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Article by Lemelson Foundation Executive Director featured in Innovations
January 25, 2010

As part of a Special Edition of Innovations for the Tech4Society: A celebration for Ashoka-Lemelson Fellows, the Foundation's Executive Director Julia Novy-Hildesley wrote one of the lead essays, in addition to pieces by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and The Economist's Matthew Bishop.

Here are a few short excerpts from Novy-Hildesley's piece, entitled "By the Grace of Invention: How Individuals Power Development".

Human ingenuity is not only our most valuable natural resource, it is also our most abundant. People are entrepreneurial by nature, particularly when it comes to helping themselves and their families overcome difficult situations. The entrepreneurial model of development, driven by humanity’s nearly limitless capacity for invention and innovation, is the only one that is proven, and it is the only one that can be scaled to meet the challenge of economic inclusion at a global scale. Even if aid can be made effective, it cannot be made to scale.


I advocate for an approach to development that derives from five fundamental tenets:

• Shifting our focus to individuals and their potential—thinking of all people as inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs

• Embracing a bottom-up, demand-driven view of the world, where people design solutions, and government’s role is to create an enabling environment for them to do so

• Emphasizing business principles, recognizing that the best ideas must reach enormous scale in order to combat global poverty and achieve sustainable development

• Insisting upon linking evaluation criteria with evidence of effectiveness—will a program or investment enable a larger pool of people to more fully unlock their potential? And is the focus of their innovation directed toward advancing sustainable development in a scalable way?

• Taking a forward-looking approach, focusing less on bailouts and much more on start-ups

You can download the full article here.

About Innovations

Innovations is about entrepreneurial solutions to global challenges. The journal features cases authored by exceptional innovators; commentary and research from leading academics; and essays from globally recognized executives and political leaders. The journal is jointly hosted at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and MIT's Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship. For more information, visit: