The social and environmental failure of successive Western development models imposed on the global South has led local communities to pursue alternatives to development. Such alternatives seek radical societal transformations that require the production of new knowledge, practices, technologies, and institutions that are effective to achieve more just and sustainable societies. We may think of such a production as innovation driven by social movements, organizations, collectives, indigenous peoples, and local communities. Innovation that is driven by such grassroots groups has been theorized in the academic literature as “grassroots innovation”. However, research on alternatives to development has rarely examined innovation using grassroots innovation as an analytical framework. Here, we assess how grassroots innovation may contribute to building alternatives to development using Zapatismo in Chiapas (Mexico) as a case study. We focus on grassroots innovation in autonomous Zapatista education because this alternative to formal education plays a vital role in knowledge generation and the production of new social practices within Zapatista communities, which underpin the radical societal transformation being built by Zapatismo. We reviewed the academic literature on grassroots innovation as well as gray literature and audiovisual media on Zapatismo and autonomous Zapatista education. We also conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a Zapatista community and its school. We found innovative educational, pedagogical, and teaching–learning practices based on the (re)production of knowledge and learning, which are not limited to the classroom but linked to all the activities of Zapatistas. Our findings suggest that innovation self-realized by Zapatistas plays a key role on the everyday construction of Zapatismo. Therefore, we argue that a specific theoretical framework of grassroots innovation for the pluriverse, based on empirical work carried out in different alternatives to development, is an urgent task that will contribute to a better understanding of how such alternatives grassroots groups imagine, design, and build, particularly across the global South.
|Publication status||Accepted in press - 2022|
- Alternatives to education
- Decolonial pedagogies
- Social innovation
- Transitions to sustainability