Reverse innovation: Everyone has something to teach and something to learn

Globalisation has created a number of public health challenges, but also some unexpected positives. Catherine Rushworth explores a concept challenging the dominant mindset that the technologically advanced North is the natural exporter of intelligent ideas to the South, their grateful receiver.


Prof. Vijay Govindarajan gives the 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, on reverse innovation. © Mays Business School / Creative Commons license

Healthcare innovation is typically thought of as a ‘north to south’ phenomenon. Scientific breakthroughs – both historic, such as the germ theory, or modern day genetic revolutions – have typically occurred in the Northern hemisphere. Similarly, the majority of drugs, diagnostics and the latest medical equipment are mostly all ‘innovated’ in the north and ‘exported’ to the global south. In the global health community the idea of reverse innovation has been gathering pace. It flips this concept – and our mindset – upside down and asks the question, what can we learn from the South?

Reverse innovation, or trickle-up innovation as it is also known, is a term referring to any innovation originating in the ‘developing’ world that then spreads to the ‘developed’ world. The concept originated from the for-profit sector in 2005, and by 2012 a reviewer of Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan’s book, Reverse Innovation, dubbed it as ‘the new business idea everyone is talking about’. It has also been widely cited in the context of global health systems. Notably, Lord Nigel Crisp championed it in his book, Turning the world upside down, which he wrote after retiring from leading the largest healthcare organisation and the fifth biggest employer in the world, the NHS. Continue reading

‘Boys will be boys': an update on women’s rights in India

In his 15 August Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged how the recent spate of appalling rapes occurring on Indian soil has made the country hang its head in shame, urging the nation’s parents to teach their sons right from wrong. But will this public plea be enough to spark the cultural change long hoped for by campaigners? Henna Bakhshi assesses the simultaneous progress and retreat of gender quality in India today.


© Shivonne du Barry/Creative Commons licence

Women’s safety has become a buzzword. But this is again the concept of strong men, who think they have to protect women. What we actually demand is not security, but equal rights for us women. – Khadijah Faruqui, Helpline 181 Director (May 2014)

In December 2012, the rape of a young student on a bus in Delhi sparked protests across India and caused international outrage. In a country where rape is prevalent and sexual harassment is a part of everyday life, this vicious assault started a new tide of feminism that demanded the safety of Indian women. It led to the Anti-Rape Bill in March 2013, which introduced stronger sentencing for attacks against women including rape, acid attacks, voyeurism and stalking. It also led to Helpine 181, a 24/7 emergency service based in New Delhi to support women who have suffered any kind of sexual harassment.

However, the new laws appear to have done little yet to change women’s lives. Helpline 181 receives around 2000 calls a day. In Bangalore, there was public outrage after a 6-year-old girl was raped at school. In Uttar Pradesh (UP) there have been numerous recent attacks, including two teenagers found hanging from a mango tree after being gang-raped, and most recently, a 25-year-old woman who suffered horrific injuries in a terrifying echo of the Delhi attack. Continue reading

Ethics or Aesthetics: The problem with media photography

Who says the lens never lies? As images play an ever stronger part in our engagement with world events, Connie Fisher explores the fine line treaded by photojournalism between communication and exploitation and urges us not to fall victim to the art of manipulation.


The photographer of this Israeli airstrike on Beit Lahia, Gaza, in 2009, has managed to turn a disastrous moment of panic into an impressive work of art. © Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images, under Creative Commons licence.

The live news icon on my computer’s home screen scrolls through headline images, to which my immediate reaction is frequently a feeling of discomfort. This is not due to the content of the news articles, but rather to something I feel is integrally problematic with the photos themselves. There are images of lonely, tattered children backed by Syrian refugee camps, which are hauntingly beautiful, and carefully composed shots of women lifting their hands to the sky amid the rubble of the Gaza conflict, which remind one of a work of art. In many of the widely distributed images of world issues, there seems to be an incongruous and unsettling combination of reportage and art.

We can assess photography according to a scale of purpose and context. At one extreme is journalistic photography, which we believe solely intends to accurately represent the reality of a situation. At the other extreme is photography as an art form, creating images of what we might call beauty. This can be created pre-capture through the composition of the photograph, the content of the frame, or the quality of the image, and also in post-capture digital editing.

The difficulty comes when an image doesn’t sit neatly on either side of the scale. We trust the media to provide us with objective images, to act as our eyes in that which we cannot witness first-hand. However, since the very introduction of photography, we have been aware of its ability to manipulate reality, only ever really able to produce one fixed, time-captured viewpoint, never ‘the whole picture’. High-quality modern cameras even have the ability to enhance reality to the point where life looks clearer through a camera, where people look more beautiful. Continue reading

USA, the fallen superpower?

The wane of the US as world superpower has long been prophesied. Warwick University student Karan Thakrar argues that recent world events are bringing this moment ever closer, and that one may be replaced by three.


Ever since the end of the Cold War, US dominance as a world superpower has been obvious. Their economic strength and the so-called ‘McDonaldisation‘ of global culture have resulted in the relative destruction of communism as a viable modern ideology. US military capacity is also unusually strong. The US spends $640 billion (£377 billion) on its military alone. Its defence budget is so big, it outspends the defence budgets of all the richest eight countries combined. Add to this a widespread feeling of American exceptionalism – the belief that the US is fundamentally different to other nations – which has contributed to some aggressive foreign policy in the 20th century.

A US soldier in Ameriyah, Iraq, 2007. © US Army/Creative Commons license

But is this declining? While the US has displayed willingness to back itself up with hard power, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, in recent times this has not been the case, and as a result its influence on the world stage has diminished. The Obama administration has arguably been lacklustre in its performance on the international stage compared to previous administrations. Take the example of Syria. Obama’s famous ‘red line’ comment over Assad’s use of chemical weapons sparked a reaction from the US, who immediately started planning on bombing strategic sites in Syria. However, after the British Parliament voted against military intervention, followed by France, the US felt it did not have the support to proceed. Continue reading

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: is free trade really the way forward?

For almost a year, the EU and the US have been negotiating what could be the most extensive bilateral trade agreement in history. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims at making it easier to trade goods and services across the Atlantic. However, as public awareness – and objections – have increased, a question has arisen: is freer trade what is best for Europeans and Americans? King’s College London International Politics student, Claire Dale, investigates.


The UK government promotes the TTIP to an American audience. © Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Creative Commons license

The UK government promotes the TTIP to an American audience. © Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Creative Commons license

The European Commission’s (EC) economic assessment states that the TTIP could increase the size of the EU’s economy by €120 billion and the US’s by €90 billion per year. The EC also claims that the treaty would make ‘a positive contribution to the global economy’, creating jobs and increasing the EU’s economic output by as much as 0.5 per cent by 2027. With already very low tariffs on trade between the US and EU, about 3 per cent on average, this predicted growth would come from reducing other types of barriers to trade, i.e. regulations.

While the EC argues that ‘progress in improving conditions for trade and investment will not be at the expense of our basic [European] values’, there is good reason to fear that the ‘harmonising’ of regulations may lead to a race to the bottom in terms of health and safety, environmental and labour standards. Indeed, the more regulations that are in place in a given country, the higher the operating costs for businesses, which is contrary to the aims and predicted success of the TTIP. Continue reading