Solving the most pressing challenges of our time requires that we capture the imagination, passion, and skills he many, rather the select few. Indeed, the challenges of food insecurity, climate change, and water and energy shortages will never be overcome by a single individual, institution, or discipline. Addressing such challenges requires that we find new and smarter ways of using our collective resources. While it is widely accepted that we must work together to make progress on these challenges, the path between partnership and solutions can be rocky. How we partner to solve our shared challenges can be as important a determinant of our efforts’ success and sustainability as the What on which we are innovating, or the Who involved in the process. As such, Collaborative Innovation—the act of creating solutions using the shared knowledge, resources, and capacity of partners—is as much art as science.
Since our founding in 2009, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) has pursued its global mission of fostering Collaborative Innovation. In that time, we have identified, developed, tested, and deployed many tools and methods to help individuals and institutions partner in purpose-driven networks to solve shared challenges. We endeavor to discover or invent tools that are participatory, accessible to experts and non-experts alike, applicable across an array of challenges and contexts, and demonstrate success mobilizing networks to create durable solutions to their challenges.
Our ultimate goal is to scale our Collaborative Innovation methods and tools among the world’s problem solvers working on development challenges pertinent to science, technology, and innovation. For this reason, we are excited to share our Top-10 Tools for Collaborative Innovation (PDF). This compendium details the ten Collaborative Innovation tools listed below, including descriptions of how they work, and the value they provide to those who use them.
Tool #1 Challenge Mapping
A tool to visualize the many opportunities for and bottlenecks to solving complex challenges.
Tool #2 Strategy Shaping
A tool to visualize the activities, resources, actors, and connections needed to reach shared goals.
Tool #3 The THICK Methodology
A tool to take stock and make sense of science, technology, and innovation resources.
Tool #4 Matchmaking
A tool to match partners based on strengths, resources, goals, values, and other strategic characteristics.
Tool #5 Empathizing with Users
A tool to create demand-driven solutions by understanding use needs and perspectives.
Tool #6 Network Management
A tool to manage complex networks of individuals collaborating to solve problems.
Tool #7 Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Context Analysis
A tool to clarify the context in which science, technology, and innovation take place.
Tool #8 Collaborative Innovation Strategy
A tool to create a strategy for taking on challenges through a collaborative network.
Tool #9 Network Ecosystems
A tool to map available and needed resources around a given challenge.
Tool #10 Collaboration Colloquium
A tool that gathers experts to spark strategic collaboration around specific challenge areas.
As practitioners who use these tools globally, we see them provide value time and again. For example, in designing a network to take on rainwater harvesting in Kenya, Tool #4 (matchmaking) proved instrumental. GKI has used Tool #1 Challenge Mapping on projects as diverse as understanding opportunities to combat food waste and spoilage in Africa and identifying areas of alignment between researchers and community members tackling water challenges in Malaysia.
In diverse contexts and applications—trainings, facilitated workshops, research, and network formation activities—these tools deliver results.