A TechSoup.org Interview With Video Volunteers’ Jessica Mayberry: “Because It Can Be Replicated, Is It No Longer An Innovation?”

TechSoup is a nonprofit that provides other nonprofits and libraries with technology that empowers them to fulfill their missions and serve their communities. As part of that goal, they provide technology products and information geared specifically to the unique challenges faced by nonprofits and libraries. The TechSoup global currently has a special focus on innovations in the social sector and particularly technology driven innovations. They speak to Video Volunteers’ founder Jessica Mayberry about taking on and adapting to the challenges of today’s scenario where an idea is no longer considered ‘innovative’ if it can be replicated.

Because it can be replicated, is it no longer an innovation?

Replication is very hard, and one of the things that have made it hard for us is the disinterest in funders to fund things that are not new.  Precisely because it can be replicated and scaled, it is no longer an ‘innovation,’ and so funders aren’t interested.

Video Volunteers started a dozen ‘Community Video Units’ with different NGOs in India, all of whom were in essence replicating our idea. There were numerous more NGOs who wanted to start them also, but by this point, the funding for these projects was essentially saturated and so these other NGOs couldn’t get funding to do it.

So we had to switch gears. We thought, okay, if there is no more funding for this kind of project, let’s modify it so we can pitch it again as an innovation – and so we came up with our IndiaUnheard model, where we have about 40 community correspondents working in different districts. It is very like the Community Video Units, but at lower cost and without reliance on NGOs’ success at finding additional funding.

The upside was that this lack of funding forced us to become more cost-effective, and that will in the long run help us scale. I think the whole process of thinking about replicability forces NGOs to think about reducing costs, and that is a good exercise. Read more here.

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