[Photo: Sundeep Bali]

Came across this very thought-provoking article, What Falls to Hand, on creative and innovative re-use of resources. 

What really struck me abou this were the cultural aspects attached to it. which the author calls Jugaad:

Indians have a word for such startling ingenuity in the face of adversity. It’s called jugaad (pronounced joo-gar), a colloquial Hindi term that roughly means “doing more with less.”

And in Kenya:

What is known in Kenya as jua kali, or entrepreneurial spirit, has enabled people there to envision heaps of worn-out tires as the feedstock for the soles of sandals

Orin Mexico:

Consider the concept of rasquachismo, the Mexican cousin of jugaad. Among Chicanos, it has traditionally referred to the “worldview of the have-not,” in which a work-around solution to a practical need “suggests vulgarity and bad taste — tackiness,” writes Jose Anguiano. [3] But in recent years musicians and artists have celebrated rasquachismo with pride, even swagger.

In the UK, post-war Britain viewed re-use and making-do as a reminder of austerity during the war, leading to the explosion of product, interior and fashion design in the 60's and 70's. The cultural attitude to re-use did vary but the predominant view was one of 'new is better'. As with any social pattern, this has ebbed and flowed, but ultimately, our entire economic model is premised on the continual replacement of objects – not their efficient repair, re-use or re-purposing.

The article also explores the dangers of romanticising views of re-use due to necessity:

Other critics argue that raising jugaad to a national virtue is a symptom of neoliberal economics and the privatization of public responsibility. To laud the poor for their "adaptive capacity," writes Oxford professor of geography Craig Jeffrey in The Guardian, is in effect to suggest that if “barefoot entrepreneurs” are able to "'pull themselves up by their own bootstraps' there is little need for the state to wade in with things like effective training, cheap credit, and a decent public infrastructure.”

So, as with many other aspects of creativity and innovation, the psychological, social and cultural aspects are the real drivers here – and the cultural differences might provide a clue to the 'flavour' of jugaad. Fischer sums this up beautifully with this:

This extensive innovation infrastructure emerges from a more fundamental cultural ethic: people are taught from childhood to improvise by acknowledging — even honoring — scarcity and finding the possibilities within it. Everywhere in my travels in India, I encountered evidence of this mindset. A sign above the trashbin at a highway McDonald’s urged patrons to return unopened packets of condiments to servers.