Frugal Innovation and Development: insights and experiences from the minor FI4SGD

The third edition of the Minor Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development (FI4SGD) started in September. This minor, set up and coordinated by CFIA in collaboration with the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) and other knowledge partner institutes, gives students a chance to work with students from other universities and disciplines. Every year selected students from Leiden, TU Delft and Erasmus Universities come together to learn about frugal innovation both from a theoretical and practical perspective, and as part of the minor, even have the opportunity to do an internship in the Netherlands or abroad for a 12-week field work assignment.

In this blog series, the Minor’s Student Ambassadors share their insights and experiences firsthand. We hope that through this series, other students can get a good impression of what the Minor looks like, and what types of activities and research projects are being done by the students. In this blog post, Raphael, a 3rd-year International Relations and Organizations
student, at Leiden University shares his experience of the third course of the Minor, which is centred around Frugal Innovation and Development.

The FI4SGD lectures just finished a couple of weeks ago and reflecting back on everything that I learned and experienced, I am proud to have chosen this minor. A minor with 30 students from different study backgrounds and from three different universities, I had the opportunity to meet very interesting students and academics. Split into three themes – technology, entrepreneurship, and development – I enjoyed the development theme the most given its connection to my main studies, International Relations and Organizations. 

I was born and raised in Honduras, where development problems are easily identified. This course taught me a lot about my own country and society, stemming from the strong focus it gives to the global south. Most of our lectures consisted of guest lecturers from developing countries, making me feel that what was taught was accurate and rationalized from real life experiences. Despite the fact that we do focus on theory in some lectures, our small classroom permitted for splendid discussions among students and teachers. Our lecturers excelled in providing a strong emphasis on the empathy one must employ when working in developing countries, just as they excelled in pointing out how we should all work on the implicit assumptions usually voiced about those living in precarious nations – even those like me who grew up in the global south but still remain very far from the quotidian lifestyle of those in the base of the pyramid (BoP). 

The second part of the course commenced once the Entrepreneurship and Technology themes were completed, hence it was easy to relate the discussion of frugal innovation and sustainable business models with the development course. The development course submerges itself more on the social agency of frugal innovations and how our assumptions and biases are reflected in the projects implemented in developing nations. 

The inclusion game
An interesting game was set up by the instructors – the Inclusion Game – in order for the students to work on their assumptions and biases regarding the role of handicapped individuals at the workplace. I had rarely given thought to the role infrastructure and architecture plays in the lives of handicapped people, this course helping me learn how inclusive development and empathy towards others is imminent in organizations and businesses all around the world. Albeit, my favorite aspect of the game was the interaction that it enabled with my classmates, as well as the thinking process that it unchained in myself. 

Light for the World - Inclusion game

Pandemic restrictions
Despite the pandemic causing restrictions at university, everything ran smoothly through the online platforms that the minor coordinators provided us with. Thankfully, we enjoyed several days where we assisted to class in person, nevertheless most of the activities were done virtually. Working from home was also an important learning experience; a skill that will surely come in handy once I enter the workforce and at times compelled to work from home.

This was a blog post by Rafael Virgilio Padilla Kafati on the Entrepreneurship course from the FI4SGD minor. On the @Gofrugalstudents Instagram page you can follow the students that are about to start their frugal internships. In the next blogposts the student ambassadors will share insights into the research projects they are working on during their internships. So stay updated and make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.