Transcending Boundaries: Four Principles for Catalyzing Intersectional Innovation

This is the second installment in a two-part post on Capita’s approach to intersectional innovation. Read the first installment here.

Capita is committed to acting and thinking differently to make a truly unique contribution to the birth of an innovation ecosystem improving outcomes for young children and their families. Four principles will guide Capita’s approach:

  1. We will continue creating “contact zones.” Building on our work last fall with AIR Serenbe and inspired by the vision of the Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and others, we will continue to create opportunities to combine unusual concepts and convene unlikely collaborators to generate new models, frameworks, and ideas. Obrist’s annual Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery in London provides an inspiring model: each year he draws artists, architects, historians, theologians, philosophers, scientists, and others around a particular theme with a goal of illuminating that theme from as many different vantage points as possible. Recent themes have included artificial intelligence, gardens, and maps. We believe that we must both engage the contact zones that others create to inform innovation on behalf of children and families and treat our own Capita convenings as contact zones that engage people and ideas from multiple sectors, disciplines, and systems.
  2. We will challenge and — in some cases — reverse our assumptions. Informed by the practice of human-centered design, Capita will put the needs of children and families at the center of our thinking. Too often, innovation only works to improve the operation of systems without ever challenging the system itself. One way we are already doing this is by hosting “Living Labs” where we engage parents and other caregivers as “co-innovators” in designing the solutions to challenges they identify.
  3. We will always leave room for traditions. We do not assume that the 21st century alone holds the solutions to all the challenges we face in improving the lives of children and families. We will try to create more space for digging deep into diverse traditions and cultures to understand how complex problems have been identified and solved in the past, and we will learn together accordingly. The problems and solutions of the past must always be a source for innovation today.
  4. We will always affirm diverse ways of knowing. One of the shortcomings of dominant approaches to social sector innovation is the way in which they depend solely on empirical knowledge. The limitations of these approaches are many, but one is the way in which they discount culture and local forms of knowledge. By relying chiefly on interventions resulting from evaluations conducted by social scientists who then formulate “evidence-based” policies and programs, they can miss key ingredients that can lead to major shifts in societies and our behavior. We have no qualms with the use of evidence or in the empirical evaluations and studies that produce evidence, of course, but we do think a broader view of what constitutes “knowledge worth knowing” is critical. For example, we believe philosophical knowledge, particularly in the field of ethics, can contribute greatly to the ethical and moral innovation necessary to ensure that children thrive in the midst of the great transformations of our time. What are the ethical habits and skills necessary to cultivate democratic citizenship in the digital homelands of 21st century children? How do we form children in the habits of empathy necessary to sustain meaningful social relations for digital natives? The inclusion of philosophers on our advisory board is not accidental; we know they have critical contributions to make to an early childhood innovation ecosystem.

In short, we believe the first five years of life are foundational not only to success in school and in the workforce, but even more importantly, to living a good life. Intersectional innovation that transcends the boundaries of existing systems can help us realize the promise of flourishing and the good life for more and more of our youngest children. Their flourishing today will pave the way to flourishing for all of us tomorrow.