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Handbook of Transdisciplinarity: Global Perspectives

June 7, 2023


Honorary Professor Roderick J. Lawrence gives an insight to his new book.

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“You can bank on it”: Covid-19 Tales by Moonlight

June 5, 2023


By Salewa Olawoye, York University, Toronto, Canada

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Growing up, there was a popular Nigerian television show called “Tales by Moonlight”. It gave stories from an African perspective that provided lessons, especially moral lessons, to the listeners. In recent times, the world experienced a pandemic that has opened up various opportunities of lessons for the world to learn. The recent global pandemic, Covid-19, changed the world in a lot of ways. Countries experienced extended preventative measures such as lockdowns that were thought to last for 2 weeks and every part of the society was affected. The pandemic ushered in an era of people getting sick, some others dying, many losing their jobs or working from home, businesses folding up and a general feeling of gloom and despair. Economic effects include supply interruptions through a reduction in hours worked and supply chains were affected, which influenced inflation. As a result of these and other Covid related issues, life as we knew it changed.

The effects of this global pandemic on developing nations differed yet the severity of the situation was not lost on many countries. It did not matter if they had proper health systems or not, the world felt the effects of Covid-19 and systems had to be adjusted to survive the pandemic. In the developing world, there was a general feeling of fear and doom as the devastating effects of Covid-19 in the world were publicized. In a CNN interview, Melinda Gates talked about Covid-19 being devastating in developing countries with bodies being littered around, and predicted catastrophic effects in countries in Africa. The continent was expected to produce the most devastating casualties of Covid-19 in the world.

Despite these predictions, countries in Africa survived the pandemic much to the surprise of the rest of the world. It almost seemed like can anything good come out of Africa? While the rest of the world embraced her entertainment (the music and movies) on social media, everything else seemed to be shown in a negative light during the pandemic. However, African countries survived the pandemic and a lot of the ways of survival need to be studied along with the survival strategies of the rest of the world. Countries in Africa provide a great case study because each country is different in terms of development, structures and systems. While non-pharmaceutical Covid-19 preventive measures such as lockdowns to flatten the curve were easier in countries with a more developed system like South Africa, others like Nigeria had to reopen before flattening the curve as for quite a number of people who depended on daily physical work to survive, hunger was a bigger pandemic than Covid-19. In all countries, monetary and fiscal policies were used to regulate the economy from the various effects of Covid-19.

In studying monetary policies around the world, it is quite common to focus on the West. If this study is focusing on developing countries, a heavy focus is placed on Latin American countries and Asian countries. African countries are largely underemphasized. When studied, the complexities in African countries and different structures that exist in them are often ignored. However, these complexities and differences make African countries an interest study in the fight against Covid-19. Using Sub-Saharan Africa as a monetary policy case study, we see that countries in Africa have different monetary regimes. Some countries have independent central banks while others belong to one of two monetary authorities, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) or the Bank of Central African States (BEAC). Our book, Covid-19 and the Response of Central Banks: Coping with Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa, captures these differences in African countries and how various countries adopt various forms of monetary policy to suit issues in a country and the country specific effects of these policies adopted. To achieve this, eight Sub-Saharan African countries are analyzed. They include Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazaville), Cameroon, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasha).

It is not uncommon to hear the statement “Africa is not a country” used to highlight the various countries and their differences within the continent. This book further fuels this stance through the study of Covid-19 and monetary policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. It highlights the different monetary policies and their effects based on whether countries have an independent monetary authority or if a country belongs to a monetary union. From a central banking perspective, we see how different systems produce different outcome and how these different countries in Africa tackled the challenges that came with Covid-19. We see lessons from African countries for Africa and the world.

COVID-19 and the Response of Central Banks: Coping with Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa Edited by Salewa Olawoye, Assistant Professor, York University, Toronto, Canada is available now.

Read the introduction and other free chapters on Elgaronline

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Feminist governance – here to stay, or gone tomorrow?

April 14, 2023


by Marian Sawer, The Loop
April 13, 2023

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The Economics of Frugal Innovation Technological Change for Inclusion and Sustainability

March 28, 2023


By Christian Le Bas, Professor of Economics, ESDES Lyon Business School, Lyon Catholic University, France

ESG icon concept in the woman hand for environmental, social, and governance by using technology of renewable resources to reduce pollution and carbon emission . in sustainable and ethical business on the Network connection

Frugal innovation (FI thereafter) has been garnering great research interest in the last two decades. The literature tells us a new frugal product is associated with a substantial reduction in costs compared to a standard product due to the limited number of basic functionalities while having a minimum level of technological and ecological performance. Because its manufacturing cost is also reduced, its price is lower compared to those of more standard products, as a consequence, it can be purchased by consumers with low incomes. Such a new type of innovation provides valuable products for low-income communities contributing to economic inclusion in the process of consumption. FI is therefore, inclusive. This type of new product is more durable, simple, efficient, less technologically sophisticated and costly. In the past, located in emerging countries it is today more “global”, gaining followers in developed economies. In this context, FI shows strong potential to foster inclusion and sustainability effectively.

We show in the book, FI is part of a new technological paradigm. The size of the product is smaller, and the number of functionalities/components is reduced (product therefore easier to recycle). As a consequence, the product is more reliable (it has a longer lifespan) and less technological complex (easier to repair). The core of this new paradigm is therefore design simplification. As a result, there is less pressures on natural resources. It can be manufactured more easily/quickly and therefore saves energy. Consequently, FI is a green (or environmental) innovation. In the current period the frugal product seems to interest consumers who are ecologically virtuous by choice.

FI is without a doubt an innovation of transformative change (Schot and Steinmueller) aligning social and environmental concerns with innovation (for profit) objectives. FI can be considered as a part of the solution to the main problems of the planet (global economic inequalities and climate change).

Technological frugality shares a number of characteristics with the low-tech approach: simplicity in the architecture of the product, the search for (much) less technological complexity, the use of limited resources (including economic resources or R&D), ecological properties (“resources-saving”). But deviates from a low-tech paradigm in what the goal of frugality is not technological, it is to provide affordable goods in terms of price. Technology is just one way to do that. The frugality approach does not refuse (by principle) the use of high-tech technologies in design activities (such as the use of design methods as artificial intelligence) or in the manufacturing of frugal products (like robotics).
Until now, most of the literature addressing FI has been qualitative empirical and the analytical frameworks have come from Management Science. Little attention has been given to understanding the technological core of FI and, more importantly, to the underlying economic mechanisms that are affected by technological frugality. This book aims to fill this gap. For achieving this we rely on a mix of theories linked to the Schumpeterian approach to innovation (Economics of innovation) combining methods from Evolutionary Theory, Microeconomics, and Industrial Organization.

My book The Economics of Frugal Innovation. Technological Change for Inclusion and Sustainability aims to fill this gap. Chapter 1 of the book discusses the various definitions of FI found in the literature and pictures some striking cases of frugal product. In chapter 2 I articulate the notion of technological frugality (the frugal direction of technological change) and the concept of technological paradigm at the core of the innovation studies as an evolutionary research programme. The idea of design simplification resumes this new paradigm. Chapter 3 explores economic topics in relation with the frugal direction of technological change: the resource constraints schemes, a new model of induced innovations and the structure of innovation demand-side approaches. Chapter 4 proposes an analysis showing the positive consequences of the frugal direction of technological change for the environment. Chapter 5 addresses an issue much dealt with in the literature: the relation between technological frugality and sustainability. Because we assume FI is in general sustainable, we explore the relevance of a new taxonomy that sticks more the empirical evidence : weakly sustainable frugal versus fully sustainable frugal. In chapter 6 we fill a gap by delineating en econometric exercise aiming to understand what type of innovators implement FI. Our estimations enable us to retain complex innovator (achieving product and process innovation) are more prone to innovate frugally. Chapter 7 in the literature, we find the idea FI is considered as a disruptive innovation concept due to Christensen. New frugal product staying in the low-end segment of the market cannot be considered as competing standard product and therefore cannot feed a process of disruption. Our starting point in chapter 8 is : can FI a possible determinant of economic growth in LDC. Our pessimistic conclusion is : we do not find any evidence in favour of this assumption.

The novelty of the book lies in presenting the economic mechanisms ruling the design, the implementation, and the diffusion of FI innovation. As such, the book is likely to be of interest to people (academics, experts, various kinds of practitioners) wanting to study new types of technological innovation in relation to sustainability.

The Economics of Frugal Innovation by Christian Le Bas, Professor of Economics, ESDES Lyon Business School, Lyon Catholic University, France is out now.

Read the introduction and other free chapters on Elgaronline

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The Oscars and Hollywood’s version of creativity

March 10, 2023


Chris Bilton, Stephen Cummings and dt ogilvie consider the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the creative process and how this translates in the movie world.

The Oscars ceremony this Sunday sees the Academy under fire again for a lack of diversity in nominations. No women directors nominated and no black nominees for best actor or best actress. Asian talent may enjoy a moment with Everything Everywhere All at Once, and we might get to see Angela Bassett, Ke Huy Hwang or Michelle Yeoh speaking out on the need for diversity in Hollywood. But, overall, not much is different at the top of the bill.

According to a recent report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative increasing the representation of women and non-white nominees at the Oscars has been a slow process. In the 8 years since 2015’s #OscarsSoWhite protest, nominations from global majority racial ethnic groups increased by 8% compared to the previous 8 years. Women nominations were up from 21% to 27% in the same period (a step forward perhaps, but well short of parity).

There have been isolated successes – Moonlight’s best picture win in 2017, Chloe Zhao becoming the second ever woman to win a best director Oscar in 2021. And as in previous years, we can expect a more diverse set of nominations and winners if we scroll down to the less glamorous categories like ‘Best Song’. Sunday’s ceremony will no doubt attempt to compensate for a lack of diversity on screen with a diversity of presenters onstage.

It has been a similar story with other recent awards ceremonies – at the BAFTAs all 49 winners were white. The ‘Brits’ music awards’ attempt to be more inclusive by removing gender categories backfired, with an all-male shortlist in the ‘best artist’ category.

Awards ceremonies are a mess of contradictory aims – celebrating industry success, rewarding and recognising individual talent, unwittingly promoting role models or tropes. But above all they are about marketing. At a time when the film industry is fighting to remain viable and relevant for younger audiences, and still trying to win back audiences captured by streaming services during Covid-19, all white shortlists are a bad look. But there is another important element hidden in all this.

The Oscars remain important because they tell us about how the industry (still) sees itself, and what the movie industry thinks ‘creativity’ looks like. Regardless of colour and gender, creativity in Hollywood is presented as a story of glamourous individual talent and big business. Those who make the star turn possible might be thanked on the night, but the ‘craft’ awards won by teams are mostly skipped in the live broadcast. Awards ceremonies also leave out the wider industry ‘culture’ – the deal-makers who provide access, the writers, the influencers, the networkers. In our Creativities book we argue that focusing on one type of person or one type of ‘creative’ thinking misses out the complexity and multiplicity of the real creative process. There are many different ways to be creative – understanding the various ‘creativities’ we ourselves possess and can identify in the others we combine with will help us to make new creative connections.

In our book Creativities we consider the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the creative process. In our ‘how’ chapter, we consider how leaders mix and enable (or not) other people’s creativities – Harvey Weinstein’s leadership being a case study of what happens when one entitled individual is allowed to dominate, exclude and marginalise other creativities. In our ‘who’ section, we consider how the circle of creativity can be expanded to include other voices – and describe the role of prominent industry figures like Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rimes in opening doors for black talent in television.

However, the starting point for ‘creativities’ is the list of ingredients. This is the ‘what’ of creativity, and diversity and authenticity of ingredients is the basis for all the recipes which follow. Finding the right combination of ingredients is partly a matter of seeking them out from unexpected places, but also recognising what you already have. Most of the stories we tell here are about the overlooked or hidden creativities – the creativities of Lewis Latimer, the black innovator who turned Edison’s ‘invention’ of the lightbulb into a viable product, or ‘Peaches’ Bartkowicz, who pioneered the double-handed backhand in tennis because she and her supporters backed her to do it her own way. Neither of them received much recognition, but both transformed their respective fields.

That diversity is so important to creativity, and it is out there – just don’t expect to see much of it on display in the ‘winners’ lists on Sunday night. When it comes to inequality, the Oscars are a symptom of industry failure rather than a cause. Structural inequalities across the creative industries are nothing new, and an awards ceremony is not going to change them. The Oscars are the story the industry tells the world about itself. Most of the interesting parts in that story get swept under the red carpet or drowned out by the exit music. But away from the bright lights, other creative stories are being told, they just aren’t being heard. Look closely on Sunday and you might catch sight of the unsung groups, teams and connections behind the star performers, and the possibility for new creativities they are shaping rather than the individual past glories being held on too.

Creativities: The What, How, Where, Who and Why of the Creative Process is out now.

Chris Bilton, University of Warwick, UK, Stephen Cummings, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and dt ogilvie, Rochester Institute of Technology, US

Read Part One free on Elgaronline

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