“The Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is however to change it” reads the tombstone of Karl Marx in London quoting one of his works. Of course, this applies not only to the worldly philosophers but to economists as well. And in homage to his call, most of our articles carry at least a paragraph on ‘insights for policy’ or ‘policy recommendations’. Usually our work also starts with some anecdotal evidence on the problem to which the inferences of the article could be applied. I was part of this mainstream and happy to blend in, but a series of random jolts shoved me to look into the scary beyond.
First, many (many) years back I was at an economist’s Mecca called the Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association and over the evening drinks, a colleague’s husband, assisting someone in the White House on economic matters, quipped: “I wonder if all your general musings on policy from your models… is going to have any impact at all? I wonder what would happen if we just burnt all the papers presented at the meeting? Would anything change?” We smiled weakly and attacked the snacks on the table. But, his questions never left my head.
The other jolts all occurred much later on when I joined UNU-MERIT, which is my testimonial that it’s a place which wakes up scholars. By that time, policy design had also become more Marxian in the sense that it had embraced the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as societal challenges towards which major efforts, including those related to science, technology, and innovation were to be channelled. Policy was more set in a managerial mode to achieve a set of diverse changes or sectoral targets, within a specified time framework, while recognising the importance of complementarities, externalities, institutional functioning and culture – factors which hitherto had been unmentioned or just given a nod.
I particularly enjoyed conversations with Rene Kemp, who has been exploring the world from an evolutionary institutionalist perspective. He showed me how transdisciplinary knowledge production can be useful to address how systemic transitions can be managed. This was interesting, because in reality in most universities, the sciences remain siloed in disciplinary compartments to make their distinctive contributions to society. Furthermore, with increasing knowledge production, disciplines are further divided into sub-silo specialisations that often do not communicate much. Perhaps, this is because there is only so much we can learn and do in life – given our professional performance targets of the year and the daily pressures. But there could be a grain of truth in what Aldous Huxley said: “The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar…”.
Thus, began my personal quest for interesting ideas beyond the standard economics of innovation literature, in management science, public administration and design theory, weaving together strands of common knowledge to propose an i-pod like design innovation of frameworks. Over the years, I have presented my ideas at diverse meetings and classes, taken a few hard hits, but more often received useful comments for which I am greatly indebted. The aim of this first brief (embedded below) is to simply present these frameworks and concepts I find interesting. Thereafter, I hope to apply them in future ones to address consequential problems, “that originate in the broader community, tend to be immediate or pressing and have current or potential impacts on broader society and the environment”, and to do so by being “problem focussed, contextualised and consultative …” (Wickson et al. 2006), like COVID-19, open defecation, climate change and violence against girls and women etc.
I end paying tribute to my muse, Marx, adapting his powerful words from The Communist Manifesto (my bits are in italics) and hoping he won’t mind as it is for a worthwhile cause! “Economists of the world unite! You have nothing to lose – but your [disciplinary] chains!”
Download the brief here or read it below. (References also below)
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
Pixabay / ShonEjai
 Game theorist, John Nash proved that in any strategic play between a set of economic actors, equilibrium in terms of concrete actions that no one would regret and deviate from may not exist, and sometimes on the other hand, there could be multiple equilibria points. This has also been conjectured in mathematics. For instance, consider a system of equations made up of interconnected entities that for simplicity we can allude to as variables. The equations can be considered as challenges to solve and the variables as instruments with which to solve them. Mathematicians in the 17th century proved that if in a system of (linear) equations, the number of equations (i.e. challenges) is greater than the number of variables (i.e. instruments), then there can be no solution, i.e. no value of the variables can make the system truthful. Furthermore, if the number of instruments or variables is greater than the number of challenges or equations – then there could be multiple solutions. Nash, John. “Non-cooperative games.” Annals of mathematics (1951): 286-295.
 Rittel H W J, Webber M M (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences. 4 155-169.
 Torfing, J., Peters, B. G., Pierre, J. and Sørensen, E. (2012) Interactive Governance: Advancing the Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Porter, Michael E., “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy” Harvard Business Review. March 1979
 The origin of the SWOT is attributed to Albert Humphrey during the 1960s while at the Stanford Research Institute. For more, see Helms, Marilyn M., and Judy Nixon. “Exploring SWOT analysis–where are we now? A review of academic research from the last decade.” Journal of strategy and management (2010).
 In his website, http://alexosterwalder.com/ Alex Osterwalder, the inventor of the Business Model Canvas – writes: “In my writing, speaking, and the software company I co-founded, I obsess with making strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship simple, practical, and applicable”.
 Stroh, D. P. (2015). Systems thinking for social change: A practical guide to solving complex problems, avoiding unintended consequences, and achieving lasting results. Chelsea Green Publishing.
 An ‘ecological system’ (ecosystem) is a biological community consisting of all the living organisms (including humans) in a particular area and the nonliving components, such as air, water, and mineral soil, with which the organisms interact.” (https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/ecological-condition). See Ramani, S. V., & Thutupalli, A. (2015). Emergence of controversy in technology transitions: Green Revolution and Bt cotton in India. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 100, 198-212. – for integration of Nature as an actor in an innovation system.
 See the following for the representations of the pharmaceutical sector as a system with games being played between the different economic actors Ramani, Shyama V., and Eduardo Urias. “When access to drugs meets catch-up: Insights from the use of CL threats to improve access to ARV drugs in Brazil.” Research Policy 47.8 (2018): 1538-1552. Guennif, Samira, and Shyama V. Ramani. “Explaining divergence in catching-up in pharma between India and Brazil using the NSI framework.” Research Policy 41.2 (2012): 430-441.
 Darwin, Marx and Schumpeter – all emphasized constant evolution and the uncertainty of mutants appearance in the system.
 Holland J H (1996) Hidden order: How adaptation builds complexity. Addison Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc.,. Simon H A (1962) The Architecture of Complexity. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 106 (6): 467-482.
 Simon H A (1955) A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 69 (1): 99-118.
 Cabon-Dhersin M-L, Ramani S V (2006) Can social externalities solve the small coalitions puzzle in international environmental agreements. Economics Bulletin. 17 (4): 1-8.
 Cabon-Dhersin, Marie-Laure, and Shyama V. Ramani. “Opportunism, trust and cooperation: A game theoretic approach with heterogeneous agents.” Rationality and Society 19.2 (2007): 203-228.
 Balliet, D. (2010). Communication and cooperation in social dilemmas: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 54(1), 39-57.
 Here I am taking liberties to build upon and reinterpret the original visions of scholars: Rotmans J, Kemp R, Van Asselt M (2001) More evolution than revolution: transition management in public policy. Foresight. 3 (1): 15-31. Geels F W (2002) Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research policy. 31 (8-9): 1257-1274, Geels F W (2011) The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms. Environmental innovation and societal transitions. 1 (1): 24-40.
 In other words the solution technology T can be written as a vector (S,P, I, T) where investment in any of the vector components may be zero or non-zero. For every combination (S,P,I,T), there exists say another vector of engagements E, E=(e1,e2,…,ez) as a function of the system characteristics and the wicked problem.
 In the economics of innovation, a science-technology-innovation-based solution design is referred to as a new technology paradigm. However, this approach misses out on ‘engagements’ as acceptance, usage and diffusion of solution design are assumed rather than constructed. Dosi G (1982) Technological paradigms and technological trajectories: a suggested interpretation of the determinants and directions of technical change. Research policy. 11 (3): 147-162
 An expanded version can be found in Kemp, R., & Ramani, S. V. (2020). Solution design through a stakeholder process as a new perspective for Environmental Economics with illustrations from Indian case studies. In A Research Agenda for Environmental Economics. Edward Elgar Publishing.
 Avidov-Ungar, Orit. “” Islands of Innovation” or” comprehensive innovation.” Assimilating educational technology in teaching, learning, and management: a case study of school networks in Israel.” Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects 6.1 (2010): 259-280.
 https://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom/doc10/BG-FCS-E.pdf UNESCO defines culture as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, that encompasses, not only art and literature, but lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs (UNESCO, 2001).
 Richard Buchanan Wicked Problems in Design Thinking, (1995); Donald Schön The Reflective Practitioner, Schön (1983); Cross N (2011) Design thinking: Understanding how designers think and work. Berg.
 Brown T (2008) Design thinking. Harvard business review. 86 (6): 84 . Johansson‐Sköldberg U, Woodilla J, Çetinkaya M (2013) Design thinking: past, present and possible futures. Creativity and innovation management. 22 (2): 121-146.
 Ramani S V, Thutupalli A, Urias E (2017) High-value hi-tech product introduction in emerging countries: The role and construction of legitimacy. Qualitative Market Research. 20 (2): 208-225. Ramani, S. V., Thutupalli, A., El-Aroui, M. A., & Kumar, P. (2017). MNE led new market creation in emerging countries: The case of Bt cotton. In Multinational enterprises and sustainable development. Emerald Publishing Limited. Pp.131-150 Emerald Publishing Limited.