Addressing major social problems, especially in an era of limited resources, is both daunting and enthralling. Our responses to tackling such problems, however, often serve to undermine the development sector’s impact.
We have well-developed tools for tackling social issues based on thoughtful analysis and technological inventiveness, but there has been something missing from the toolbox.
In New York City government—much like at Bloomberg LP—three key approaches have helped us get around challenges to drive innovation forward.
There’s no doubt that groundbreaking inventions and discoveries have moved the world forward, but sometimes, a small innovation can be just as powerful.
Historically, some of the most effective and important technological developments and products—from electric lighting to the graphical user interface of the Windows operating system—have been pieced together in just this way, from pre-existing inventions.
While most people know of us for our work on literacy and numeracy, Sesame Workshop tackles topics affecting the whole child—a wide array of issues that families across America and around the world face. Recently, we entered a new area: childhood hunger.
Designing for development with conflict-affected communities
Many of the traditional approaches to development simply will not work in conflict-ridden zones.
Water.org tries to apply the best thinking from the private sector, the public sector, the financial markets—wherever breakthrough ideas exist—to the problem of providing safe, sustainable water in developing counties.
Venture philanthropy can look hideously complex. It may involve private investors, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups—not to mention the recipients of the funding. And each of these groups has a different way of measuring success.
Our goal at the nonprofit social enterprise Indego Africa is to put ourselves out of business, literally. We’ve joined forces with noted fashion designer Nicole Miller because we believe she can help us do exactly that.
I never meant to get into the shoe business, and would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that’s what I’d be doing today. The idea to start TOMS came during a trip to Argentina back in 2006.
People who study development and who work in the development business are realizing more and more that you actually have to build development from the ground up, working with and including the individuals who you are trying to help. This is a very hard process that has harsh realities. You have to really understand the specific problems.
Analysts predict that by 2012, there will be over 6 billion mobile phone connections worldwide, with developing markets driving the growth; by 2015, Africa alone will have 265 million mobile phone subscribers.1 The mobile phone started as a tool for the elite.
Each year, $200 billion is spent to improve lives in the developing world. This funding spawns a vast global industry that includes experts in specialized fields like immunology and sanitation, local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, global corporations, suppliers of essential equipment and services like microgrids and logistics, and, in all, over a million professionals of all stripes around the world.
Finding a way to conserve natural resources, biodiversity, and habitats is a universal challenge across the planet. So too is the need to nurture sustainable economic development to improve the lives of the Earth’s poorest rural populations.
While many people subscribe to Milton Friedman’s belief that “the social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits,” (RED) was founded on the idea that corporate profitability carries with it a social duty.
With a 9 percent annual growth rate, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But corruption remains a serious problem; in 2010, Transparency International ranked the country 87th out of 178 countries in its annual corruption perception index.
Around the world, social innovators are starting to use “big data”—datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical software programs to capture, manage, and analyze—to address critical problems.
Skunk Works. Innovation Lab. Incubator. New Ventures Group. These are just some of the names companies have used over the years when they set up teams to generate new ideas or incubate new businesses outside the shackles of the day-to-day demands. When these efforts work, the results can be spectacular.
For the last six months, some colleagues and I have been traveling the world asking questions about government innovation. Does it exist? Does it make a difference? We’ve met with government leaders and their customers—everyday citizens, businesses, and civil-society organizations—in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. And what we’ve found is surprising.
Many companies that have expanded in Africa have brought with them a commitment to support the communities in which they’re now working.
What do we mean by social innovation—and does it really matter? Is it simply the rebranding of things we’ve been doing forever? And most important, will it last longer than last year’s hemlines? Will it matter to my grandchildren someday?
Lance Armstrong, perhaps the most famous cancer survivor on earth, was training for his record sixth consecutive Tour de France victory. It was the early spring of 2004 and Armstrong wanted to use this triumph to raise funds to serve fellow cancer survivors.
We attracted close to 150 videos from 30 countries. The entries address nearly every societal challenge, in every corner of need, from an organization in India that’s converting sewage to energy to Project Pressure, a UK organization that’s documenting climate change by creating a photographic archive of the world’s receding glaciers.