Navigating change in international development using innovation: the case of national NGO platforms in Brazil and the Netherlands

Ana Santos de Almeida Silva, Kees Biekart, Luís Mah

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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In the 21st century, innovation has become a key topic in international development cooperation and an agenda for western donors, United Nations (UN) agencies, private foundations, and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Yet, academic research on innovation in development cooperation is still scarce.
Using a civic innovation framework and qualitative research methods, this paper contributes to the debate by analysing the innovation trajectories of two national platforms of development NGOs: Partos, based in the Netherlands, and Abong, based in Brazil. It argues that, for these two organisations, innovation is primarily a reaction to challenges, crises, and opportunities, not an agenda. The analysis shows similarities, namely the central role of collaboration and cocreation, enabled by the digital revolution. However, the results also unveil important differences, concerning views on power and politics in innovation discourses, as well as the role of Covid-19 as a catalyst for innovation. Differences in innovation trajectories thus reflect distinct political positionings and different views on what development is and should be, even in actors with similar structures and scopes.
This research indicates that politics and power (often overlooked in innovation research) are important aspects of innovation understood as a means to achieve (positive) social change. It also sheds light on the different views of power, politics, and development in northern and southern development organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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SeriesISS working papers. General series

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  • ISS-CI


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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