Learning from Local Innovators

2019 – Present


Elizabeth Hoffecker
Principal Investigator

Eunhae Lee
Graduate Research Assistant

Ahalya Ramgopal
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Asresh Guttikonda
Graduate Research Assistant 

Sarah Hess
Graduate Research Assistant  


USAID’s Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub within the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI)

Documenting processes of local innovation from around the world 

Project Overview 

How does innovation happen at the grassroots level, particularly in informal and understudied contexts? What can we learn from those most directly involved in local innovation processes?  Through interviews, profiles, and case studies with local innovators and their collaborators around the world, we are gaining insights into how local solutions are developed and introduced into practice from the perspectives of those most closely involved in these processes.  

Key Findings 

Local innovation refers to “the process and the product of developing and introducing into use new and improved ways of doing things compared to existing practice within a specific local context, which involve local people and resources in addressing challenges and opportunities present within that context” (Hoffecker, 2018, p. 4). Many successful local innovation processes involve non-local inputs, such as knowledge, inspiration, materials, capital, or social networks. Local innovation processes often emerge in response to constraints that people experience related to being able to effectively accomplish everyday tasks or address persistent local challenges, many of which engage directly with the immediately surrounding natural environment. 

Related Publications 

Local Innovation: what it is and why it matters for developing economies 
(MIT D-Lab Working Paper, 2018) 

Reviving a Local Economy by Rebuilding Relationships: The Story of the Letcher County Culture Hub (MIT D-Lab | CITE Case Study, 2022).

From Innovators’ Perspective: Processes of Grassroots Innovation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (Advised MIT Master’s degree thesis, 2016


Next Project: Participatory Innovation Ecosystem Mapping