Our Perspective


“Creativating” Sri Lanka

by

“To go forward as a country and as a nation we should give higher priority to our products,” President Maithripala Sirisena said during the ‘Presidential Awards for Innovation’ ceremony held on the 5th of February 2016. The president also stated that he hopes to implement a special program to broaden opportunities for innovations in the local market by empowering the innovators. The event symbolizes how local governance is beginning to show renewed interest in supporting innovation within the nation and this is hopefully a stepping stone towards creating an “innovation-culture” in Sri Lanka.
In this article, Unlocked blogger Anoka Abeyratne gives her opinion on both the global and local recognition of “Innovation.”

 

What does Sri Lanka not have in common with Japan, Sweden, Finland, South Korea and Israel?

 

As I’ve discovered recently these five countries, as per the Bloomberg Innovation Index, are the top 5 countries for innovative research and development. They’ve created some of the coolest technological marvels using their creativity.

 

Interestingly South Korea, Finland and Israel are also at the forefront of the countries with the top 5 post-secondary education (with regard to its workforce).

 

The reason these facts are interesting is because of how innovation and creativity, the latter being something that is not encouraged in the least especially in Sri Lankan schools, is affecting the positive development of our country and its people. Most developing countries are beginning to see innovation and entrepreneurship as a solution to social challenges because of the simple yet very effective solutions these creative ideas generate.

 

One such solution is social entrepreneurship. While this term may be familiar, and has no set definition or policy frameworks to regulate it in Sri Lanka, this simple but strong concept has led to young children being educated through creative ways. A prime example of such is the EducateLanka foundation. Another such example is Good Market, which has enabled communities to gain access to better market systems while providing healthier fare to consumers. According to the National Human Development Report (2014) the National Human Resources and Employment Policy proposes entrepreneurship development programs and credit and business development services for enterprises that maintain decent work standards.

 

Having tried to explain social entrepreneurship to a group of academics while researching for post-graduate studies as well as having had to explain it to university students, I’ve personally felt how difficult it is for most people to understand concept. This is due to the fact that “social enterprise” is not a concept that people in Sri Lanka think of on a day-to-day basis. That is, until you start showing people in practice how social entrepreneurship works and the impact that it creates, rather than just talking about the topic. The NHDR (2014) mentions how expanding the concept of self-employment requires widespread promotion of entrepreneurship and the introduction of entrepreneurship principles into education, access to low-cost finance and networking across business actors.

 

Being part of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers and a New Champion of its community, the level of innovation, action and creativity one sees is both very exciting and very saddening when you realize that some of the best minds in the country forget to be creative and instead tread the well-beaten path of conformity.

 

I recently read an interview about an amazing lady, Sandra Wandurangala and something that stuck with me was the fact that while she had been politically motivated, she realized that she could make better and greater changes through entrepreneurship and philanthropy. It is paramount that the youth of the country follow such great personalities and most importantly the doers.

 

At the end of the day, it won’t be the fancy speeches, the online or one-off campaigns held island-wide by politically motivated individuals or groups that will help propel Sri Lanka’s development sustainably and innovatively, because without action, nothing will change. It will be people empowering themselves socio-economically and through education after discovering that there is a life beyond waiting for someone else to make a change. They will realize that they can make the change by themselves, through creativity, innovative thinking and action. And that is how positive development will really begin.

blog series Youth Asia & the Pacific Development Effectiveness Sri Lanka Blog post