“Local is Lekker” – Innovation Is Best When It Is Local!

Access and Inclusion November 24, 2016

“Local is lekker” is the South African way of saying ‘things from home are usually the best’ (my paraphrase of the meaning). This phrase can apply to anything from sport, to food or culture. I really think that “local is lekker” when it comes to innovation in education too.

Innovation one of those buzz words regularly used in education. Often innovation can be frequently confused with its ‘cousin’ creativity! My favourite explanation of the difference between the two is by Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things”. So innovation is the (successful) implementation of creative ideas!

If we take “innovation” in its truest form; then the implementation of creative ideas to stir up the educative process is always best when it is locally applied. Trends in education can be global; use of EdTech, personalised learning, project-based learning, 21CC skills; but innovation must be local. The implementation of project based learning should look totally different in a rural US school from a township school in South Africa. Often the problem in education is that we try to make innovation global too! It can be too easy to ‘copy and paste’ when it comes to implementing new ideas in different contexts and locations. We then wonder why we don’t get the same results! Ideas can be transferred through the education world. But we need to realise that time and thought, even trial and error, are needed to customise the implementation of such ideas to get the maximum impact in each new context.

Context matters, context is a key factor when moving from brilliantly creative ideas to a sustainable, impactful innovation. Context is even more local than just a national perspective. We all know that there can be a huge range of schools even within an education district, no matter what country it is.

The EdTech World Tour is an initiative promoting global perspectives on EdTech. Their report aims to identify trends, practices and tools which appear to be scalable and effective from the 10 countries they visited. One of the key findings of this report is that, “Going global is all about local insights. Content may be partly globalized, yet one should never underestimate the weight of culture and context in education and the fact that there is no global approach to learning yet.”

“Local is lekker” is so much more than the need for local interpretation of global trends. It can also mean that the most creative ideas or innovative processes can come from ‘home’ too! It can be tempting for education systems in countries with more challenges to look to their more stable and established neighbours for creative education solutions to their problems. But often the most creative ideas are found ‘at home’.

Challenging local contexts can foster a level of creativity or innovation that is not needed in a more stable environment. The ‘pressure’ for change in an education system under strain can ‘encourage’ stakeholders (government & development) to break with conventional solutions and go down previously unexplored paths. “Necessity is the mother of invention” is so true when faced with large systemic problem such as poor infrastructure, low number of teachers or even endemic poverty. Some of the most innovative education solutions are now coming from areas that are NOT Europe, North America, Australia or Singapore. Perhaps we should be increasingly exploring, evaluating and sharing creative ideas from regions like Sub Saharan Africa or South America. Three of the six 2016 WISE Awards winners were based in Brazil, Lebanon and India. “Local REALLY is lekker!”