MMEA Lecture ‘Commodifying Development: The Meaning, Consequences, and Politics of Inclusive Innovation in India’
International development institutions and experts have become increasingly excited about the promise of “inclusive innovation”, focused on the development and distribution of technologies for and by the poor. Inclusive innovation differs from previous efforts to leverage technology for international development in a few ways. It relies on market principles, in the hopes that insights from the private sector can be useful for humanitarian ends. It tends to focus on little development devices rather than large infrastructure projects, and the interventions are often lower tech. Proponents also argue that because the interventions are driven by the grassroots, they are more democratic and have enormous potential to catalyze economic, social, and political change. But is inclusive innovation really such a break from past eras of development? What does inclusion really mean? What kinds of problems and solutions become the focus, how are they designed, and what are the consequences? Where do market ideologies fit in? What does this innovation really mean for equity, justice, empowerment, and democracy? This talk explores these questions by focusing on the case of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) innovation in India. In recent years, affordable, sanitary pads have emerged as an ideal inclusive innovation to solve the menstrual health and hygiene challenges faced by girls and women, which are said to affect health and educational outcomes. Prof. Parthasarathy will discuss how menstruation became a development problem for which sanitary pads were the ideal inclusive solution, and the implications for equity and empowerment for Indian girls and women.