Innovation for Democracy Café
Innovation for Democracy Café: Special Episode on Innovation & Creativity

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Sometimes, the best ideas come when we least expect them. There is value in the unexpected moments of inspiration, when an everyday observation, a particular environment or a conversation can lead to outstanding innovations.

Mary Anderson, an inventor who developed the first windshield wiper, came up with the idea while traveling by car in New York City and watching the driver open the window to clear the windscreen during a snowstorm. Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden one day when he saw an apple falling from a tree – an observation that led him to develop his theory of gravity. For Steve Jobs, it was the long walks that stimulated creative thinking. He was known for his walking meetings with colleagues to encourage creative ideas. Many innovators also value the creative potential of Hackathons, to develop and implement ideas. For example, Giphy, a popular search engine for GIFs, was developed during a hackathon in 2013 when a team wanted to create a better way to search and share GIFs.

These examples demonstrate the potential for innovation and creativity that can be unleashed by observing everyday life, changing the environment or connecting with people. To highlight the importance of creativity and innovation in our human development, the United Nations has designated 21 April 2023 as the World Creativity and Innovation Day. Inspired by this day, this special episode of the Innovation for Democracy Café focuses on the essence of all good practice projects that promote freedom, democracy and human rights: the creative process of how such innovative projects come about.

Global challenges and opportunities for innovation

The Agenda 21 highlights the paradoxical world in which we live: a world in which we both face “immense challenges” (United Nations 1992) in terms of sustainable development, inequalities, political power struggles and declining democracies, humanitarian crises, etc on the one hand.  On the other hand, we live in “a time of immense opportunity" (United Nations 1992) in which the technological progress and the interconnected state of globalisation play an important role. Therefore, we believe it is important to seize these opportunities and turn them into forces for advancing democracy. The FNF Global Innovation Hub aims to collaborate on innovations that promote greater societal freedom and vibrant democracy; for instance, with the Democracy Board Game Festival or the Hacking Democracy Conference 2022, are our initiatives to explore new ways to promote democracy.

Creating innovations: the importance of creativity

Innovation – commonly understood novel as novel or experimental changes within established systems – is what moves our societies forward. But turning innovative ideas into reality, such as a new physical product or method with progressive value, is a complex and long process. An essential part of the process is creativity, the ability to generate original ideas or perspectives.

Creativity as co-creation

When we think of great breakthroughs, we often associate them only with the lone, brilliant genius. We hear about scientists and their new inventions or the outstanding contributions of Nobel Prize winners. But if we look more closely and beyond the focus on a single personality behind an innovation, we can see that many minds and skills come together to co-create the final result. It is thus important to look at the significant role that collaboration and co-creation play in the creation of innovative ideas. Isabel Hou (Chairperson g0v Jothon) pointed out:

When we talk about innovation I think diversity of creativity is very important. Innovation can emerge as the result of the dynamic interaction between individuals, teams, organisations and their environments. I think this interaction can lead to the creation of new value as well as the transformation of existing systems or practices.

Isabel Hou
Isabel Hou (Chairperson g0v Jothon)

Creativity is thus also a collective phenomenon, resulting from the interaction of individuals and the convergence of different perspectives and resources. Oliver Chang of Impact Hub Taipei believes that spaces that foster interdisciplinary dialogue and the exchange of ideas are crucial:

Creating very safe space and safe environment would be really important to generate ideas and share. Because many people are afraid of saying something wrong. But also creating a space that encourages people to embrace failures is really important, because through our failures you can learn and generate something new.

Oliver Chang
Oliver Chang (Co-Founder Impact Hub Taipei)

What is the role of collaboration in innovation? And how can we strengthen creative thinking skills, inclusion and interdisciplinary dialogue? Claire Cheng from the Open Culture Foundation talks about the highly motivated and engaged open-source community in Taiwan and highlights:

When practitioners come to the open-source community they can meet people with diverse backgrounds like software engineers, writers, or designers. These different groups of people meet and contribute their skills to make their visions come true. This cross-disciplinary interaction really makes all these contributors excited. I think, this is the reason why they keep innovating and contributing to the community.

Claire Cheng
Claire Cheng (Open Culture Foundation)

Our biggest learning from all our guests is that creativity is sparked by exchanges and collaboration, which leads to new insights and perspectives. Creativity plays a vital role in promoting democracy as it inspires people to take action and create positive change in society. In this episode of the Innovation for Democracy Café, we invited three such highly motivated changemakers. Watch the video to get to know them and their unique perspectives on creativity and innovation!