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Abstract

Grassroots innovation is defined as innovative product or process created at the bottom of the pyramid, usually due to necessity, hardship and challenges. This article seek to understand and examine how grassroots innovation creates productive employment. This article briefly explain the role of Yayasan Inovasi Ma-laysia, a government agency setup to nurture and support scientific innovation, in discovering innovative process and product at grassroots' level.
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Current Opinion in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Volume 1, Issue 2, November 2012
Grassroots Innovation from the Bottom of the Pyramid
Mohd Faiz Hilmi
Universiti Sains, Malaysia
Abstract
Grassroots innovation is defined as innovative product or process created at the bottom of the pyramid,
usually due to necessity, hardship and challenges. This article seek to understand and examine how grass-
roots innovation creates productive employment. This article briefly explain the role of Yayasan Inovasi Ma-
laysia, a government agency setup to nurture and support scientific innovation, in discovering innovative
process and product at grassroots’ level.
Key Words: Innovation; grassroots innovation; productive employment
Creating jobs for the population is not an easy task. Foreign investments created abundance jobs during eco-
nomic boom. During period of economic turbulence and uncertainty, however, existing jobs are being elimi-
nated and lack of foreign investment has reduced the creation of new jobs. Malaysian graduating with their
bachelor's degree can't get a job. Employment of Malaysian is becoming more serious as high unemploy-
ment will impact the safety and stability of the country. Malaysia realized that sustainable organic/internal
growth from within the country is more important compare to foreign investments. Therefore, Malaysian
government started several initiatives geared towards inculcating entrepreneurial behavior among Malay-
sians. Malaysian are now encourage to (1) be an entrepreneur as oppose to working as an employee and (2)
become an innovator as oppose to just a user of innovation/innovative product or services. In countries
where innovation occurred, there will be an impact on income levels and poverty reduction (Ahmed & Al-
Roubaie, 2012). Ahmed and Al-Roubaie further explain that “innovation empowers the economy by increas-
ing productivity, enhancing technological learning and creating knowledge” (2012, p. 85).
The purpose of this article is to briefly explain the role of grassroots innovation in generating produc-
tive employment, especially for people living at the bottom of the pyramid. Furthermore, this article analyze
how rural Innovation Walk program contribute to productive employment and the commercialization of
grassroots innovations.
Productive Employment and Innovation
Employment rate is an important macroeconomic indicator. It is estimated that for 2012 that 65.2% of total
number in the Malaysian working age population of 15 to 64 years are economically active (Economic Plan-
ning Unit, 2012). On the opposite spectrum, unemployment rate for 2012 in Malaysia is estimated at 3.2%
of the labor force (Economic Planning Unit, 2012).
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Productive employment contributes to the development of a nation. Malaysia plan to become a high income
developed nation through several initiatives such as lifelong learning and innovation. Under the lifelong
learning initiative, Malaysian are encourage to sign up for education program regardless of their age, con-
tinuously upgrade and improve their skills and knowledge. With such improvement in skills and knowledge,
they are able to perform better and therefore eligible for higher salary. As for innovation initiative, Malaysia
innovation agenda consists of several well funded programs. In addition, two government agencies has been
setup to spearhead innovation activities. First, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM, Malaysian Innovation Agency)
was setup to develop the innovation eco-system in Malaysia. Second, Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM, Malay-
sian Innovation Foundation) was launched on 20th October 2008 with the following objectives ("Yayasan Ino-
vasi Malaysia (Malaysian Foundation for Innovation)," 2012):
To develop and promote creative skills in the field of science and technology in academia, industry
and society.
To nurture and support scientific innovation at grassroots’ level particularly among the youths,
women and non-governmental organizations.
To conduct educational and awareness programmes to enhance appreciation of science and technol-
ogy at school and grassroots’ level.
Main activity of YIM is Innovation Walk organize to scout for innovator from all strata of Malaysian
society. In addition to Innovation Walk, YIM also organize Grassroots Innovation Workshop and maintain
the National Grassroots Innovation Databank. National Grassroots Innovation Databank was setup "...to
recognize, encourage and to celebrate innovation at the grassroots level." ("National Grassroot Innovation
Databank," 2012).
The first Innovation Walk was organized in Melaka from 15th of July 2011 to 17th of July 2011
("Innovation Walk," 2012). Since then, more than ten similar events have been organized throughout Malay-
sia. Innovative products discovered during these event are documented and highlighted as part of the Na-
tional Grassroots Innovation Databank project ("National Grassroot Innovation Databank," 2012). Innova-
tive products listed in the databank serve the purpose of recognizing, encouraging and celebrating innova-
tion at the grassroots level ("National Grassroot Innovation Databank," 2012). Furthermore, the database
facilitates linkages and networks with investors, promote awareness and possible application of innovative
products.
What is Grassroots Innovation?
Human responding hardship and difficulty in life can easily become accidental innovators. Grassroots
innovation focuses on individuals as agent for innovation (Bhaduri & Kumar, 2009). Grassroots innovations
are innovative product or process created at the bottom of the pyramid, usually due to necessity, hardship
and challenges. Bhaduri and Kumar defined grassroots innovators as "...individual innovators, who often
undertake innovative efforts to solve localised problems, and generally work outside the realm of formal
organisations like business firms..." (2010, p. 29). Mass poor from the grassroots level implements millions
of solutions in facing their hardship (Gunu, 2010). In Malaysia, grassroots innovation is one of the high im-
pact programs intended to empower the bottom 40 per cent of the income pyramid (Hashim, 2012). Malay-
sian's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) initiated the Innovation Walk program to
scout for grassroots innovation ("Innovation Walk," 2012). The Innovation Walk program is manage by the
Malaysian Innovation Foundation and follow the framework and structure of similar programs established
by Professor Anil Gupta who is an expert on grassroots innovation ("Grassroots Innovation Augmentation
Network," 2012).
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Innovation at the Bottom of the Pyramid
Many researches look at BOP as consumer. This article takes the opposite perspective by looking at
BOP as the supplier of ideas for products, processes and services. Since innovation entails the development
of new methods more appropriate to local conditions (Ahmed & Al-Roubaie, 2012), it would be better for
MNCs to commercialize local ideas for local consumption/market. Furthermore, innovation from the BOP
can provide sustainable means of living to the innovators. For example, six out of the 17 innovations that
were discovered during Innovation Walk in Melaka have been marked as having high commercialization
potential ("Innovation Walk," 2012). Innovation is not confined to large companies and research laborato-
ries but is possible anywhere.
Conclusion
Innovations initiatives require time to materialize. Since the initiative of YIM can still be considered
as new, it is not appropriate to evaluate the outcomes of such program. In sum, this article contributes to
existing discussions of productive employment and grassroots innovation. This article have argued that
grassroots innovation can create opportunity for productive employment.
References
Ahmed, A., & Al-Roubaie, A. (2012). Building a knowledge-based economy in the Muslim world: The criti-
cal role of innovation and technological learning. World Journal of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development,
9(2), 76-98. doi: 10.1108/20425941211244243
Bhaduri, S., & Kumar, H. (2009). Tracing the motivation to innovate: A study of grassroot innovators in
India. Papers on economics and evolution, No. 0912.
Bhaduri, S., & Kumar, H. (2010). Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to innovate: tracing the motivation of
‘grassroot’ innovators in India. Mind & Society, 10(1), 27-55. doi: 10.1007/s11299-010-0081-2
Economic Planning Unit. (2012). The Malaysian Economy in Figures 2012: Prime Minister’s Department.
- Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network. (2012) Retrieved 29 October 2012, from http://
www.gian.org/
Gunu, U. (2010). Entrepreneurship Development in Micro Enterprises as a Medium for Poverty Reduction
in Kwara State, Nigeria. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(6), 235-252.
Hashim, H. (2012, 3 September 2012). Inclusive entrepreneurship for the rakyat, New Straits Times.
- Innovation Walk. (2012) Retrieved 6 October 2012, from http://www.yim.my/jejakinovasi/
-National Grassroot Innovation Databank. (2012) Retrieved 6 October 2012, from http://www.yim.my/
databank/
-Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (Malaysian Foundation for Innovation). (2012) Retrieved 7 October 2012, from
http://www.yim.my/
... Most of these are considered "innovations" and are commonly referred to as grass-roots, frugal and/or green innovations. Each type of innovation has been defined separately, see for example Radjou & Prabhu, 2013;Pansera, 2013;Hilmi, 2012 andDíaz-García et al., 2015, but commonly such innovations are interrelated and interlinked as they are born and provided at the grass root level, mostly intended for the grass root level, are based on frugal use of resources and as per their frugality also have green connotations, as per the savings in the usage of natural resources, for example. ...
... Grass root innovations are innovative skills, activities, processes, systems and products found in the BOP commonly deriving from challenges, hardship and necessities (Hilmi, 2012). The innovations derive from the distinctive nature of BOP markets, that are characterized by acute social-economic, institutional and financial resource constraints and are born out of local knowledge of specific community needs and a commitment to the local community (Sarkar, 2018). ...
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The green food value chain development approach was designed to allow for adaptability, flexibility and morphing in the most diverse local circumstances and contexts that are found globally. As such, the approach considers and attempts to learn from the over four billion people, who live and work in the bottom of the economic pyramid: a bottom-up perspective to developing green food value chains. Consequently, in the approach, and as prescribed in this article, a large emphasis is placed on the importance of learning from green innovations that can be commonly found in bottom of the pyramid (BOP) contexts in terms of the (informal) food sector. The approach considers that innovations in the BOP are not just about technologies, but are also related to activities, processes, systems, knowledge, know-how and behavior. The article's main aims are to emphasize learning from the BOP to develop green food value chains and what methods can be used to learn from the BOP. The article covers the context and characteristics of the BOP: poverty, the natural environment, the informal food sector and consumer characteristics. It then looks at BOP innovations, how the BOP can be researched in seeking for insights on green innovations and how such learning can be of critical importance to developing green food value chains. Overall such learning is based on field realities and hence can enable a far more realistic picture of what needs to be done and more importantly what can be done to develop green food value chains.
... Following are the definitions that have tried to capture the concept of Grassroots Innovation and helped us in understanding and further conceptualization. Hilmi (2012) considers grassroots innovation as an "innovative product or process created at the bottom of the pyramid, compelled by necessity, hardship, and challenges". Bhaduri and Kumar (2011) outline grassroots innovators as 'individual innovators, who often undertake innovative efforts to solve local problems, and generally work outside the realm of formal organizations. ...
... Empirical evidence suggests that there is a good number of qualities of innovation is emerging across the region; in India (Gupta et al., 2003;Siyanbola et al., 2012, andGupta, 2013), Malaysia (Hilmi, 2012), South Africa (Letty et al., 2012), China, Latin America, USA, UK, and so on. Majority of the innovation at grassroots takes place independently in the informal sector, involves local people driven by factors such as poverty and adversity. ...
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Purpose Disadvantaged regions in India suffer from various forms of problems aggravated by constraints of accessibility. This paper aims to conceptualize innovations as solutions to the problem at grassroots. Design/methodology/approach This paper tries to bridge empirical gaps in conceptualization of innovations at grassroots with the application of both empirical and theoretical methods. Findings Grassroots innovation is an important instrument to solve such problems in these regions, where appropriate solution is not developed by the government instrument or private agencies (market) in general with various forms of value creation. Originality/value This paper tries to bridge empirical gaps in conceptualization of innovations at grassroots.
... Rather, the current innovation at grassroots discourse continues to be predominantly based on context, locality and sector (Smith et al., 2014). We also know that there is empirical evidence in support of innovation at grassroots level, with examples from countries such as India (Gupta et al., 2003;Gupta, 2013), Malaysia (Hilmi, 2012), Nigeria (Siyanbola et al., 2012), South Africa (Letty et al., 2012), China, Latin America, USA, UK and so on. Furthermore, we know that innovation in DCs and innovation at grassroots occurs predominantly in the informal sector, (Kaplinsky, 2011b;Iizuka and SadreGhazi, 2011). ...
... The grassroots innovation brings forward the reference toward "innovative products or process created at the bottom of the pyramid, usually due to necessity, hardship, and challenges" (Hilmi, 2012). The important gist to grassroots innovation is to enable community members the use of various techniques to produce products and services which comes from the mix between the modern science and technology, design, and risk capital (Gupta, 2013). ...
... On the other hand, Innovations below the radar, from Development Studies, places the debate in terms of innovations for low-income consumers at the bottom of the pyramid produced by emerging markets or particulars in developing countries such as China or India (Kaplinsky et al. 2009;Kaplinsky 2011). Grassroots innovations, conceived by Indian activists first and then followed by Latin American social scientists, aims to empower communities and individuals to transform their ideas into useful products and services by blending science, technology, design, and risk capital (Gupta 2013;Hilmi 2012;Cozzens and Sutz 2012). Frugal innovation, moreover, was conceptualized by business research authors for the Indian case and describes the idea of doing more with less "by leveraging limited resources or lacklustre institutions, and to achieve ends that serve more people who have less" (Bhatti and Ventresca 2013, 16;Bhatti, Khilji, and Basu 2013;Hossain, Simula, and Halme 2016). ...
... The technology developed by Joglo Tani was appropriate, it was easily replicated, based on inexpensive materials (even from waste such as plastic bottles), simple, and always adaptive to users' needs. This technology is in harmony with the social concept of grassroots innovation or later known as social technology (Hilmi, 2012),which is often equated to the concept of frugal innovation (Meagher, 2018). He tried to find various simple innovations for the development of integrated agriculture. ...
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This article is based on a case study in Joglo Tani, a local organization that focuses its programs on promoting new agricultural technology and urban farming while promoting food security for local people. It represents what characterizes the grassroots movement while destroying negative opinion about grassroots innovation. The success of Joglo Tani is influenced by the quality of leadership as social entrepreneurs as well as the quality of the network of activists and an organization that produce new, bottom-up solutions, and the ability of the solutions they produce to address local situations, concerning individual and social problems. The organizing of Joglo Tani innovations in the local realm has brought about a process of social transformation in rural areas, particularly in resource management and the system for organizing agricultural work. Through a voluntary movement, informal networks, and the ability to manage the potential of the environment, leadership is able to carry out the transformation process on an increasingly massive scale. This study proves that leadership in a bottom-up movement of ‘activist and organizational networks’ has succeeded in responding to the challenges of food supply limitations, moving towards sustainable food through instilling fundamental values of organizational life and technological breakthroughs as well as local institutions. Methodologically, the research was conducted through a comprehensive literature study stage related to grassroots innovation movements, while primary data collection was carried out through participatory observation, in-depth interviews, social and conventional media analysis, and interviews with community figures.
... Grassroots innovation is closely associated with the lower-end product's improvement or creation; or Hilmi (2012) defined it as innovative product or process created at the bottom of the pyramid impetus by the surrounding environment. Hence, YIM has been entrusted by the government to champion for grassroots innovation agenda in Malaysia. ...
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... Consistent with prior studies by Torri, the community of sellers comes from a low socioeconomic stratum with a low level of education. Inspiried by (Hilmi, 2012), the creativity of making jamu was created by people living at the bottom of the pyramid. Therefore, the commercial activities of jamu peddlers are categorized as the grassroots enterprises. ...
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Extrinsic motivations like intellectual property protections and fiscal incentives continue to occupy the centre stage in debates on innovation policies. Joseph Schumpeter had, however, argued that the motive to accumulate private property can only explain part of innovative activities. In his view, the joy of creating, of getting things done associated with the behavioural traits that seek out difficultiesand takes delight in ventures stand out as the most independent factor of behaviour in explaining the process of economic development, especially in early capitalist societies. Taking the case of 'grassroot' innovators in India, we re-examine the motivations behind innovative behaviour. We draw upon the literature on effectance motivation theory to construct operational indicators of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Interestingly, we find that pure extrinsic forms of motivation drive only a fraction of individual innovative behaviour. Also, importance of intrinsic motivation in guiding innovative behaviour is found to high when uncertainty is high. We accordingly draw a few policy implications.
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Extrinsic motivations like intellectual property protections and fiscal incentives continue to occupy the centre stage in debates on innovation policies. Joseph Schumpeter had, however, argued that the motive to accumulate private property can only explain part of innovative activities. In his view, “the joy of creating, of getting things done” associated with the behavioural traits that “seek out difficulties…and takes delight in ventures” stand out as the most independent factor of behaviour in explaining innovation and economic development, especially in early capitalist societies. Taking the case of ‘grassroot’ innovators in India, we re-examine the motivations behind innovative behaviour. Drawing upon the theory of effectance motivation we construct operational indicators of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations to innovate. Interestingly, we find that pure extrinsic forms of motivation drive only a fraction of individual innovative behaviour. A large amount of innovative behaviour is motivated either by intrinsic motivations or by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Also, conceptualising innovation as a three stage process involving idea generation, experimentation and application, we find evidence of motivation-shifts. The importance of intrinsic motivation is comparatively greater during the early stage, when uncertainty about innovation is high. The importance of extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, increases when innovation is complete, awaiting application. We then outline a few implications of these findings for policy making. KeywordsIntrinsic motivation–Extrinsic motivation–Motivation indicators–Individual innovators–Grassroot innovation–India
Building a knowledge-based economy in the Muslim world: The critical role of innovation and technological learning
  • A Ahmed
  • A Al-Roubaie
Ahmed, A., & Al-Roubaie, A. (2012). Building a knowledge-based economy in the Muslim world: The critical role of innovation and technological learning. World Journal of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, 9(2), 76-98. doi: 10.1108/20425941211244243
The Malaysian Economy in Figures 2012: Prime Minister's Department. -Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network. (2012) Retrieved 29
Economic Planning Unit. (2012). The Malaysian Economy in Figures 2012: Prime Minister's Department. -Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network. (2012) Retrieved 29 October 2012, from http:// www.gian.org/
Entrepreneurship Development in Micro Enterprises as a Medium for Poverty Reduction in Kwara State
  • U Gunu
Gunu, U. (2010). Entrepreneurship Development in Micro Enterprises as a Medium for Poverty Reduction in Kwara State, Nigeria. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(6), 235-252.
Inclusive entrepreneurship for the rakyat
  • H Hashim
Hashim, H. (2012, 3 September 2012). Inclusive entrepreneurship for the rakyat, New Straits Times. -Innovation Walk. (2012) Retrieved 6 October 2012, from http://www.yim.my/jejakinovasi/ -National Grassroot Innovation Databank. (2012) Retrieved 6 October 2012, from http://www.yim.my/ databank/ -Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (Malaysian Foundation for Innovation). (2012) Retrieved 7 October 2012, from http://www.yim.my/