Cultures-Based Innovation: Indigenous Knowledge and Creative Initiatives

Cultures Based Innovation

Cultures-Based Innovation grew out of a 2011 global meeting of Indigenous activists, designers, scholars, and innovation consultants at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy, and seeks to support innovations based on tangible and intangible cultural heritage in which communities are the direct sources and beneficiaries of their own innovations.

Over the years, the group has evolved and expanded into a global network of communities, individuals, and institutions focused on the use of tangible and intangible cultural heritage to drive irreversible changes in peoples' attitudes, behaviors, and/or values that directly benefit indigenous, minority, and migrant communities under social and environmental distress.

The Americas Symposium on Cultures-Based Innovation is a joint initiative between the Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute at The Banff Centre and the Swinburne University Faculty of Design, hosted at The Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, AB, August 15 – 22, 2015, and brings together a small group of leading designers, craft persons, design anthropologists, researchers, innovation business consultants, and Indigenous educators from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The 15 participants will explore social innovation and share their work, looking for common areas of interest and possible collaborations across projects. Rather than innovation being about something “new” or “technological” they explore how cultural and Indigenous knowledges might lead to creative and innovative initiatives to address social issues. The symposium will also expand the national and international network of scholars and practitioners who work in the field of Cultures-Based Innovation, as the first gathering in the Americas.

The objectives of symposium are to:

  • Expand the network of practice in Culture-Based Innovation for the Americas and to identify common themes for future project collaborations;
  • Demonstrate the global significance of Culture-Based Innovation as a sustainable alternative to market driven approaches in innovation through Design;
  • Share ideas and expertise that enhance and link culturally responsive innovation research and practices within communities of the Americas and Caribbean;
  • Identify examples of Culture-Based Innovation that address social, economic and cultural needs in present day contexts across the Americas; and
  • Identify resources to support projects (grants, know-how, business models) amongst the network.

The immediate outcomes of the symposium will include: a plan for future symposia and projects in the Americas and Caribbean, a community engagement tool box for Culture-Based Innovation and a collection of digital recordings from symposium attendants.

Mid to long-term outcomes include an edited journal issue on Cultures-Based Innovation, a book publication and collection of Yale-style raw case studies for Cultures-Based Innovation research and teaching.