For me ‘frugal’ has a very personal meaning. I was brought up in a frugal household; rarely did we throw anything away. Recycling was an art; buttons cut off items of clothes that were worn out, then the cloth used for clippy rugs. Shirt collars and cuffs turned and boots and shoes re-heeled. Post war habits lived through my parents and grandparents.
Some of those habits have persisted into my adult life and my husband has much stronger frugal habits than I. I delight in nice jam jars that I can reuse for jam and marmalade and I increasingly recycle ribbon from parcels and paper, if I consider it special. I find myself looking at buttons as having potential. I sometimes reflect that I am turning into my Mum or Grandma!
My husband has a garage full of ‘stuff’. The pleasure he gets when we have a practical problem to solve and he says ‘ah, I have just the thing for that!’ and off he goes to return with a surprising solution, usually something I would have thrown away, something that we can repurpose.
So, what is frugal innovation?
‘Through minimising the use of resources in development, production and delivery, or by leveraging them in new ways, frugal innovation results in dramatically lower-cost products and services. Successful frugal innovations are not only low cost, but outperform the alternative, and can be made available at large scale. Often, but not always, frugal innovations have an explicitly social mission.’
Nesta 2016: See more here
So some of the aims of frugal innovation are the same as my parents or my husband; that is to use resources wisely and in unexpected ways for solutions that work well. Perhaps it is the very scarcity of resources that makes us more creative and focus on something unexpected that sorts out a problem.
I am really looking forward to the debate tomorrow for #PDDigital16 – this is the motion:
This house believes frugal innovation has the potential to create better solutions to citizen challenges in health and care than traditionally designed digital technologies
The debate will be streamed live so why not listen in to see if you can learn more about frugal innovation (follow #PDDigital16 for more information) and meanwhile here is a short video from RSA with Charles Leadbeater to whet your appetite! How can we use the limitless opportunity we have to connect, to create solutions with scarce resources, for social purpose?