Innovation is another one of those terms that gets tossed around frequently, but do we really take the time to think more deeply about what it means? We all strive to be more innovative; whether it is to make a difference in the world or come up with a product or a service for a ready-made market. This week I received my regular cosmetics’ brochure and there were at least six or more new beauty products all boasting innovations. From the small to the big things, innovation can cover a multitude of uses. We are also told there is a difference between being creative and innovative.
It is easy to become enraptured by the ‘big guns’ such as Tesla with its driverless electric cars or Virgin with plans for holiday space trips to Mars; and neglect the quiet achievers. Innovation surrounds us everywhere and we probably take many inventions and other activities for granted.
I have just finished watching the final episode of the SBS TV series Michael Mosley: Queen Victoria’s Slums (2017) which involved families and individuals living the life that their ancestors did as slum dwellers in London’s East End during her reign. The reality of life for the poorest of the poor becomes evident very quickly. One has to admire the ingenuity and survival skills living in the slums required. The final show moved onto the new age following the death of Queen Victoria, and the attempts to introduce welfare reform. Among these was a mass clearance of slums. While some people remained at the bottom of the rung others managed to work their way outside of the slums for a better life. Due to exposure in local newspapers with photographs and stories highlighting the dire circumstances of many individuals living in poverty, there was a more acute awareness among those with the power to change things.
With the rise of trade unions for better conditions and pay for working men, the women’s right to vote movement, and cooperatives which supported families, innovations were coming to the fore as part of a more progressive society. One example, the cooperative store provided a range of quality goods at competitive prices to consumers as well as social support. There were free first-time outings to the countryside away from the squalid city conditions for cooperative members and their children.
While poverty has not been eradicated with many disadvantaged groups still struggling today, the introduction of social security payments and subsidised medical treatment offers safety nets for those who need financial assistance in Australia. Innovative thinking was behind welfare reform but as we face different challenges and changing needs of the population, innovation is required again to avoid entrenched poverty becoming the norm.