Five Reasons to Fear Innovation

SUR 23 - v.13 n.23, 211 - 221, 2016

11 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2016

Date Written: July 7, 2016


In recent years, innovation has become a buzz word in the human rights sector. The concept is increasingly emphasised by funders and, consequently, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are beginning to pay attention to it, but usually with reluctance and cynicism. Wanting to better understand the origins of innovation and why rights based NGOs tend to instinctively resist it, Lucia Nader and José Guilherme F. de Campos interviewed over one hundred activists and human rights defenders.

Here they distil the results of their research and offer the five main concerns with innovation that were articulated during the interviews, specifically that (1) it is simply a fashionable word from the private sector in the Global North; (2) there is no real need for innovation when fighting for human rights since the underlying principles of the movement do not change; (3) it is unfair to test innovative concepts on those that the human rights movement seeks to protect; (4) innovation only results in creating more rights violations; (5) innovation brings uncertainties, which funders tend not to like.

Analysing each of these concerns in turn and presenting counter arguments, the authors conclude by suggesting five questions that organisations must ask themselves before embarking on a process of innovation.

Keywords: Innovation, Civil Society, NGOs, Human rights

Suggested Citation

Nader, Lucia and de Campos, José, Five Reasons to Fear Innovation (July 7, 2016). SUR 23 - v.13 n.23, 211 - 221, 2016. Available at SSRN:

Lucia Nader (Contact Author)

Conectas Human Rights ( email )

Caixa Postal nº 62633
São Paulo - SP, 01214-970

José De Campos

FEA-USP ( email )

Av. Prof. Luciano Gualberto 908
São Paulo SP, São Paulo 05508-900

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