Social Innovation or Natural Coevolution?

** The article was originally published in Vol. 1 of FIELDS An Interdisciplinary Design Journal. Please cite as follows: (A. Iouguina, 2013). Social Innovation or Natural Coevolution? FIELDS – An Interdisciplinary Design Journal. Carleton University: Ottawa, ON.

Social innovation or Natural coevolution?

Biological inspiration is transforming many of the ways we think about innovation. Its commercial and theoretical applications are already influencing various industries and academic institutions. Fermanian Business and Economic Institute of Point Loma Nazarene University has devised The Da Vinci Index, which measures research and industrial activities inspired by solutions found in nature. The Index is compiled based on the number of patents issued, scholarly articles published, the number of grants issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) in USA, and the value of those grants for any given period. The reading of 1052 in the third quarter of 2012 relative to the 100 Index level of 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past 12 years (Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, 2012).

Index of 1,052 in **third quarter of 2012 relative to 100 index level of the *fourth quarter 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past twelve years.

Index of 1,052 in **third quarter of 2012 relative to 100 index level of the *fourth quarter 2000 indicates more than a tenfold expansion in the activity in the past twelve years.

Social innovation implies a paradigm change

Innovation is essential for society, because it is the principal mechanism by which societies create and sustain competitive advantage. According to various sources, social innovation implies a paradigm change, or, in other words, it challenges an assembly of beliefs – possessed by an individual, a group or a civilization – that defend as certain and makes them set against the acceptance of other possibilities.

“Social innovations are changes in the cultural, normative or regulative structures [or classes] of the society which enhance its collective power resources and improve its economic and social performance” (Heiscala, 2007). For Heiscala, ‘Social innovation’ means ‘change in at least one of the following three social structures: cultural, normative and regulative.

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Open your mind to a world of complex challenges

Did I mention there is a Canadian Science Policy Conference happening in Ottawa right now? Did you know, hardly any designers ever attend such conferences? Opening night – and I happened on one lone industrial designer from Montreal. When I mentioned my affiliation with the trade, he just stared at me in admiration and I could almost see his eyeballs transform into heart shapes, like in cartoons.

Events like these are a perfect opportunity to connect science and technology into one big pile of innovation strategies. Where else would a designer find an access to information on not only the key challenges and opportunities, but also explore the role of science, technology and innovation that can help address them?

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Balanza Verde: Decentralized approach to waste management system of Lota

Students of Escuela Adventista walking through piles of garbage on one of the main streets of Lota. Children – the future of Lota – are concerned with the amount of waste on the streets of their city. Photo by: Isaías Irán Barra Barra

Centralized waste management system for decentralized city

Solid waste collection and disposal in Chile are the responsibility of municipal governments. Cities must meet certain national norms or standards set by the National Health Service, an autonomous administrative unit of the Ministry of Health responsible for administering and enforcing the national public health requirements. Since 1980, municipalities have been allowed to contract out the collection, transportation, and disposal of solid wastes to private enterprises.

HIMCE waste management truck – centralized system. Photo: http://www.himce.cl

Lota was able to secure a contract with Empresa HIMCE in 2008 for the removal of solid waste and its transportation to Coronel landfill 12.5 km from Lota. The contract between the municipality and the enterprise specified frequency and extent of coverage and types of waste to be collected (i.e., residential street waste, street cleaning, industrial services). These oversized trucks come into the city, collect unsorted garbage on streets that are paved and accessible, and leave to dispose of garbage in a landfill. This system breeds improper waste disposal by the citizens of Lota and the company; lack of community engagement in the cleanup process; and aggravation of the problem after the February earthquake, when even more people had to move into temporary housing.

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Lota Verde: Biomimicry approach to cultural findings

Where there is a challenge, there is always an opportunity.

Since the downturn of Lota’s economy that began in 1997 with the closure of its coal mines, Lota has become one of the poorest cities in Chile. To top off the already shaky situation, Lota has been hit by a massive earthquake – magnitude 8.8 – in February, 2010. Disaster came as a wake-up call to the municipal government that has begun to devise a plan for the refocusing of Lota’s economy from a mining town with an unclear future to a culture and heritage rich community with great vision.

Lota is a city with an abundance of natural resources and closely knit communities. What a great soil for economic growth! It is only a matter of bringing out these treasures of Lota and presenting the local stakeholders with the tools that can help facilitate the economic development in the area.

Lota is a city with abundance of closely knit communities

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