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The new Sussex Manifesto: the 3D approach

What kind of science, technology and innovation is required to meet the needs of developing countries? (Sally Brooks)
What kind of science, technology and innovation is required to meet the needs of developing countries?
Sally Brooks

"Meeting the interlinked global challenges of poverty reduction, social justice and environmental sustainability is the great moral and political imperative of our age," stated Melissa Leach, co-author of a new report Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto in London. This, she said, requires a new way of thinking.

"It is not just about science and technology," Leach continued, "but innovation systems encompassing policy practices, institutional capacity and organisational processes." She added, "We have to move away from progress defined simply by the scale and pace of innovation, and ask what kind of change for development do we really want?"

Changing the direction of development

The launch of the report on 15 June 2010 at the Royal Society in London, coincided with the 40th anniversary of the original 'Sussex Manifesto' on science and technology for development, written for the UN by seven researchers, later known as the 'Sussex Group', from research and policy institutions - IDS and SPRU - at the University of Sussex.

The UN-commissioned report was intended as the introductory chapter to a UN report on science and technology for development. However, as a result of the authors' rather radical recommendations to reshape the architecture of development, the report was initially rejected. It was only later added as an annex at the insistence of the authors that the report had a right to be published. Buried but still alive, the report was significant in raising awareness of science and technology for development within the UN and was influential in the design of the Canadian International Development Research Centre - IDRC.

Meeting the global challenges of poverty reduction, social justice and environmental sustainability requires a new way of thinking (Sally Brooks)
Meeting the global challenges of poverty reduction, social justice and environmental sustainability requires a new way of thinking
Sally Brooks

Forty years on, the authors of the new manifesto, from the Sussex-based policy research STEPS Centre, believe that once again it is time to challenge the direction of development. "Outdated innovation policy is undermining opportunities for development," state the co-authors. They believe the time has come to move beyond the narrow focus of science and technology to focus more on meeting the needs of developing countries. And as Leach outlined at the launch, "It is about asking what kinds of change do we really want?" She added that it is about asking what kind of science, technology and innovation is required.

Asking the right questions

The 3D agenda for innovation - direction, distribution and diversity - helps to frame these questions and to provide a distinct perspective and depth to discussions on exactly what type of change is required. David Grimshaw of Practical Action responded that the report "emphasises that we have choice. And that is to be really welcomed." He added, however, that the 3D agenda should be supplemented by 3Vs: vision, values and vulnerabilities. "The vision is provided but could be expanded to include the 'how' and the 'why'. Values are important for transparency, and vulnerabilities of resources, people and markets should be recognised."

Laurie Lee from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that "A new approach is welcomed but we shouldn't ignore what is already happening. We need to achieve a balance." Gordon Conway from Imperial College acknowledged that the manifesto was "extraordinarily ambitious". However, he agreed that scientific excellence needed to be redefined away from peer review and narrow disciplinary approaches if science was really to contribute effectively to sustainable development goals.

The benefits of innovation must be shared widely (Sally Brooks)
The benefits of innovation must be shared widely
Sally Brooks

Although the new Manifesto was perceived by science journalist, Ehsan Masood, to be more complex and harder to follow than the original Sussex Manifesto, he also agreed that it was more ambitious than the original as it highlights that science is not "just about development but about poverty and justice."

These sentiments were echoed by Professor Andy Stirling, co-director of the STEPS Centre, "We want the benefits of innovation to be widely shared, not captured by narrow, powerful benefits. This means reorganising innovation in ways that involve and harness the energy and ingenuity of diverse peoples and groups, including civil society, farmers, and small businesses." To achieve this vision, the New Manifesto makes recommendations across five areas for action: agenda-setting; capacity-building; organising; monitoring and evaluation; and accountability.

Next steps

Whilst the launch of the New Manifesto marked the culmination of two years of exploring these issues with partners around the world, including 20 international roundtables, 13 background papers, and a seminar series, the STEPS Centre is committed to assisting further dialogue and discussion. "We want to try and understand and explore the ways in which a 3D agenda can be implemented in different countries or sub-national contexts so that we gain a much better grasp of the institutional situation, the political history and context, " states Leach. "We will also respond to requests for help rather than direct how our manifesto recommendations should feed into these different contexts."

Adrian Ely, Manifesto project convenor, adds, "We recognise that things are not going to change overnight. However, when you talk about dreams or visions, it has to be a slow burn, one that a committed group of people will continue to work on for many months and perhaps years into the future. Personally, I have been enthused by the degree of shared vision, even in very distinctly different contexts, for science, technology and innovation as a force for good."

Date published: July 2010


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