Scripting the development story through the Open Innovation Platform

Social Alpha’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP) brings various stakeholders under a digital umbrella to collaborate and co-create solutions to India’s most pressing problems.
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The need for such an intervention was detailed in our previous article

Since its launch in April 2021, Open Innovation Platform (OIP) has onboarded more than 140 problem statements, 50+ solutions, and 200+ collaborators. Social Alpha has accelerated the adoption of OIP in the agri sector through its partnership with CISCO India CSR. They have jointly launched the Agri Open Innovation platform as part of the Krishi Mangal Program, bringing in multiple stakeholders across the value chain.

OIP is a democratic way of solving problems, mindful of India’s rich diversity and plurality of cultures. Through OIP, stakeholders not only discovered problem statements and solutions that resonate with their geography but also ensured the adaptation of these solutions. In one unique case, it brought together users from Assam and Tamil Nadu for a common cause.

Platform-based approach is the way forward

Our development sector is hobbled by multiple challenges. These range from inefficiencies in identifying problem statements and re-deploying resources to a lack of a coordinated approach to address target problems.

OIP addresses these systemic gaps through transparency and a trust-driven approach where stakeholders on the platform onboard information that can be viewed and utilised across the platform. Its crowdsourced model of curation enables people to create value for themselves and for their communities.

Gains from OIP

The platform is designed keeping in mind the needs of the various stakeholders across the entire lifecycle of the problem – from the origin of the problem statement to the successful deployment of the solution on the ground.

The ‘Problem Owner’ is the central character on the platform who onboards the problem statement and looks for potential solutions. The other important roles are those of innovators who could help devise solutions, and supporters (researchers, corporate CSR, government, to name a few) who could aid in building an ecosystem to create solutions.

Innovators on the platform get access to the problem statement from the actual problem owners and gain significantly from expert validations for the solution and pilot test beds for prototypes. They can also seek fiscal resources from stakeholders and avail of an ecosystem of services that includes support in product development, design manufacturing, product validations, compliance, and legal matters. The market could find OIP attractive since the latter is also a directory of solutions, ready to be deployed on the ground.

For researchers in an academic environment, the platform offers access to problem statements from the ground which, in a normal setting, is difficult to come by. One could get a first-hand look into solutioning approaches and get an opportunity to work closely with entrepreneurs and innovators to help build solutions. And, finally, the researcher could get access to test beds/ pilots to validate her findings and research.

Corporates engaged in CSR activities are an important cog in the wheel of stakeholders, deriving significant advantages from the platform. The OIP can provide access to validated problem statements giving them insights into what could be their potential focus areas. It can link them up with startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs on the ground solving these challenges. Companies can then make informed decisions of supporting the right innovations to address their business and impact goals. They also get access to pilots, implementations, execution geographies, and entities.

Governments can be vital stakeholders on the platform, getting access to problems, solutions, innovators, and entrepreneurs. OIP helps them to identify priority areas, which, in turn, leads to efficient and effective policymaking.

Innovators, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders would need significant ecosystem enablement on the platform. Incubators, Venture Funds, and service providers like shared services etc add significant value in developing this ecosystem of offerings. These stakeholders also get access to a steady pipeline of innovators/startups/entities who could be potential incubatees, investees or customers.

Platform features

OIP has built a comprehensive suite of features and workflows that helps each stakeholder derive maximum benefit. The features include a form-based approach for collecting information on problem statements and solutions, inbuilt intelligence to match new problems and solutions with existing problems and solutions, workflows for problem-solution enrichments, validation and collaborations, search and filter functions, a dashboard for users, profile administration, in-platform communication and notifications, discussion forums etc. OIP reduces manual work and creates opportunities to accelerate problem-identification and solution building.

Such collaborations are imperative for India’s agriculture sector which is dominated by smallholder farmers in need of innovative solutions to augment their agri produce and income from farms. India’s road to economic prosperity requires equitable development through an entrepreneurship-driven model. OIP is trying to achieve that, helping create impact at scale and speed. The time is ripe for rapid adoption of this approach.

You can access the platform at agri.openinnovationplatform.org

The author is Director, Social Alpha, and leads the OIP initiative.

 

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