University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business 

3rd GSB Conference on the Business of Social and Environmental Innovation (BSEI2013)

“Co-innovation to address wicked problems: The investment case for fighting malnutrition: co-innovating through a cross-sector collaboration ranking the food & beverage sector”

Cape Town, South Africa, 25-26 November 2013




While traditional approaches to innovation focus on developing new technologies and new commercial applications, designed for economic value creation, wicked problems require innovations on a completely different scale. Such problems are large, messy and complex, and involve divergent perceptions on how problems are caused and resolved. They may also hold a trade-off between economic and social value creation. Some of the greatest challenges of our time are wicked problems, including many issues that are situated at the global-local nexus, such as poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, or food insecurity. Simply hoping for product or process innovations to tame these problems will not be enough. Instead, the resolution of wicked problems demands a new approach to innovation which runs along three dimensions in order to generate wider, systemic transformations.

Firstly, wicked problems require different types of complementary innovations, including technological, organisational and social innovation. Secondly, wicked problems exceed stand-alone efforts by individual actors and necessitate collaborative innovations between different societal actors, ranging from businesses and governments to NGOs and local communities. Thirdly, wicked problems demand coordinated innovations which cut across different levels, scales and sectors. We capture these dimensions in the phrase co-innovation for sustainability.

The question of how to organise and promote such co-innovation poses tremendous conceptual and practical challenges. Therefore, we invite submissions on theory and experiences from practice that can advance our understanding of the following two key focus areas:

Mechanisms, strategies, processes and dynamics of co-innovation for sustainability

1.1   Role of businesses, social entrepreneurs and social enterprises in co-innovation

1.2   Role of cross-sector collaboration in co-innovation

1.3   Intra- and inter-organisational processes and capabilities needed for co-innovation

Impact and outcomes of co-innovation for sustainability

2.1   Creating and assessing impact

2.2   Scaling up and replication of co-innovation

2.3   Dealing with trade-offs in co-innovation


Graham Sinclair, SinCo

Working Paper

31 July 2013


This paper investigates how a cross-sector collaboration of international organization, investor, academic, and business communities through stakeholder engagement introduced the first-ever rating of nutrition policies, practices and performance of global major food & beverage manufacturing companies. By describing the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) Project since 2008, this paper seeks to share experiences from practice that can advance our understanding of mechanisms, strategies, processes and dynamics of co-innovation for sustainability through examining the role of cross-sector collaboration in co-innovation. The ATNI project has relevance in Africa in at least four ways: the well-documented need to improve nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, the activities of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, the influential role of sustainable investment and investors such as the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) of South Africa, and the decision by the project to include a spotlight index approach to three emerging markets, Mexico, India and South Africa. Recommendations for firm strategy and the role of active institutional investment are examined in light of the investor and firm responses to the first iteration of the ATNI in 2013.

Keywords: food security, nutrition security, rankings, sustainable investment, nutrition labels, cross-sector collaboration, nutrition, taste, firm strategy, public policy, stakeholder engagement, sustainable investment. 


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