Scaling up Innovation-Speech at Scale Talks Tanzania

Article By: Carol Ndosi

K15_9670My name is Carol Moses Ndosi; I am a social and business entrepreneur; founder and CEO of Alta Vista Events, The Nyama Choma Festival brand as well as the chairperson for Mamaendeleo, a not for profit charitable organisation aimed at uplifting the welfare of women particularly around socio-economic activities focused around income generating projects and financial inclusion.

May I begin by thanking all the organisers Civil Society Initiative and The Aga Khan Foundation for this great platform.

I feel privileged and truly honoured to have been asked to deliver a key note speech in what is a pertinent issue not just for our country but indeed our continent and the entire globe. I am sorry, I was not able to attend in person due to work commitment away from my station this week. I have therefore prepared this short video clip which I hope will help shape the discussions and generate a meaningful dialogue that will in turn inform the next steps for all participants.

Ladies and gentleman, we are living in interesting times where the job market is no longer aligned to the qualifications that many young graduates come out with from different Higher education institutions; unemployment is at an all-time high and it IMG_9851is not due to lack of ambition or aspiration; this is true of both sectors; public and private. Many young people holding honors degrees and distinctions from reputable colleges and universities are failing to secure that dream job that is commensurate to their qualifications; Youth Unemployment stands at 15% according to available statistics but the reality may be harsher particularly in the urban areas. It comes as no surprise then that many young people are increasingly turning to innovation to make ends meet; there has been a sharp rise in social innovation and creative industries over the past decade as young people have tried to grapple with unemployment; I can relate to this very well and I am sure some of you can too; TNCF was found from the same premise!

There are around 1 million young people in Tanzania who are linked to the innovation industry; the net contribution to the economy from this is approximated K15_0071at 40% of the GDP. This is remarkable; Given the vast majority of these industries are from humble beginnings with marginal capital investment, the contribution to the economy growth is simply phenomenal. But none of this is without a challenge; whether you perceive innovation as completely new or novel way of working, behaving, organising, delivering or thinking or an incremental adjustment of something that is already in existence, it’s sustainability is dependant on the capacity to scale-up! Irrespective of whether innovation is centred around initiatives, pilots, programmes, systems, frameworks or policies, a successful scale-up will depend on how well the following activities will be implemented; spreading, diffusing, disseminating and adopting. This is precisely where the challenges arise; these are the determinants of a brand longevity; this ladies and gentlemen is what separates a successful brand from a less successful one.

The evidence landscape for scaling-up innovation is immensely diverse, we have also seen a couple of initiatives promoting and supporting innovation in the last 5 K15_0135years in the country. Development agencies, and private initiatives although leaning more towards health solutions, have pioneered a much a larger movement which has led to the discussion at hand. I will take this opportunity to also commend the work of DFID, HDIF, The World Bank Tanzania and some of our local heroes in this field, Sahara Sparks, Buni Hub, Kinu Hub who have been at the forefront in encouraging young people to INNOVATE. We have also seen impressive solutions like Mobile Money, E-commerce, Applications that are aimed at improving and simplifying access to some services, the likes of Twende( local version of Uber- and it has boda bodas too, Hello Food, Kivuko Buy and Sell, Time Tickets..the list goes on.

Innovation and research are inextricably linked; innovation with robust evidence-bases are best. Characteristics and actions that enable successful scaling-up and K15_0148spreading an innovation are many and varied; interestingly, there are no distinct differences between fields as to the most beneficial factors for scaling -up innovations. I would therefore like to focus more on the enablers for scaling -up innovation and hopefully offer some pragmatic solutions, but first I will touch on the 5 main barriers that are imposing on the viability of this ecosystem for innovation;

1. Shortfalls: Resource difficulties — both financial and human — could derail or stall the scaling-up of an innovation. Financially, insufficient funds to last the length of the scaling-up process is the most detrimental. Likewise, too much reliance on a small number of advocates or champions, or on one organisational partner, can lead to organisational fatigue.

2. Design & setting difficulties: Too simple vs too complex an innovation design. One Must strike a balance; too simplistic a model can be a barrier as can over-complexity.

3. Geographic or collaborative isolation can stall the scaling-up process. Geographically, areas less densely populated or remote can prove challenging in building social networks and infrastructure.

4. Silo thinking & behaviour discourages cooperation. Many professional or practice groups can become ‘self-sealing’ to outside individuals, groups, or organisations, which slow or block effective knowledge exchange and learning between partners and collaborators.

5. Reluctance for wider organisational change. Evidence based innovations require some degree of internal changes by the adopting organisation, and a new set of organisational norms and behaviours should be adopted that reflect core principles of the innovation.

In order to counter these barriers, it is important to implement the scale-up enablers; I will put these in 5 broad headings:

1. Preparation and compatibility-this is about clarity in goals and objectives; The process of scaling-up an innovation should begin with all stakeholders understanding the purpose of innovation, as consensus builds confidence.

2. Expectations and Perceptions-Staff support is easier when they view themselves as innovative practitioners. Building a culture that rewards and encourages scaling up innovation is conducive to the scaling process; Perceptions that an innovation is highly useful (relative advantage) and of low risk if adopted facilitate the scaling process.

3. Communication and Interactions-knowledge exchange and sharing platforms; Clarity regarding benefits, operational attributes, and goals is critical. Any proof of effectiveness, means of diffusion, and the rationale for the scale-up should be regularly communicated to all stakeholders. Communicating the innovation as responding to a perceived need increases motivation.

4. Collaborations and Partnerships-boundary crossing for a more comprehensive knowledge; Such collaborations can increase variety, creativity, and knowledge utilisation; engaging social networks in the scaling process is a critical influencing factor for promoting an innovation and the decision to adopt or implement it

5. Location and Infrastructure-Use of existing knowledge, research and data regarding the context, situation, and demographics can help to understand implementing an innovation in a new setting; Inter-regional clustering in terms of policy and practice help to foster diffusion and spread of an innovation. Diversification through alliances with other providers of services and those with an interest in the issues within a region can help an innovation to grow.

6. Leadership& Influence-multi directional and not just top-down; Bridging the gap between top-down and bottom-up spread should be a primary goal for innovation leaders. One way of connecting the tiers is to recruit champions from all levels and encourage their identification with ‘lower order’ groups. Technical assistance and mentoring is best implemented by leaders as an exchange rather than top-down directive.

One straightforward concluding statement regarding the scaling-up of innovations could be that there is no clear, unmistakeable way to go about it; the process needs K15_9897careful thought with due consideration of all elements and configurations particular to each situation. ‘Scaling-up’ is not an uncritical approach to finding an innovation that seems likely to work and transplanting it, nor is it the process of finding what research states and treating it as definitive. Good practices and strategies that facilitated an innovation to be scaled-up in the first place need to be continued in to the long-term. Determining the balance between fidelity and adaptation is difficult but necessary, as too much rigidity can result in incompatibility but too many changes can reduce the innovation’s effectiveness. A careful and informed approach is needed to determine whether an innovation can be adapted, and if so, how much and at what points. Monitoring and evaluation are not used only for pilots or field tests –this process needs to be on-going throughout the scaling-up process.

From my personal experience over the years, Creativity and uniqueness are pivotal to innovation. Barriers and challenges are there to bring the best out of you; it is all in perception-half full or half empty. The challenges can be overwhelming at times but one must never allow them to become insurmountable.

I will leave you with these words that have inspired me and given me the motivation when needed, “Without Commitment, you will never start but more important without consistency you will never finish”-