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Which inclusive innovation? Competing normative assumptions around social justice

Papaioannou, T   Levidow, L

Innovation and Development  


July 2017

The concept ‘inclusive innovation’ has responded to an increasing realization that capital-intensive innovations have generally resulted in social exclusion, especially for lower income people. Towards alternatives, the literature has competing models of social inclusion – its forms, causes and remedies. These models depend on different normative assumptions about socioeconomic in/equity, corresponding to divergent theoretical camps of social justice: a liberal-individualist camp emphasizes a fairer distribution of societal benefits to individuals; more high-tech investment, skills training, cheaper products and/or more favourable external conditions will help low-income people to gain greater access. By contrast, a social-collectivist camp seeks different conditions for reconstituting societal benefits through commons and public goods. Any initiative or policy framework entails such assumptions or tensions among them. Given these competing assumptions, their models can be made explicit for strategic debate, towards opening up inclusive innovation to more conscious political choices.