Overcoming wicked problems and institutional voids for social innovation: University-NGO partnerships in the Global South
Overcoming wicked problems and institutional voids for social innovation: University-NGO partnerships in the Global South. Technological Forecasting and Social Change,Volume 173, 2021,121104, ISSN 0040-1625.
Abstract: This paper argues that, while universities have a crucial role to play in social innovation by democratizing knowledge, fulfilling that role in the Global South requires them to partner with civil society actors such as NGOs. With their history of working with the socially disadvantaged, NGOs have a unique role in clarifying the nature of demand since social innovation must often address ill-formulated “wicked problems”. Similarly, NGOs can fill the “institutional voids” which limit socioeconomic transactions in the Global South. The paper discusses the wicked nature of visual-impairment, which is both widely prevalent and has biopsychosocial attributes i.e., the functional limitations are reinforced by the psychological perceptions of the blind and visually impaired (BVI), and the sociological stigma of impairment. The empirical setting is India where policies for the BVI population are being formulated within a broader framework of social inclusion. The paper investigates how the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB) has taken advantage of state policies to embrace an academic mandate which includes social innovation. Specifically, it explores IIITB’s incubation of the NGO Vision Empower, and the partnership that has followed, to overcome the neglect of the BVI in science and mathematics education.