The essence of lived experiences of grassroots innovators a phenomenological study

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Farmers, peasants and people from the marginalised and informal sectors have long exhibited grassroots creativity that has the potential to enhance rural economies. Little is known about the experiences of these people. Further, a humanistic, bottom-up, inside-out approach to understanding the essence of these grassroots innovation (GI) phenomenon is absent in the literature. The primary purpose of this thesis is to explore the essence of Grassroots Innovation (GI) and gain an appreciation of the subjective reality of grassroots innovators. The overarching research question is: What is the essence of the lived experiences of GI for Indian grassroots innovators? To answer this question, the researcher had to discern innovation decisions and actions of grassroots innovators along their innovation journey vis-à-vis ideation, opportunity recognition and commercial scaling. Through phenomenological exploration and detailed thematic analysis of the innovation experiences of the thirteen Indian grassroots innovators, the research determined the nature and spirit of the relational commercial exchanges entailing and fostering GI. These participants identified as grassroots innovators by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), an autonomous body of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, were interviewed for this study. These innovators are all different, and the lived experience of each is unique. Examination of cognitive and social-relation dynamics and the dominant form of exchange and socio-economic organisation embedded in innovation action provide an understanding of the nature and spirit of the GI phenomenon. This study confirmed that no single unilateral theory can fully explain the lived experiences of grassroots innovators. Rather, it is quintessential to have an integrated holistic perspective for understanding GI. The subjective reality of the GI phenomenon was inquired through the non-reductionist, inductive logic and a phenomenological approach. Such an approach provided a rich, contextually situated and an inside-out understanding of underlying individual as well as interpersonal dynamics shaping GI in the commercial space. It is evident from the findings that GI is a mind-set driven practical solution science, with a complex mix of livelihood matters and intra and interpersonal innovation behaviours. Unlike mainstream innovation, GI involves non-linear informal processes of ideation and opportunity recognition. These findings reveal the situated reality of Indian grassroots innovators’ lives. Therefore, Indian government institutions such as the NIF and non-governmental organisations could use the findings of this research to devise bottom-up policies that embrace grassroots innovators in an inclusive, participatory and empowering manner.
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