Inclusive Innovation

Innovations that doesn’t leave anyone behind

Society, since its inception, has always had to deal with imbalances and contrasts – between the economically empowered and the impoverished, the historically entitled and the forsaken, the educated and the illiterate, able-bodied, and the people with variants of disabilities. All of these examples stand to represent a form of linear, two-fold scenario. It’s either you’re white or you’re black, tall or short. In the world, we live in today, where economic systems, political affiliations, partisan academia, and contrarian theorists have all dispersed their ideologies, standards, and expectations unto society, and then society in return is taking new forms of identity, has resulted in increasing difficulty in solving seemingly simple challenges holistically. 

Here is a case in point: A dam located at the bottom of a valley surrounded by 3 local tribes has been endorsed by the government to be raised 30m high in order to provide adequate water distribution to a nearby town which has been underserved for the past years. While it seems like a welcomed innovation, the resultant effects include;

  1. The first tribe, who are historically known to be herdsmen, will no longer be able to access grazing land for their cattle;
  2. Another tribe whose major source of livelihood is the planting and selling of seasonal crops will also be grossly affected as their plants will be flooded all season long.
  3. As for the last tribe, the building of a reservoir around the dams vicinity will require that the burial mound of their ancestors which remains sacred to them, be demolished or perhaps moved elsewhere.

 However, the basic understanding of inclusivity is, ensuring that all affected parties regardless of bargaining strength, social status, ethnicity, and gender, aren’t excluded from developments, initiatives, and programs that stand to effect a social change within their areas of concern.  

In order to achieve a sustainable social change, one that caters for all affected parties as well as makes provisions for environmental custody such as climate change, biodiversity, pollution prevention, and resource management, various organizations like social enterprises, NGOs, For-profit ventures, government parastatals ought to consider the following: 

  1. Coming to terms with the fact that society has indeed embraced new forms of identity. The 21st century is espousing psychographic models while putting demographic constructs to rest. Some of which include: A sense of belonging, inspiration, purpose, entertainment, recognition. Others include gender identity and sexual orientation (LGBTQ+), unique classification of age ranges (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, Alpha). And with the understanding of all of these nuances, create proper channels to encourage diversity.
  2. Organizations should consider executing comprehensive risk-impact assessments – Looking at the risk of investing as well as the risk of not investing, who benefits from the initiatives? does it actually flow down to the local level to impact the audiences it was intended for? does it benefit women and men equitably?, who benefits and who is disadvantaged by the initiatives and programs?
  3. For-profit organizations need to understand that it is not really the case of “not doing any harm”, but rather asking the sincere question – “Are we doing any good?”
  4. Inclusivity is a natural system of its own that when deliberately woven into the fabrics of society, will stand the test of time as well as a hedge against structural uncertainties. It can also serve as an economic engine for organizations to improve their financial performance and encourage innovations.  

According to a report by PwC, 76% of businesses stated that diversity is a stated value or priority area for their organizations. Incidentally, only 5% of organizations are succeeding in key dimensions of successful Diversity & Inclusion programming. Also, 79% of leadership engagement on D&I remains at the basic or emerging levels. We also find that only 26% of organizations have D&I goals for leaders and only 17% have a C-Suite level diversity role in place while nearly 30% still have no D&I leader. As far as employees go, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. 

Higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders: A look at the Fortune 1000 list of companies shows how important female CEOs are for a company’s success: while only 5% of companies are run by women, those organizations contribute 7% of the total revenue of the Fortune 1000 list. Those companies also outperform the S&P 500 index- in short, women in leadership are good for business. 

Diversity and Inclusivity arent a KPI that ought to be regularly tracked and measured by C-suites. Rather, it should be an intricate part of a business model that requires deliberate efforts ‘by everyone’ to be supported and realized. The good part is regardless of your current stage in business, location, or sector, you can make that paradigm shift today and become an organization that everyone else emulates. You will do this because you are empathetic enough to fully understand that it could’ve been you at the other side of marginalization and you believe in shared prosperity and sustainability through integrated human capacity development.  


About the Author

Benjamin Udokwu- Climatr

Benjamin Udokwu is an avid reader and researcher. He has keen interests in Systems practice that bothers on inclusivity and stakeholder engagements, he is also passionate about Circular economy, Lean strategy, Market-creating innovations. He is a Managing Partner at Climatr where he has amassed practical skills in systems engineering, business development, strategy and operations, corporate sustainability, and design thinking. He is stubbornly curious as against sticking to dogmatic patterns. He is here to build with you.

Fav quote: “Knowledge is knowing the right answer, Wisdom is asking the right questions”.

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