to figure out how to bring design choice and architectural delight to the poor.”


1) 3D Printing Technologies: A website exploring the development of 3D technology. Website:

2) Sweet Home 3D: An open source, free interior design software application that allows users to draw the plan of their house, arrange furniture and view in 3D. Website:

3) A video showing how it was done is here:

4) 3-D Printed Buildings for A Developing World from MIT’s Spectrum. Website:

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© David South Consulting 2022


CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016

Expertise: Innovation, innovators, human development, South-South development, United Nations, policy and policy innovation, South-South cooperation, South-South trade, global trends, strategy, online content, global memes, Internet, mobile phones, information technology, global South, resilience strategies, crisis response. 

Locations: London, UK and New York, U.S.A. 2007 to 2016

Consultant, Editor, Writer: David South

Click here to view images for this case study: CASE STUDY 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 – 2016 Images


Since the start of 2007, global international development and media consultancy David South Consulting (DSC)/David South International (DSI) has been working with the UNDP-associated United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation) to raise the profile of South-South cooperation and the global South in global development through its innovators, as well as influencing the switch to an innovation-led approach to how development is delivered at the United Nations and at the country level. Based in London, UK and with a design studio in Reykjavik, Iceland, DSC/DSI did this with two highly influential media: the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, and its sister magazine Southern Innovator. 


With the global economic crisis unfolding in 2007, we asked “what would inspire people?” What is going on in the global South that would improve human development under these circumstances and make people more resilient?

In 2007, discussing the global South, or solutions from the South, had a far lower profile in international development, the media and with the general public. Being one of the first sources to regularly chronicle the 21st-century world emerging from the crisis, the two publications (e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and its sister magazine Southern Innovator) were able to open up a space for greater coverage of the global South, while drawing attention to a new generation of development innovators. 

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa RenewalAfrica Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“I just went over your June newsletter. It’s very well done and far reaching. Congratulations!” Violette Ruppanner, Director, 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy, Geneva, Switzerland

“Just to let you know I enjoyed the newsletter a lot – it was interesting to learn about things going on that I would never otherwise find out about, and also the listing of future conferences and events proved very useful.” Ian Sanderson, Deloitte, Geneva, Switzerland

“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.” Whitney Harrelson, Making Cents, Washington D.C.

By adopting a strategy to exploit developments in online and digital media (and the space opened up by the global economic crisis), the reach of the e-newsletter and magazine was far greater than would have been possible just a year prior, back in 2006. This proved useful for reaching the growing number of people in the global South who were being digitally connected either through mobile phones or the Internet, or both. 

The e-newsletter was not only distributed every month to subscribers, it was also simultaneously posted online in many platforms to reach as wide an audience as possible. It was kept simple in its design so as to be easy to access by readers with low bandwidth or high data costs. It exploited new online services to reach an as wide as possible audience.

As an example, the arrival of ‘crowd-powered’ media in 2007 allowed for posting of stories to a global audience to test responses and reactions in real time. An experiment from 2008 to 2010 on the innovative Vancouver, Canada-based NowPublic platform proved very effective in developing the right tone for the stories. Many of these stories have been cited in publications and online (please see below for citations).

With 201 Development Challenges, South-South Solutions stories posted on the NowPublic platform, a total of 336,289 views by 2012 had occurred, according to the NowPublic counter. 

Various websites offering publishing and archiving services (Scribd for example) meant it was easy to access the stories from any place, device or platform, bypassing firewalls and censors – a very serious concern in many countries of the global South. And social media such as Twitter made it easy to spread the word to the right people. 

The two publications proved influential on a number of fronts, being early to draw attention to the following: the rising use of mobile phones and information technology in development, the world becoming an urban place, innovative food solutions including the nascent insect food sector (now a big thing), altering perspectives on what is possible in Africa, the use of data science to innovate development, and tracking the growing number of technology hubs and the fast-growing start-up culture in the global South. The publications were cited for shaping the new strategic direction adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (the UN’s leading development organisation) and its first youth strategy, and the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the world’s first global innovator magazine, Southern Innovator’s design had to be appropriate for a diverse audience. It has drawn praise for being both “beautiful” and “inspiring”, while its use of sharp, modern graphic design and infographics inspired others in the UN to up their game when it comes to design. 

Today, there are many sources for sharing stories on solutions from the global South; in fact, it could be called ‘cool’. South-South cooperation and innovation have now become the key methodology for the UN’s delivery of its programmes and projects. In 2015, China pledged US $2 billion to “support South-South cooperation” and called for the international community to “deepen South-South and tripartite cooperation”. In development parlance, they have been “Mainstreaming South-South and Triangular Cooperation” in their plans.

The current policy vogue for innovation in developing and developed countries can trace its roots back to some of the early work done by these two publications (and which was further amplified by the annual Global South-South Development Expo, which often would feature innovators from the two publications, spreading the innovation message around the world). Both publications had set out to inspire and “champion a global 21st century innovator culture”. And they have done this, as can be seen from concrete evidence and anecdotal responses from individuals and organizations alike.

Crucial to success has been integrity. As was disclosed in arrests made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October 2015, a news service claiming to be associated with the United Nations (South-South News) had not followed either the letter or the spirit of the UN’s Global Compact. It had received substantial funding from a Macau casino owner featured in a 2010 investigation by International Risk Ltd., which found he “is characterized in the media as a ‘Macau Crime Lord’ and a kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade”. To date, a number of his co-conspirators have been found guilty of various charges and sentenced. He was convicted 28 July 2017 on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by the various co-conspirators in court and under oath. Read more on this case here: And the conviction here: Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

The case of South-South News points to the dangers of cutting corners and the importance of approach and methodology; to not just mouth support for the UN Global Compact but to embrace its letter and spirit as well. As can be seen from this particular case, the reputational damage can be severe if the wrong strategy is pursued. Clients need to be very aware of whom they are working with and conduct due diligence for service provider credentials and also investigate the credentials of potential donors and funders. 

Southern Innovator needed to be true to its ethos of championing genuine innovation that improves human development in the global South. It had to be free to pursue its search without interference. 

To avoid censorship and interference, its editorial operations were based in London, UK and its design studio was based in Reykjavik, Iceland (a high-ranking country in the World Press Freedom rankings and a former top place holder in the UNDP Human Development Index). Using a women-led design studio, it developed a design vision that could communicate across borders using clear graphic design and high-quality images. For example, when it launched in 2011, infographics were rare in development publications and at the UN; now they are commonplace. It also tried to be as a ‘green’ as possible. The studio was powered on 100 per cent renewable energy (in particular, geothermal energy); the hard copy of the magazine is printed on paper from renewable forests. 

To date, five issues of Southern Innovator have been published on key themes identified by the United Nations: mobile phones and information technology, youth and entrepreneurship, agribusiness and food security, cities and urbanization and waste and recycling.

All of the issues collate and explain the trends, innovations and innovators for a large, global audience spanning many countries and regions.


2007: David South Consulting begins work on the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation at the United Nations.

2008: Reader response experiment begins with crowd-powered news website NowPublic. Initial proposal for the development of book or magazine on innovation. Awarded grant for Cuba study tour by BSHF. 

2009: Adjust e-newsletter content based on reader responses. Begin posting content on Twitter platform.

2010: Begin development of initial concepts for innovator magazine and assemble creative team with Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir and graphic designer Eva Hronn Gudnadottir. 

2011: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Rome, Italy. Launch first issue of Southern Innovator magazine on mobile phones and information technology. It is called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. Launch website and social media including Twitter account @SouthSouth1. 

2012: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Vienna, Austria. Launch issues 2 (youth and entrepreneurship) and 3 (agribusiness and food security) of Southern Innovator magazine. Called a “Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation.”

2013: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi, Kenya. Launch issue 4 of Southern Innovator magazine (cities and urbanization). Called “fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” and “Always inspiring.”. 

2014: Attend Global South-South Development Expo in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Launch issue 5 of Southern Innovator magazine (waste and recycling). The Twitter account @SouthSouth1 called “ one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Final issues of e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published.  


“The e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions proved to be a timely and prescient resource on the fast-changing global South, tracking the rise of an innovator culture driven by the rapid adoption of mobile phones and information technology … 

“In 2010, work began on the development of the world’s first magazine dedicated to the 21st-century innovator culture of the global South. My goal was to create a magazine that would reach across countries and cultures, meet the UN’s standards, and inspire action. Southern Innovator was the result. Mr. [David] South played a vital role in the magazine’s development from its early conception, through its various design prototypes, to its final global launch and distribution.  

“Both the e-newsletter and magazine raised the profile of South-South cooperation and have been cited by readers for inspiring innovators, academics, policy makers and development practitioners in the United Nations and beyond.  

“I highly recommend Mr. [David] South as a thoughtful, insightful, analytical, creative and very amicable person who has the unique ability to not only grasp complex problems but also to formulate a vision and strategy that gets things done. … ”  Cosmas Gitta, Former Assistant Director, Policy and United Nations Affairs at United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in UNDP 

“I think you [David South] and the designer [Solveig Rolfsdottir] do great work and I enjoy Southern Innovator very much!” Ines Tofalo, Programme Specialist, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

Southern Innovator Issue 5 

“@SouthSouth1 is one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Adam Rogers, Assistant Director, Regional Representative, Europe, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) 

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.” 

“… great magazine, nice design.” 

Southern Innovator Issue 4 

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.” Joana Breidenbach,, Berlin, Germany 

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!” 

Southern Innovator Issue 2 

“Thank you David – Your insight into the issues facing us a[s] [a] “global Village” is made real in the detail of your article – 10 out of 10 from the moladi team.” Moladi, South Africa (

Southern Innovator Issue 1 

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box 

“Looks great. Congratulations. It’s Brill’s Content for the 21st century!” Conan Tobias, Managing Editor, Canadian Business 

What they are saying about SI on Twitter: From @CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaire Graphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov.  

And on Pinterest:

Peggy Lee • 1 year ago

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”



  • developed content for highly influential UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions from 2007 to 2014. The monthly briefing is distributed across the UN and to subscribers
  • developed and launched world’s first global innovator magazine for the United Nations, Southern Innovator
  • contacted and networked with innovators around the world to raise the profile of their work
  • attended global events to champion power of 21st century global innovator culture. Visited United Nations agency headquarters around the world to share the innovator message and distribute the publications
  • cited as a key resource on trends in the global South 


  • significantly raised profile of global South innovators and 21st century global innovator culture
  • cited as contributor to new strategic plans for UNDP and its switch to an innovation and South-South focus


Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015) 

Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samer Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015)

Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America’s Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015) 

Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012 

Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015 

High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General22-25 May 2012, New York 

Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016) 

New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014) 

Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015

Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015)  

Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York

Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014

Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy

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© David South Consulting 2017