Over 3 billion people in the developing world live outside the formal economy and face significant unmet needs in core areas such as health, education, energy, food, and financial services. For years this large population was either the target of aid or came under the purview of governments. More recently, however, private sectors firms and NGOs, both large and small, have begun to develop market-based solutions to meet the unmet needs of these vast millions.
Meanwhile in the developed world, declining real incomes and government spending, accompanied by greater concerns about the environment, are making consumers both value and values conscious. Further, more and more people in the West are now empowered to do with limited resources what only large firms could do in the past. Ubiquitous tools such as smart phones, cloud computing, 3D printers, crowdfunding, and social media, have given rise to grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship exemplified by the maker movement and the sharing economy.
In this talk, I will discuss how the phenomenon of frugal innovation—the creation of faster, better and cheaper solutions that employ minimal resources—which was once the preserve of the developing world is now taking off in the West as well. I will argue that frugal innovation holds the key to driving global growth by employing more people creatively and solving some of the big problems of poverty and inequality that stalk the planet.