Challenging the day-to-day life of public officials in Latin America, on September 30, the Latin American and Caribbean Hub for Transformative Innovation Policy (HUBLAyCTIP) launched a call for public policy initiatives seeking to use the Transformative Innovation framework (IT). The goal was to guide initiatives’ actions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The challenge was twofold, that the assistants had available 3 half days to participate in theoretical-practical sessions, and that they were willing to use IT concepts to reflect on and reconsider the proposed initiatives. The invitation was to rethink the assumptions and ways of understanding policy interventions. 8 initiatives were selected, and 7 accepted the challenge and participated in the workshop sessions between October 12 and 14, with 25 participants in total.
The aspirations and policy narratives postulated and worked on during the workshop account for a new STI agenda in Latin America framed by the SDGs. The initiatives address issues of productive development and agriculture, environmental pollution, tropical dry forest biodiversity conservation, protection and inclusion of ancestral knowledge, as well as organizational changes to enhance the impact of community-based and grassroots STI support programs around water use and energy access. This diverse portfolio showed some principles of TIP. However, aspects like systemic vision, directionality, and bottom-up policy conception were less evident among the initiatives. These aspects were widely discussed during the sessions as they are TIP principles.
Tools to Support the Formulation and Implementation of TIP
The workshop was designed to facilitate dialogue and reflection by public policy actors through practical exercises based on TIP methodology and conceptual framework. The three days began with an introductory seminar on the main concepts to be used during the practical exercise where each team worked around their initiative with the support of one or two facilitators. To this end, HUBLAyCTIP designed interactive tools around the main concepts of TIP that guided group work and collective reflection in plenary sessions.
As an introduction to TIP, Session I addressed the principles of transformative innovation. Participants reviewed which of these principles were present in their initiatives using the radar diagram in Figure 1. Each initiative evaluated the presence of directionality, systemic change, spaces for learning and reflection, social challenge, inclusivity, change of networks and conflict vs. consensus. Given that several initiatives were in the design phase, the scores reflected the desire of officials to implement inclusive actions that foster learning and embrace consensus and conflict. The narratives and practices revealed some contradictions though. According to the facilitators, understanding the importance of directionality in STI policy and facilitating deep learning was challenging for participants. For example, consider other forms of agriculture (agroecology or regenerative agriculture), and not only scale agriculture as the main alternative for regional agricultural development was one of the directionality cases addressed. As well as the use of scientific knowledge at the expense of the ancestral in the approach of public health problems. This is the type of discussion that the TIP fosters in addressing the SDGs.
Some of the impressions of the participants were:
“We are taking away a much deeper look at politics”.
(Participant of the Regional Autonomous Corporation CAR Cundinamarca);
“[This vision] forces us to reconfigure the city approach”.
(Participant Cali City Hall);
“The vision of the logical framework limits the vision of Transformative Outcomes […] […] Rigidity is an important limitation for transformation. The introduction of learning is important, and we had not incorporated it”.
(Minister of Science Participant).
The plenary discussions and conclusions of the participants indicate the need to rethink the linear formulation of the Science, Technology and Innovation policy defined as,
diagnosis and design, formulation, implementation and evaluation, to allocate experimentation and evaluation as essential processes that facilitate the definition of interventions and the continuous participation of different actors conducive to change.
To this end, transformative outcomes provide a guide for policy intervention and experimentation, with a more holistic perspective for policy design than the offered by market failures which are used extensively as the core of public policies design and implementation. This is part of HUBLAyCTIP’s work agenda for next year, perhaps in collaboration with some of the participants of this workshop.
Being the first HUBLAyCTIP engagement with public policy actors, the effort was focused on providing an agenda and tools that, based on a solid methodology and conceptual framework, would facilitate a dialogue with actors whose language, narratives and forms of action are far from the academic scope.