Jugaad: Ideas from the ‘developing’ world

7 Sep

I spent most of Saturday listening to Fredrik Härén speak at the CIO100 Awards seminar. In his new book The Developing World, Härén points to the words we use to describe ourselves – and how these words shape who we become.

Drawing a contrast between the Developed World and the Developing World, Härén points out that the biggest mistake the countries in the former grouping made was in calling themselves ‘developed.’ The word ‘developed’ implies, ‘We’re done.’ This, Härén says, has led to a slowdown, an unwillingness to learn from ‘developing’ cultures and a corresponding decrease in creativity.

In contrast, ‘developing’ countries see themselves as works in progress, and therefore, are open to change. Anyone who’s in the ‘developing world’ has an edge – because not only are you hungry to learn from the ‘developed’ world, but you also have your eye on change as it’s happening in front of your eyes, says Härén.

He gives the example of a survey among college students in Singapore who were asked whether they’d seen the Chinese film Red Cliff and the English film The Dark Knight. Most students had seen both films. In contrast, the same survey when conducted among college students in the US showed that while all students had seen The Dark Knight, only one had even heard of Red Cliff. And he was a Chinese exchange student! ‘Who has a better chance of producing a blockbuster that will be a hit in both continents?’ Härén asks.

Now what does this have to do with fundraising or with communication?


Most textbook fundraising innovations we commonly talk about have come from the traditional developed world. But it’s here – in Asia, Africa – that change is happening faster than we can imagine. We can absorb the best of the innovations that have happened, and find creative ways of putting things together in a new way.

Put two very different communication ideas together to come up with a new idea.

Multimedia messages on cellphones + comics for women who cannot read or write

Paid advertising + community radio

Social networking + telecentres in small towns and villages

Websites + face to face conversations

Appeal letters + the Great Indian Wedding

These are random ideas – some may be, as JK Rowling would put it, squibs. But some others could make magic.

Putting old things together in a new way is what Härén calls an IDEA.

Indians of course are familiar with this concept. We call it Jugaad.

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