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Accepted Paper:

‘Social technology’ as solidaristic innovation in Latin America  
Les Levidow (Open University)

Short abstract:

In Latin America, solidarity economy agendas have generated the concept ‘social technology’. It denotes designs for democratic self-management, user benefits, and low-cost easy reproduction. The concept has been extended to from production methods to short supply chains (circuitos cortos), which bring producers socially closer to consumers.

Long abstract:

In Latin America, the term ‘innovation’ has been contentious. It has become associated with Northern neocolonial models, whose capital-intensive investments seek labour exploitation, resource plunder, economic growth and a competitive advantage in global markets. By contrast, solidaristic alternatives have elaborated the concept ‘social technology’. These are designed for democratic self-management, user benefits, and low-cost easy reproduction. Hence ‘social technology’ has analogies with ‘social innovation’ in the global North.

Social technology has arisen especially from producers’ initiatives for a solidarity economy. Later the original concept was expanded to ‘socio-environmental technologies’, making explicit the aim to minimise resource burdens. Such technologies are exemplified by agroecological production methods, for which techno-designs have helped conserve natural resources. To avoid pest problems, farmers cultivate many crop varieties, while exchanging the seeds and experiential knowledge. To capture rainwater, for example, modular cisterns depend on mutual aid for their construction.

For a solidarity economy, some technologies help to bring producers socially closer to consumers through short supply chains; these encompass farmers’ markets, weekly box schemes, Community Supported Agriculture and public procurement. These have become prominent in Latin America as a solidarity economy. Many initiatives began or extended digital platforms for food orders, especially cell-phone apps, thereby reaching more consumers than before. These efforts have depended upon wider solidaristic expertise and networks –for designing each innovation, as well as for educating consumers about the many societal benefits. STS perspectives have engaged such efforts through Participatory Action Research, extending the horizontal knowledge-exchange which generate and popularise such innovations.

Traditional Open Panel P013
Social innovation: forms, evidence, and perspectives
  Session 3 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -