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Disrupted! Whatever happened to Southern Innovator Issue 6?

Disrupted!! Issue 6 of Southern Innovator never came about and here is the story of why. One part of the story is very positive and inspiring; the other part is disappointing and frustrating (though always a risk when working in the international realm). 

First, the disappointing and frustrating part. We had been working with the UNOSSC (the funder of Southern Innovator) on a scale-up plan which would provide the funds for the brand to better chronicle the global South innovator culture of the 21st century. What we had not anticipated was various individuals involved with the UNOSSC not only acting in bad faith, but actually being involved with a multinational network to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States, as was exposed during arrests by US authorities in late 2015 in New York (home of the UNOSSC and the UN’s headquarters). As we found out, gradually, through media coverage and court trial testimonies and confessions under oath by co-conspirators following the arrests, there was a fundamental conflict of interest between the work we were doing and the UNOSSC’s funding relationship with an entity that had its own news agency working out of the United Nations, South-South News. South-South News was established and funded by an Interpol Watch List individual, flagged up as a person not to do business with because of his involvement with human and sex trafficking and international criminal networks. South-South News’ executives pushed for the building of a new “Geneva of Asia” for the UN in Macau, which would also host the UNOSSC’s annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo). As confessed by the executives of South-South News, the news agency was established to facilitate bribes to UN officials and launder money into the United States – violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This bribery and corruption case led to the UNOSSC’s budget being suspended pending two internal UN audits. When the UNOSSC eventually re-booted in 2016/2017, Southern Innovator was not included in its programming budget. You can read more about this case here: http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/blog/2018/3/4/the-strange-saga-of-south-south-news-may-2018.html

Read more on this case from the Supreme Court of the United States here:

Read more on this case from the U.S. Department of Justice here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng

‘Jacked! | The Taking Of The American Order

And now the positive and inspiring part: Southern Innovator evolved from the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, first launched in 2006 (and we came on board to research and write stories in 2007). Much has happened since, including the Global Financial Crisis, and the global financial system re-boot that occurred afterwords. Both the e-newsletter and the magazine Southern Innovator fall into the category of ‘crisis media’: media used to bring together a response where the old methods and methodologies no longer work and something has caused system failure. Back in 2007, there was little discussion in the media about the global South, innovation, innovators, social entrepreneurship, and the mobile and information technology revolution occurring in the global South. Both the e-newsletter and the magazine identified a global 21st-century innovator culture that was unique since it was being fuelled by the rapid adoption of mobile and information technologies, often in places with high levels of poverty and turmoil.

According to the Final evaluation of the performance of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation under its strategic framework, 2014-2017, in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, prepared by Marcia Brewster, Consultant for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC): 

“The reviewer observed that, although the Policy and UN Coordination Unit had produced all of the reports requested by intergovernmental bodies, especially for the High-level Committee, it had not been able to produce many of the publications (evidence-based analytical reports) that had previously been within its purview. Such publications included Southern Innovator magazine and the monthly e-newsletter “Development Challenges, South-South Solutions. In the case of Southern Innovator, one issue (No. 5 on waste and recycling) was published during the four-year period of the framework but did not have wide online distribution, and issue No. 6 was awaiting funds for publication. The e-newsletter was last issued in July 2014 even though the reviewer found it a good way to communicate with focal points at the national and inter-agency levels. In fact, the shortage of funds for those knowledge products was the main reason that they had ceased being produced during the evaluation period.”

“With respect to the analytical reports previously produced by the Office, such as Southern Innovator, they have not been produced in recent years owing to lack of funding.” 

From the beginning, the e-newsletter and magazine were about changing perspectives and inspiring action. And so they have. Rather than say so in my words, I shall offer the words of others as we received them: 

“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.

Blogger Taline Haytayan from Brighton, England, found a case study on story telling in the South particularly interesting: “I came across this interesting article entitled ‘The South Has a Good Story to Tell’, which talks about storytelling in developing countries, and its use as a critical tool for passing on history, while teaching morals and ethics – so I would like to share it here with you. It’s a nice surprise to see that this article appears in UNDP’s South to South Cooperation unit newsletter. It gives an overview of storytelling in a number of countries, such as the movement of urban storytellers in Colombia, inspired by Italo Calvino; tale-spinners in Argentina; the halakis, or storytelling sages, of Morocco; and digital storytelling by women in South Africa.” (http://talinita.blogspot.com/2008/05/south-has-good-story-to-tell.html)

“A few weeks ago, David South, Development consultant and author of UNDPs Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter, came by the betterplace office to take a look at our work. When I asked him how he had come about betterplace.org, he answered: he found me on twitter! So much for the twitter-scepticts.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany (http://blog.betterplace.org/en/2009/09/15/690/)

“This is a WONDERFUL site. I read–and at least bookmarked to read again–your stories with the photo of the homeless gentleman “will write HTML code for food,” and of the young African girl who was hungry, and how they are predicting (and it seems inevitable) famine an a high voltage bolt in the poverty percentages. … your writing is phenomenal–the few stories that I have seen are actually SUPERIOR in their professional, technical, and relevant accounts. Their VERY interesting, and I unfortunately have not seen other sources of news lately (other than from my school’s library database, and old Public Broadcasting documentaries). God has blessed your works, and I am thankfully blessed by them!”  Sincerely, J. (Au) Whi, (from NowPublic site)

“Many thanks for sending me a copy of your interesting work. I read just one article in Spanish thus far but found it well written and useful. For us here in Colombia, it will be most useful having regular access to your publication and, of course, I am pleased that the articles are in Spanish as well as French and English. I hope that one day I might invite you to take a closer look at the Arranque Automático operation in Colombia and perhaps invite you to do a write-up on the technique and its ample theoretical foundations.”  David Cuanespero Boriol, Colombia

“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

“Question Box was featured in Southern Innovator, a new publication of UNDP that profiles some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the global South. We were pleased to see many friends in the sector profiled as well, such as UshahidiMedic Mobile, and TxtEagle. Take a look at the magazine, as it is a great primer on ICT and mobile innovation from around the globe.” Question Box News

“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; @JeannineLemaireGraphically 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”

“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 (http://www.moladi.net/index.htm)

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

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

“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.”

2014 proved a significant year for our work, as Southern Innovator is cited in various strategy documents as a resource contributing to a shift in funding priorities at the United Nations and other international development funders, and the adoption of South-South innovation as a key part of the UN’s work. The e-newsletter and magazine are also cited in many papers and books and are clearly contributing to a better understanding of the 21st-century global South innovator culture.  

By 2015, Southern Innovator was still drawing praise for its timely resources on South-South innovation and innovators:

“@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) 

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Issue 6 Will Launch In Autumn 2014: Get On Board! | 28 July 2014

Issue 6 of Southern Innovator will tackle the theme of science, technology and innovation. Looking ahead, we are also seeking long-term funding for the magazine to take us to 2016 and also to enable us to scale to a level of reach we feel is necessary to have significant impact across the global South. To date, Southern Innovator has been ‘lean and mean’, run on a small budget with a tiny team. The editorial team is based in London, UK, the design team in Reykjavik, Iceland and the UN team in New York. This has worked well because it has forced us to be prudent with resources and to be very creative. But we have reached the physical limitations of this approach, and, to be frank, feel we are not living up to the potential of the magazine because we do not have the people and team to reach scale. As an example, we can only afford to publish in the English language, which means we miss out on billions of non-English speakers. We would like to have regional issues and bureaus, to be able to leverage the SI brand to offer a range of resources and products that are truly transformational for innovators, to stage events that bring together like-minded individuals, and to come out more frequently and regularly. 

If our potential sponsors and advertisers could see what I see when the magazine reaches readers, I do not think they would hesitate to get on board and support the magazine. Often innovators feel like they are plowing a lonely furrow, unsupported, isolated. Or are enjoying significant local success but can see how what they have learned can help others but lack the time or means to share their wisdom and experience.

That “a ha” moment when we meet somebody who tells us the magazine “gets them” is especially rewarding. Most recently, this happened over and over again at the Global South-South Development Expo held in Nairobi, Kenya towards the end of 2013.

Hollywood has given the world the highly entertaining Iron Man series of films. The fictional Tony Stark dazzles us with his inventions and his awesome innovator’s ocean-side lair. If you liked that film, then you will love what we see happening all around the global South and feature in the magazine. Most of our innovators lack the flashy resources and wealth of a Tony Stark but they are no less innovative and creative, often working in the harshest conditions on the planet. They are our ‘Iron Men’ and ‘Iron Women’.

Help us to further share the innovator’s spirit of Southern Innovator and transform the world, one good idea at a time!

Disrupted! Whatever happened to Southern Innovator Issue 6?

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© David South Consulting 2021

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Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development Goals

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved.

But in a first for India, a village is now entirely powered by solar energy, kick-starting its development and reversing the decline common to many villages.

Rampura village in the state of Uttar Pradesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttar_Pradesh) had previously been without electricity. But its move to solar power has boosted school performance, brought new economic opportunities for women, and even made the buffalo produce more milk! By getting up early, the buffalo can be fed more before day breaks.

Being able to see at night unleashes a vast range of possibilities, but for the very poor, lighting is often the most expensive household expense, soaking up 10 to 15 percent of income.

There’s a direct link between lighting and economic development. Each 1 per cent increase in available power will increase GDP by an estimated 2 to 3 per cent.

In India, 600,000 villages still lack electricity. Despite the country’s impressive economic gains – growth of over 9 percent per year for the last three years, although that rate is now slowing – the levels of poverty in the country’s villages have driven millions to flee to the sprawling slum zones of India’s cities.

Rampura was set up with solar power by a project of Development Alternatives (http://www.devalt.org/), a New Delhi-based NGO working on promoting “sustainable national development”. Using US $1,406,000 from Norwegian solar power company Scatec Solar (http://www.scatecsolar.no/), it installed 60 solar panels to power 24 batteries. The village’s 69 houses are directly connected to the solar plant.

According to Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/), India could generate 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

Manoj Mahata, the project’s programme director, said half of India’s 600,000 villages without electricity can now have the option of solar power.

A steady electricity supply means children are extending their study time past daylight hours. Nine-year-old Aja told the Sunday Times: “I like watching television and the light at night means I can read.”

For women, the light brought by electricity means they can take on new business opportunities to boost income. “I want to start a sewing business with other women to make tablecloths and blouses,” said mother of three Gita Dave.

“Even the buffalo are producing more milk because people can feed before dawn,” said Ghanshyam Singh Yadav, president of Rampura’s energy committee.

“This is not rocket science. This is simple,” says Katja Nordgaard, director for off-grid projects at Scatec.

“The model is relatively cheap, and it is easy to operate and maintain. It can be built in three to four weeks, and can easily be scaled up if the demand for electricity increases.

“People in India are already paying when they need to charge cell phones, and for the kerosene they use in their lamps. The willingness to pay for energy is relatively high here, especially when that energy is reliable.”

In Bangladesh, more than 230,000 households are now using solar power systems thanks to the government’s Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL), giving rise to opportunities for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to make use of this new power supply for the poor. IDCOL is run by the Ministry of Finance, and is on course to install 1 million Solar Household Systems (SHS) using solar panels by 2012. The Bangladeshi government is hoping to bring electricity to all its citizens by 2020 – meaning this is now a prime time for entrepreneurs specializing in providing energy efficient products to the poor.

Another initiative to boost development in India’s rural villages is the concept of the Model Village India (www.modelvillageindia.org.in), previously profiled by Development Challenges (November 2008).

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Frugal Innovation Trend Meets Global South’s Innovation Culture

There is a trend occurring across the global South that some are calling the next great wave of innovation. It has different names but many are dubbing it ‘frugal innovation’. Frugal innovation is basically innovation done with limited resources and investment. In short, innovation on the cheap but packing a big punch.

The phenomenon has several strands. One involves innovators and companies from the developed world setting up in the developing world and beta testing their inventions and innovations there. Another strand involves innovators in companies and governments in the global South increasingly targeting the so-called ‘BOP’ – bottom of the pyramid – market of the poor.

Another strand is focused on capitalizing on innovations for tackling the problems of the poor that are coming from the poor. Many of these innovations are improvised solutions. They may not be slick but they solve a problem.

And finally, there are companies and entrepreneurs in the global South taking their innovations to the markets of the wealthy, developed countries and finding a welcome reception from price-savvy consumers.

In the global South, frugal innovation is transforming lives – and it is finding its way into developed, wealthy countries too. It has been celebrated in the new book Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century (http://jugaadinnovation.com/) by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja. The authors are innovation experts with a wide mix of backgrounds, from an academic to a Silicon Valley “thought leader and strategic consultant” to the founder of a marketing and strategy consultancy specialising in emerging markets innovation.

The authors propose “jugaad innovation” as a solution to the urgent need to innovate quickly and efficiently in a fast-changing world where little can be taken for granted. This breed of frugal innovation comes from India. Jugaad is a Hindi word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugaad) and basically means a work-around, improvised solution to a problem because it is cheaper. This is commonly used to describe makeshift vehicles people construct in India (http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/jugaad-cheaper-than-a-nanobut-watch-for-splinters/).

As champions of the jugaad philosophy, the authors proclaim the old innovation paradigm is obsolete. The idea that throwing more capital and more resources at a problem will boost innovation, no longer works, they contend. Better results can come from being frugal and flexible. Being more creative allows for a fluid and improvised innovation culture to develop.

“In today’s interconnected world powered by social media, top-down R&D (research and development) systems struggle to open up and integrate the bottom-up input from employees and customers,” the authors say on their website.

“Jugaad on the other hand is flexible, frugal and democratic: it is often bottomup rather than top-down and involves a much larger number of people beyond those who are typically tasked with doing innovation in corporations. The strength of jugaad innovators lies in their ability to get more from less,experiment continually, and creatively engage people who are typically left out of the innovation process.”

And they have a message for the Western, developed nations. They must look to “places like India, China, and Africa for a new, bottom-up approach to frugal and flexible innovation,” if they want to experience continuing prosperity in the 21st century.

For global South inventors, entrepreneurs and manufacturers, this will prove a great opportunity. As debt-laden Western consumers deal with their lower spending power and incomes, they will be looking for products that cost less and yet tackle problems and improve their standard of living with minimal expenditure.

The Indian company Mahindra and Mahindra (http://www.mahindra.com/What-We-Do/automotive) sells its small tractors to American hobby farmers. The Chinese company Haier (http://www.haier.net/en/about_haier/haier_global/china/) has a range of frugal products that have become popular sellers. They include air conditioners, washing machines and wine coolers. Haier is so successful with these products it has been able to capture 60 per cent of the market in these categories in the United States.

Some of the hallmarks of frugal products are their efficient production, rapid development cycle, lower price point, and appeal to poorer customers.

The book argues that adopting a “jugaad” mindset will enable people and companies to innovate “faster, better and cheaper,” “generate breakthrough growth” and “outperform competition.”

“Jugaad innovation has three major benefits. First, it is frugal: it enables innovators to get more with less. Second, it is flexible: it enables innovators to keep experimenting and rapidly change course when needed. Third: it is democratic: it can therefore tap into the wisdom of otherwise marginalized customers and employees.”

“In contrast to the traditional structured approach to innovation, jugaad is inherently more customer-centric rather than technology or product centric.

Because jugaad innovators seek to solve a customer problem first and then develop a suitable solution, jugaad is more market-based than more structured approaches (that may be driven by the motivation to develop technology for technology’s sake) are.”

There are so many of these innovations and inventions happening, a culture has emerged to gather and document them and share them with others.

A good advocate of jugaad innovators in India is the Honey Bee Network (http://www.sristi.org/hbnew/). It has been building a database of grassroots innovation and knowledge (http://www.sristi.org/hbnew/augment_innovation.php).

But this dynamic innovators culture is not limited to India. Across Africa,information technology hubs and start-ups have been sprouting up. One of the more well-known is the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya (http://ihub.co.ke/pages/home.php) but there are centres of information technology innovation in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria.

One of the more outstanding and pioneering chroniclers of this frugal innovation culture in Africa has been the Afrigadget website (afrigadget.com).

It is packed with home-grown inventions. These include a young Kenyan boy using a rigged network of light bulbs to ward of lions from the cattle herd, a mobile phone security system for cars, and a home-made remote control toy car for children. Another great way to see this movement in action is at the Maker Faire Africa (http://makerfaireafrica.com/) which has been bringing together every year “handcrafters from Africa’s tiniest villages to her most expansive urban burgs”.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: May 2012

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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Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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