South-North Development: Reversing the Flow of Good Development Practice

A couple of weeks ago I asked the community to help me identify good development ideas born in the 'Global South' that had recently been adopted by more developed countries. In
other words, I was looking for examples of South to North knowledge transfer. I received a number of great responses, which I've compiled here. Please add to the list by commenting on this post. I'm especially interested to find additional examples coming from Asia, the Pacific, and Eastern Europe. There have to be more!

The Changing global economic landscape is having profound effects on development and multilateral institutions. In this increasingly multipolar world, the traditional flow of knowledge from North to South is beginning to turn on its head. Below are a few examples of Southern-born development initiatives that have recently been adopted by Northern countries.

From Bangladesh – Microfinance programs
The success of micro-finance models in South Asia - largely attributed to Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank in Bangladesh – has been adopted by as many as 100 countries including the U.K. and the U.S. Today, both the Grameen America and Accion USA organizations provide small business owners in the US with access to small loans, savings programs, credit establishment and other financial services.

From Brazil – Bus Rapid Transit Systems
The Rede Integrada de Transporte adopted in 1980 in Curitiba Brazil was the first Bus Rapid Transit system in the world. In addition to being a source of inspiration for a number of transit systems throughout the developing World, the Bus Rapid Transit model has subsequently been picked up by cities throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Similar to Brazil's BRT system, Colombia's Transmilenio has also served as a model for replication in the North.

From Brazil & Mexico – Conditional Cash Transfer Programs
New York City recently launched 'Opportunity NYC' - the first conditional cash transfer (CCT) initiative to be implemented in the United States. Opportunity NYC is inspired by CCT programs from Brazil (the Bolsa Familia Program) and Mexico (Oportunidades Program).

From Colombia – Cicolovía: Streets as bike paths
Bogotá, Colombia exported the Ciclovía (literally "bike path") concept - a closed street that is used exclusively for biking, walking, and other similar activities - to other cities in the Americas and around the world. In New York & San Francisco it has been named "car free Sundays".

From Cuba – Alphabetization program "Yo Sí Puedo"
Cuba has transferred its alphabetization program "Yo Sí Puedo" ("Yes I can") to Seville, Spain and New Zealand. The program has been adopted throughout Latin America and by some countries in Africa as well.

From Kenya – using SMS and the web to improve crisis response
In an effort to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout in 2008, a small group of young Kenyans developed an open-source platform called Ushahidi, which allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. The Ushahidi platform is now being used in a number of countries to map crisis response, including in Haiti after the earthquake and in the US to map incidences of crime in Atlanta, Georgia as well as in the city of Washington DC during the recent snowstorm this past January.

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Comment by Aaron Leonard on June 28, 2010 at 11:34am
Thanks, Chris! This is the first I've heard of Appropredia. Looks to be a helpful resource. I'll be sure to spread the word.
Comment by Chris Watkins on June 26, 2010 at 8:06am
Also see the existing page South-North knowledge transfer on Appropedia, which is the leading wiki for appropriate technology and development issues (disclosure - I'm one of the directors).
Comment by Chris Watkins on June 26, 2010 at 8:01am
From Bangladesh - Oral Rehydration Therapy.

Great topic, Aaron.


South-South Cooperation Exchange Mechanism. First online portal dedicated to SSC for sustainable development.

Mapping Multilateral Support to South-South Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards Collaborative Approaches. UNDP, 2011. Download PDF (English version) (Versión en Español)


IDB  Magazine - Regional Public Goods: An innovative approach to South-South Cooperation, 2014 version here in English and Spanish.

Using Knowledge Exchange for Capacity Development: What Works in Global Practice? KDI and The World Bank Institute



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