Social Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean

نوآوری اجتماعی در آمریکای لاتین و کارائیب

نوآوری اجتماعی در آمریکای لاتین و کارائیب

In Latin America and the Caribbean, people in societies are working together to come up with new ideas to solve problems such as poverty and inequality. They have achieved significant success in their fields, but there are still challenges that prevent the implementation of these solutions on a wider scale and in different regions. In the following, we will discuss social innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean in detail.

Trying to improve people’s quality of life
Latin America and the Caribbean are areas where people try to solve social problems with creative ideas. These regions face many challenges, because among the regions of the world, they have the highest level of inequality in terms of social differences, and on the other hand, they do not have access to strong social support systems. Associations and sometimes even local governments in these areas have found creative solutions to address issues related to income, health, education, and family issues that have not been fully addressed before, especially for the poor. they take. Even if the main goal of these efforts was not social innovation, the people living in these areas have always tried to improve the quality of life in their society.

Five lessons selected from the experiences of social innovators
Community participation is vital: it is of utmost importance that local communities play a central role in social innovation. Active collaboration with the community is key, even when a static model is being implemented from a similar context. For example, projects such as the “Public Tax Enhancement” in Ecuador and the “Let Agugo” project in Haiti have shown that offering long-term loyalty leads to active participation of the community and strengthening their will.
Crises lead to the creation of social innovation: often important social innovations appear during times of crisis. The response to crises, such as the one in Argentina in the early 2000s, involves active community leaders seeking solutions with the support of local administrations and civil society organizations. For example, the “Storytelling Grandmothers” project in Argentina, aimed at solving the crisis of 2001-2002, through reading books to children, was one of these solutions.
Combining modern and traditional knowledge: When successful designs combine modern and traditional knowledge, remarkable results are achieved. Indigenous knowledge, in particular, is valuable. For example, the “Student Residence with Families” project in Bolivia was inspired by an Aymara tradition called Ottawa and shows how important it is to integrate traditional operations with modern solutions.
External funding is key: Financial support from across borders is critical, as long as providers understand the time required to develop innovation. In the studies conducted in this field, successful results were obtained when investors realized the long development and stabilization cycle, which usually lasts at least five years.
Focus on community practices and existing skills: creating activities that lead to income generation rather than formal employment seems more feasible. Public programs aimed at poverty alleviation should use community practices more than individual businesses, especially in purchasing inputs, technical assistance, and marketing. Also, these measures should be implemented based on existing job capabilities in the target population instead of imposing new jobs.

Transformation and innovation in the politics of Latin American and Caribbean governments
In Latin America and the Caribbean, governments—with the exception of local governments—typically do not create new solutions for society. One of the reasons for this is that innovation means trial and error and may involve failed experiments. Failure in politics may result in political costs and even lead to legal issues. Moreover, the development and implementation of an innovation takes a lot of time, and this time is much longer than an election period during which the government performs its functions. In this way, social transformation and innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a big challenge, a challenge that every change in the government also brings changes in the public policies of the region.

Furthermore, implementing innovations that affect large segments of the population is not an easy task. It is necessary to test them first on a small scale and ensure that they can be expanded. Two examples from Brazil can make this clearer: conditional cash transfers and the “social mother” health program.

Regarding cash transfers, researchers in Brasilia asked: “If families are poor and children do not go to school, why not pay parents to send their children to school?” The idea was tested in several cities in 1995, and in 2001 it became the national Bolsa Escola program and then in 2003 the Bolsa Familia program, reaching 13.6 million households.

The “Social Mother” program started in 1999 in the city of Sobral, Sierra. The local government worked with health experts, academics and community leaders to reduce child and maternal mortality. Factors such as poverty and lack of support were identified as the main causes of this issue. This program, by community women who were trained, successfully achieved a reduction in mortality rates and became a model for the entire state, and was then expanded by the Ministry of Health to the entire northeastern region of Brazil.

Challenges of social innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean
In the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, the implementation of innovative ideas is associated with difficulties. The biggest challenge here is how to apply successful ideas in the field of social innovation on a larger scale and in different regions, nationally or even internationally. Influencing large groups of people and spreading activities to other regions, both within a country and globally, is a big challenge. Many governments do not test new ideas at the local level enough to translate them into national policies. In this area, universities, international organizations and development institutions can be relied upon to assist the process. Sometimes, local communities and groups also try to imitate successful models, but this rarely happens.

Innovation involves trying new ideas, but this is only possible with the acceptance of the risk of failure. Failure in this matter has not only political consequences but can also lead to legal issues. On the other hand, the development and implementation of a new idea usually takes much longer than the period of government.

In short, governments should support communities and local groups to solve social problems in innovative ways. They should encourage people to evaluate and transform innovative ideas into public policy by educational institutions. Thus, if an activity successfully reduces poverty and improves living conditions, the government should try to expand it.

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