Communal Innovation: collective creation towards wellbeing | NDIR Working Paper 02

PDF icon Communal Innovation: collective creation towards wellbeing


This article introduces the concept of “communal innovation” as the collaborative process through which marginalized communities or community-based organizations transform their social and ecological environment towards collective wellbeing. Communal innovations are emerging from place-based ontologies that allow for the construction of futures beyond the promise of “development.” In these contexts, design, and particularly collaborative design (co-design), is identified as a central tool to create plural notions of science, technology and innovation. This paper draws from literature in the fields of critical development studies, de-colonial studies and innovation studies, among others, to clarify the limitations of the conventional market-oriented innovation framework and to explore the possibilities for marginalized communities to create their own transitions towards collective wellbeing through a bottom-up perspective. The reflections which emerge from this analysis open new pathways for the engagement of the academy and civil society organizations to foster autonomy, freedom and communality in partnership with marginalized communities.

About the Author

Juan David Reina-Rozo is a PhD candidate in Engineering, Industry and Organizations at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where he founded the Technology and Innovation for Community Development Research Group. During the 2017-2018 year, he was a visiting Research Affiliate with the Local Innovation group at MIT D-Lab. He has a Bachelor in Industrial Engineering and a Master in Development and Environmental Studies. Juan David is a Fulbright Fellow and contributor to Engineering for Change.

About the New Directions in Local Innovation Working Paper Series

The New Directions in Local Innovation Working Paper Series highlights research on emerging topics within the multi-disciplinary field of innovation studies by faculty and researchers based at and affiliated with MIT D-Lab. The series is intended to promote the early release of D-Lab research and to provide free, public access to working versions of papers which might subsequently take the form of journal articles.


Elizabeth Hoffecker, MIT D-Lab Research Scientist, Local Innovation Group Lead