4.2: Grassroots Innovation

This section explores the idea of 'grassroots innovation', looking at different kinds of innovation that are associated with this term, and how they relate to sustainability - and interact with more mainstream ideas and processes.

Essential reading

Fressoli, M., Arond, E., Abrol, D., Smith, A., Ely, A. and Dias (2014) When grassroots innovation movements encounter mainstream institutions: implications for models of inclusive innovation, Innovation and Development 4:2, 277-292 (or view the Open Access 'submitted' version

Questions to guide reading
  1. How do the authors define “grassroots innovation movements” (GIMs)?
  2. What are the two different modes of engagement that the authors describe as occurring between GIMs and mainstream science, technology and innovation institutions?
  3. Why are the authors interested in these modes of engagement?
  4. What material effects do the authors argue that these modes of engagement result in?
  5. What is their relevance to development policy and practice?


Lecture: Grassroots Innovation

In this lecture, Dr Adrian Smith (Research Fellow, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex) looks at different forms of grassroots innovation from around the world and how they can contribute to sustainable development.

Additional reading

Smith, A., Fressoli, M., Abrol, D., Arond, E. and Ely, A. Grassroots Innovation Movements (2016), Routledge/Earthscan (Download an Open Access version of Chapter 1 (pdf))

Smith, A., Fressoli, M. and Thomas, H. (2013) Grassroots innovation movements: challenges and contributions, Journal of Cleaner Production, 63: 114-12

Seyfang, J. and Smith, A. (2007) Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Development: Towards a New Research and Policy Agenda, Environmental Politics 16(4): 584-603

Grassroots innovation: historical and comparative perspectives’, STEPS project webpage

Assessment questions

  1. Discuss the tensions and synergies between ideas of “grassroots innovation” and “inclusive innovation”.
  2. How do grassroots innovation movements interact with mainstream science, technology and innovation institutions and why might this be of interest to development policy and practice?
Last modified: Thursday, 2 February 2017, 2:50 PM