Innovation for Change
Innovation for Change (I4C) was established as a response to widespread and worsening trends affecting civil society, including increasing restrictions on civic space and attacks on civil society organizations. I4C is a global network of people and organizations who want to connect, partner and learn together to defend and strengthen civic space and overcome restrictions to our basic freedoms of assembly, association, and speech.
I4C is a demand-driven technical resource lab for six, networked, regional Innovation Hubs across Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia. To support innovation and collaboration within the global network, Counterpart:
- Provided innovation grants to quickly provide funding to kick start ideas emerging from I4C network members.
- Supported the Hubs in learning and experimenting to develop a network-wide innovation pipeline of strategies and activities to strengthen and defend civic space.
- Designed and curated a Global Innovation Helper Hub – innovationforchange.net – that provides the tools and services offered to the entire Hub network.
- Connected an expanding group of private sector entrepreneurs, ICT and digital security experts, private donors and leaders in innovation with I4C members to reinforce community building and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the network.
- Provided advocacy and campaign support for the network, including access to latest methods and technologies.
After an incubation period in 2015-2016, each regional hub began their own initiatives, using a bottom-up approach to co-create and deliver services that benefit others in their region. Hubs launched early versions of services that are designed, led by and intended for civic actors, including:
I4C Africa – known as Hub Afrique – worked to protect, strengthen and expand civic space in Africa by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the continent: good governance, transparency, and accountability. Hub Afrique has launched WE-Protect and WE-Account, which includes a continent-wide influence mapping of organizations working on the Hub’s priority themes. I4C members can access the map through the Innovation Lab on africa.innovationforchange.net to help inform their work. In 2018, Hub Afrique launched a social innovation challenge, which will select three innovative ideas to address transparency, accountability and natural resources management across Africa.
The Central Asia Hub is working to implement innovative ways to combat state-imposed restrictions faced by many civil society groups operating in the region. The Central Asia Hub has hosted several networking and skills-sharing events to increase partnerships between local government officials and civil society organizations, including the 2017 Innovation Lab and Innovation Awards attended by more than 150 activists, civil society organizations, and government officials in the region. Advancing more partnerships with civil society and government is a priority for 2018.
In 2017, the East Asia Hub hosted capacity-building events for their network members in Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Designed to ensure activists had a safe and secure environment – both in-person and virtually – the East Asia Hub hosted four inter-regional community exchanges, an innovation fair and showcase, and four digital security trainings.
LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (LAC)
The I4C LAC Hub community provided ongoing opportunities for civil society leaders, technologists, social entrepreneurs, and academics to co-create solutions to the region’s most complex social, political, and economic problems. The LAC Hub’s sharing economy platform, Comunidas.org, is a notable solution that will expand across the region in 2018 to connect more organizations with each other to advance the effectiveness of the entire social sector in LAC. Plans to scale Comunidas.org to the Middle East and North Africa Hub are currently underway.
In 2017, the LAC Hub hosted an Innovation Lab in Buenos Aires and an event at the 2017 International Civil Society Week. During both events, innovative topics like the sharing economy, bitcoin and blockchain were the center of discussion as activists and entrepreneurs dove into the details of how to use modern innovations to strengthen civil society in the region.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
The MENA hub worked to foster coordination, collaboration and sharing across civil society, focusing on building tools to share expertise, knowledge and resources in the region. MENA hub members are developing and piloting a partnership model between civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs focusing on sustainability, and they will also be working with technologists to develop an open source accountability software.
The South Asia Hub provided an inclusive space to design ideas for creating an enabling environment for civil society to operate in closed spaces where government restrictions impede the ability of civil society organizations to work together and achieve their missions. In response to the increasingly restrictive environment and shrinking funding, the South Asia Hub launched a series of innovative funding trainings to equip civil society organizations with the tools necessary to access untapped financial resources in the region.