In a week where the true nature of democracy is front and center, when citizens vote their conscience and leadership changes in response to the will of the people, one can't help but take great pride in the ability of every individual to participate in the system.
I find some irony then that in this technologically advanced and connected world in which we live, there is so little opportunity for individuals to participate in the material advancement of the numerous critical challenges and needs that affect all of us. Routes to meaningful engagement are often difficult to identify, match, and integrate into our lives. All too often, we are left with financial donations as the only currency for participation. I will argue that in fact creativity and ingenuity are the most valuable assets lacking in the system today, not access to financial means. And for many of us, lending our intellectual means in support of the efforts and challenges about which we care most may be the most fulfilling.
I would like to introduce a new term into our innovation dialogue: the Citizen Innovator. Highly creative and inventive individuals have had monumental impacts throughout history, the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Isaac Newton. Often considered giants in their day, these are the archetypal Citizen Innovators, often the beneficiaries of great patronage, with resources and substantial freedom to roam in creative circles, these individuals have inspired many … they were also few in number.
With the convergence of technology (internet, social networking, communications), increases in standards of living and education, and a more global awareness than at any time in history, I believe there are now legions of Citizen Innovators around the world ready, willing, and able to invest their relevant experience, knowledge, creative talents and hunger for problem solving toward the important challenges of our time. Some will engage simply to make a difference, others for financial gains. But make no mistake, they are changing the way we innovate, from corporate research and product development to improving the human condition and reinventing government.
This emergence of Citizen Innovators represents a shift from the few to the many. They stand ready to tackle problems big and small and are at the heart of an unstoppable movement that is recasting the role of the individual in society. This is an empowerment movement and represents the most democratic of ideas: that we as individuals have a necessary and vital role to play in shaping our world – and in some cases an obligation. We at InnoCentive are proud to be part of this movement and to be working with Citizen Innovators from every corner of the world and from every walk of life.
Go Citizen Innovators!