Posted on November 28th, 2018
The Diffusion of Innovation theory aims to explain how, why and at what rate innovations spread through a population. First published in 1962 by Everett Rogers, it highlights key elements that influence the spread of a technology.
The technology itself, in this case, Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB). Potential adopters will evaluate ISSB on its relative advantage, its compatibility with existing practices, its difficulty or complexity to adopt, its trialability and its observed effects.
ISSB, as an innovation, is very attractive to potential adopters based on the above criteria. In Uganda’s current environmental and social landscape, the need for a simple, cost-effective, environmentally friendly construction material is high.
In order for a potential adopter to consider a technology, first, they must be made aware of it.
Diffusion of innovation deals in the currency of information, how does information pass from person to person or organisation to organisation?
Explained verbally, HYT has met a certain resistance when describing blocks pressed from soil. People want their houses, schools and hospitals made of brick and mortar, not soil! It is only when they see an ISSB structure or feel a block that they understand that ISSB is far from a mud hut. Each ISSB structure acts as an advocate for the technology.
Refers to the external factors that may affect a potential adopters’ decision e.g. the media, government organisation or pressure from cultural norms.
HYT has historically worked with schools as there is an urgent need to increase Uganda’s educational capacity. The social system surrounding schools is complex. It involves teachers, parents, government and often NGO funders. Within the system, each group has opinions and different levels of influence in the decision to adopt or reject a technology.
Schools are often at the heart of a community: every parent is emotionally, sometimes financially, invested. Structures in schools are able to communicate the positive message of ISSB to entire communities.
The forementioned resistance to using soil in construction is a symptom of the cultural pressure to move away from mud huts towards brick and mortar. For 10 years, HYT has operated in this cultural system, our work speaks for itself and has left a wake of ISSB enthusiasts where sceptics once stood.
More recently, HYT has been exploring ISSB applications in refugee settlements. A complex system of government and non-government parties orchestrate development in refugee settlements. One of HYT’s objectives with our showcase project is to demonstrate the benefits of ISSB to these influential parties.
HYT’s success at the 2017 Ashden Awards gave HYT the platform to share ISSB technology with an international audience. The prestigious award has given the organisation a huge amount of credibility and lets larger NGO’s, government bodies and individuals know that HYT and ISSB are worth investing in.
Everett borrowed the term critical mass from nuclear physics. In this context critical mass occurs when there is a sufficient number of adopters in a population that further adoption becomes self-sustaining. Helped by our progressive partners and generous donors, HYT continues to nudge ISSB technology along the adoption curve towards critical mass.