Africa is one of the regions most in need of innovative solutions for tackling water and climate change-related challenges, yet many parts of Africa are also suffering from the lack of water-related skills and capacity as well as wide-spread institutional fragmentation. The AfriAlliance project aims to better prepare Africa for future climate change challenges by having African and European stakeholders work together in the areas of water innovation, research, policy, and capacity development.
Rather than creating new networks, the 16 EU and African partners in this project are consolidating existing ones, consisting of scientists, decision makers, practitioners, citizens, and other key stakeholders, into an effective, problem-focused knowledge sharing mechanism. This is coordinated by means of an innovation platform: the Africa-EU Innovation Alliance for Water and Climate.
AfriAlliance is supporting the existing networks in identifying appropriate social innovations and technological solutions for key water and climate change challenges. It is capitalising on the knowledge and innovation base and potential in Africa and in the EU. The project is supporting effective means of knowledge sharing and technology transfer within Africa and between Africa and the EU, all with the aim of increasing African preparedness to address the vulnerability of water and climate change-related challenges.
AfriAlliance is making extensive use of existing/emerging communication channels and events (EU/African platforms, conferences and social media) to streamline climate change issues into water-related networks, thereby raising awareness about their impacts and propose adaptation measures.
Africa-EU cooperation is taken to a practical level by sharing (non-)technological solutions for local challenges, thus also identifying and boosting sustainable market and investment opportunities. Demand-driven, problem-focused action groups are sharing knowledge between the identified stakeholders and networks at all levels to identify and address vulnerabilities effectively.
Water and climate change research and social innovation (R&I) cooperation between Africa and Europe is being reinforced through a combination of forward-looking and bottom-up innovation and road mapping techniques. AfriAlliance is also identifying demands, opportunities, and constraints at different levels and develop strategic advice (short term demand-driven R&I outlook and long term R&I agenda) for improving Africa-EU collaboration. This is helping policy makers to create a consistent approach to bilateral cooperation between Africa and the EU in the field of innovation for water and climate.
Social innovation defined
In AfriAlliance, social innovation means tackling societal, water-related challenges arising from climate change by combining the technological and non-technological dimensions of innovation.
Social innovation refers to those processes and outcomes focussed on addressing societal goals, unsatisfied collective needs or societal - as opposed to mere economic – returns. It is particularly salient in the context of the complex and cross-cutting challenges that need to be addressed in the field of water and climate change - and which will not be met by relying on market signals alone.
Social innovation consists of new combinations or hybrids of existing and new products, processes and services. In order to succeed, social innovation needs to pay attention to technological as well as non-technological dimensions: 1) technology, 2) capacity development, 3) governance structures and 4) business road maps. As such, these four dimensions of the social innovation process cut across organisational, sectoral and disciplinary boundaries and imply new patterns of stakeholder involvement and learning.
AfriAlliance has prepared Social Innovation Factsheets to illustrate concrete social innovation opportunities in the field of water and climate.