Promoting municipal ownership of innovation assessment tools

Article Key Take-Outs close
  • DST's Innovation for Local Economic Development (ILED) programme held a seminar to promote the ownership of innovation assessment tools among resource-poor local municipalities
  • HSRC's EPD research programme played a lead role in organising the event
  • Targeted delegates included officials from 16 resource-poor local municipalities
  • These municipalities form the hubs where sets of tools to collect and store information to foster impactful local innovations have been piloted since 2015

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), through its Innovation for Local Economic Development (ILED) programme, hosted a seminar at the end of August to promote the ownership of innovation assessment tools among resource-poor local municipalities. The Economic Performance and Development (EPD) research programme of the HSRC played a lead role in organising the seminar and ensuring that it fulfilled this goal. Prof Joseph Francis, a rural development expert based at University of Venda who also leads RIAT activities in two local municipalities in Ehlanzeni, was the facilitator of the event.

The targeted delegates included officials working in 16 resource-poor local municipalities, particularly the municipal managers and personnel responsible for Local Economic Development (LED), and the university personnel working on the project.  The reason for inviting representatives from these municipalities is that they form the hubs where sets of tools to collect and store information to foster impactful local innovations have been piloted since 2015. Municipalities can use these tools for their decisions and actions on socio-economic development based on trustworthy evidence.

The seminar enabled DST to gauge if pilot municipalities are adopting the toolbox for local innovation assessments following exposure to the benefits of using the tools for about two years. The institutionalisation of the toolbox remains the centrepiece of the third phase of the Rural Innovation Assessment Toolbox (RIAT) programme which will conclude in April 2018.
As the designers of RIAT and overall project leaders, the EPD team explained the working definition of institutionalisation and how the team operationalised it for best-practice results. They also listed efforts to forge networks between local municipalities and universities for innovation-driven local social and economic development. Participating universities, in turn, shared insights about variations in the depth and solidity of institutionalisation in pilot municipalities.

Conversations to bridge the uneven patterns of institutionalisation were lively. Participants explored the broader conceptions of rural innovation and how resource-poor municipalities stand to benefit from the ownership and use of RIAT. Officials also enriched the seminar by bringing to the fore their practitioners’ experiences to the tasks at hand. Their experiences in working within municipal governance systems were crucial in fine-tuning the steps for making RIAT an organic element of the practices and procedures of municipalities. These grassroots champions of RIAT also agree on the importance of diffusing these local innovation information and decision tools to non-pilot municipalities in future.

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