Grassroots Innovations and their Impact on People Planet and Profit: A Field Study in the Agricultural Sector of Kenya

Doa Meatham Hasan Al-Tewaj & Lena Tünkers

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to understand how grassroots innovations in the agricultural sector in Kenya may scale to impact people, planet and profit. The concept of grassroots innovation has shown to effectively contribute to sustainable development (Hossain, 2018), and there is large evidence that sustainable business models can create social and environmental value (Ramos-Mejía & Balanzo, 2018). Further, literature suggests that grassroots innovations need to scale to impact mainstream challenges (Ornetzeder & Rohracher, 2012) for which networks play an essential role (Hossain, 2018). On the opposite, there is no common definition of the concept (Hossain, 2016) and limited research exists on how grassroots innovations interact with stakeholders on a system level and how this affects the success of their business models (Moratis et al., 2018) This study is of qualitative and exploratory nature, and follows an abductive research approach due to a lack of existing and fitting theories and concepts. Over a 23 day field trip to the central region of Kenya research was conducted on four case studies of grassroots innovation in the agricultural sector. In addition, eleven key informants who represent the private sector, the government and research centres were interviewed. The means of collecting data were semi-structured interviews. In the process of analysing data, theories and concepts from the fields of grassroots innovation, social entrepreneurship, business model design and entrepreneurial ecosystem were used. By defining grassroots characteristics, uncovering unique attributes of grassroots innovation business models and analysing supportive elements in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we identify how our case studies impact and scale. Main findings include a new working definition of grassroots innovations that reflects our empirical setting, and identifies fundamental characteristics of our case studies. Further, a new business model framework describes the most profound elements to balance financial sustainability and maximum impact. The civil society, incubators and accelerators in Nairobi, and county governments were essential partners for our cases to acquire funding, training and mentorship, networks and access to potential customers from the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Lastly, we found that grassroots innovations need to be bold and visionary in their future strategies to strategically scale their impact, and challenge incumbent systems. We conclude that our cases have to include the community as a valuable resource, balance a not-for-profit and profit-oriented element in their business model, and establish diverse partnerships in the entrepreneurial ecosystem especially with the government to scale and impact people, planet and profit.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages138
SupervisorsMark Lorenzen