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Reviews (Achieving grassroots innovation) image

Review A

Reviewer: Anonymous

The issue and case study is fascinating, informative and highly relevant to the Special Issue. The paper is clearly structured and well written. My comments below indicate a few minor revisions for the authors to consider, and after which I think it will be suitable for publication.

The review of grassroots associations is very helpful, particularly the emphasis on autonomy, and sets up some of the themes regarding links to non-grassroots organisations and routines which are relevant to the special issue focus on institutionalisation.

However, might some of the strengths of grassroots association might also become weaknesses? A reliance on voluntarism can be demanding, and might relate to high turnover of participants; informality might not address power relations within the grassroots, and inclusions and exclusions of certain voices and views. These criticisms can be contested. But my point is that the background section would benefit from considering critical literature or pointing to the challenges in grassroots approaches. Maybe, for example, more structurally-inclined writers criticising horizontalidad or grassroots association and community development more directly? It need not be exhaustive, just a few examples, and reflection from the authors.

In introducing C-Innova, it would be helpful if there were some data about, for example, numbers of participants, varieties of projects, illustrative partnerships – all to give a more general picture before going in depth to the specific study of design summits. It would also be interesting to learn how local communities distant from C-Innova in Bogotá access the workshop, or how this physical space stays connected with the communities where the temporary summits take place.

In descriptions for both summits it is unclear where in Colombia they were held. Please can the authors explain a little more about the characteristics of the host communities? Figures 1, 2 and 3 might be commented on more. For example, the data appears to be for all participants, but how many were students, and how many waste pickers or local community members, and was there any difference between them? In Figure 3, the diagram suggests a before and after score: is that correct, and can you make that explicit? Some of the data is worth noting and drawing into the discussion. For example, local knowledge scores low in figures 1 and 2.

Obviously, a two-week immersion is limited. Might that be the reason? But also, as the discussion of challenges notes, it might score low because it is not so readily measured and therefore noticed? It is interesting that each partner brings different aims for metrics. Maybe that can be elaborated in a table: partner type and kinds of metric sought?

The description emphasises the preparatory work involved, then the impulse of energy it enables, but which disperses into other activities afterwards (and, it seems, sustained by personal motivations and ties rather than a programme). So, in the preparation and after the event there is a lot of hidden work, relationship-building, and innovation. Recognising that is important, including the social value it provides. But is there a challenge in capturing it for recognition and pointing to the hidden labour that institutional partners benefit from? Would this kind of critical observation help in negotiating longer term support beyond the summits?

The organisational changes are significant, but seem to be in the institutions. Whilst this shows how grassroots-oriented initiatives can have a positive impact on institutions, this does not appear reciprocated by the institutions committing long term to the communities and grassroots associations that helped them change their pedagogy or other institutional agenda.

Finally, some minor points, a few references are missing from the list at the end of the paper, so the authors should check that carefully. Quotes in the paper, or references to particular points in a reference, should include page numbers (which are missing in some cases). The standard of English is excellent, although there are a handful of errors. I suggest the authors give the revised version of their paper a careful proof read.

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, it is relevant for the journal and also for this special issue.

2. Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

There is some literature on the issue of assistencialism and development that can be included in order to reinforce the argument of the introduction, in particular: The history of development. From western origins to global faith, by Gilbert Rist, London, Zed Books.

Then there is plenty of different currents of inclusive innovation literature on how grassroots organizations and impoverished populations have indeed the capacity to solve their own problems. In particular Anil Gupta. On the relations between grassroots organizations and funding institutions and the dilemmas that grassroots actors face when negotiating aims, it may be interesting to the quote

Smith, Adrian, Mariano Fressoli y Hernán Thomas, “Grassroots innovation movements: challenges and contributions”, en Journal of Cleaner Production, 63: 114-124, 15 enero de 2014.Doi:

Mariano Fressoli, Elisa Arond, Dinesh Abrol, Adrian Smith, Adrian Ely and Rafael Dias, “When grassroots innovation movements encounter mainstream institutions: implications for models of inclusive innovation”, en Innovation and Development, Special number on New models of Inclusive Innovation for Development, vol. 4, N°2, pp. 277-292, Julio de 2014. DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2014.921354.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?

I really like the case study. C-Innova it is certainly very relevant in order to understand the challenges of grassroots innovation in Latin America. The issue of collaborations is also key to understand the feasibility of this spaces and its viability in the long term. Having said that, I had some problems trying to understand what is specifically the question or questions that the authors are trying to solve. This is somehow implicit in the introduction, but then it is not revisited in the background and the rest of the article. Perhaps the author/s can be more didactic in presenting the goals and questions that are trying to analyze in this piece. This could also be retaken in the discussion and the conclusions.

4. Is the article well written?

Yes, but the previous suggestions will help to reorganize the argument and make easier to read the article.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?

The introduction should be expanded by making explicit the aim and questions of the article. Also, although it is not in the main purpose of the article, it may help to reflect how the work on C-innova differs from other open spaces, particularly in historic terms. It is a personal impression, but I think that the spirit of C-innova is somehow lacking in the text, which is a shame because it is such a nice and vibrant place. More details on what technologies are developing and how people is participating in could help to illustrate the case.

6. How adequately does the paper address the special issue topic of ‘institutions and the institutionalisation’ of makerspaces, and how could the connection be improved (particularly within the three themes in the CfP)?

I think the argument is well on the target of this special number. It only needs some polish and rearrangement.

7. Where is there room for improvement in the presentation/use of empirical material?

As far as I know, C-innova combines analog, appropriate technology approaches with more digital approaches. This is interesting in itself and could help to understand the strategies of space. Since there a plenty of different makerspaces and hackerspaces in Colombia, this information could also help to understand the context for collaborations that C-innova is trying to forge.

Finally, there is room to reflect in the long-term sustainability of this kind of alliance in pursuit of grassroots innovation activities. Since the problem of negotiating aims and activities for funding is widespread among grassroots innovations, perhaps the author/s can think in these dilemmas more generally.

Editors’ review

 Thanks again for your paper (and commitment!) to the Institutions special issue of the Journal of Peer Production. We have now received both reviews, which suggest minor edits. We agree with the reviewers that your paper features a well-written and fascinating case study relevant to the special issue theme. However, we also agree with the minor edits they suggest regarding the paper’s narrative, development and copy-editing. So, here we set out our editorial position in relation to the recommendations.

 In summary, we agree with the central recommendations that the reviewers point out, namely: 

  • An overall deepening of your approach regarding the methods that you used to come to your results (ie interviews – with whom, how many etc)?, your research questions and how you developed your own relationship with C-Innova as case study is needed to back up your claims, including a deeper description of C-Innova itself as a distinct site in its own right (Reviewer 1 suggests the use of tables and/or diagrams to illustrate some of these). Reviewer 2 in particular found the paper hard to read without more explicit examinations of the research questions occurring outside of the introduction. 
  • More discussion is also requested regarding the following topics that are hinted at but not outlined further in the paper: Potential weaknesses with these kinds of grassroots partnerships; whether there is commitment from the institutions themselves to commit longer-term to the communities they have learned from at IDDS; more on the various ways grassroots organisations may have been able to solve their own problems other than mentioning this briefly in the introduction (Reviewer 2 has specific readings to suggest in this regard); and on how C-Innova differs from other open spaces historically in the region, as well as on the potential for a wider sustainability of this model.  

 Lastly, as the journal does not have funds for professional copy-editing, we ask that you do a last serious round of proofreading before resubmitting, as there are various points where references exist in the paper but are missing from the body of the text, or where there are quotes without page numbers or years. Note the Journal also asks that references are standardised into Harvard format. There are also small errors in English throughout, especially regarding a lack of commas in various areas and incorrect use of tenses, for example “participants understanding of design” instead of “participants’ understanding of design” in the abstract and “still left in vulnerable situation” instead of “situations” and “fuel this revolution” instead of “fuelled” in the intro. Other examples are a missing full-stop after (Smillie, 1991) in the Introduction and a missing “a” in the phrase “altruism as group” in the Background. 

 We hope this feedback is constructive. Many thanks, again, for being involved!