New paper: The Social Technology Network: a hybrid experiment in grassroots innovation

Marcha para cisternaWe have a new working paper from our project Grassroots innovations in historical and comparative perspective. Mariano Fressoli from Fundación Cenit and Rafael Dias from UNICAMP have just published a new working paper that studies the experience of the Social technologies network in Brazil. Social technologies is a movement in Brazil dedicated to developing inclusive solutions for the development of porter and marginalised communities, and committed to social justice and environmental sustainability.

Created in 2004 with the arrival of the new center-left government of the Workers Party in Brazil, the Social Technology Network (STN) aimed at to fostering process of social inclusion, public participation and income generation by drawing from existing capabilities in science and technology. From the beginning, the STN relied in a hybrid alliance between social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGO), national institutions and semi-public companies like Banco do Brazil’s Foundation and Petrobras. This allowed the STN to develop a bank of Social Technologies, scale up experiences at national scale and to reach more than nine hundred, including some from other South American countries. However, as the STN started to plan further expansion and larger projects it also faced the limits of its informal structure, and crumbled under different expectations and tensions between civil society actors and public institutions. The short story of Brazil’s STN raises questions about what are the best strategies in the pursuit of grassroots innovation, what should be the role of the State, funders and civil society actors, and how to combine the urge to scale up solutions to poverty situations with the aim of empowering marginalised social actors. In this paper, we analyse the origins and background of the STN, its framing and spaces of development, along with exemplary technologies in order to understand how this hybrid grassroots movements attempted to build pathways of social inclusion and sustainable development.