• in

    Help Essaim d’Accueil reach their crowdfunding target!

    Just over a month ago we talked to Claire Juchat about Essaim d’Accueil – for the full article, click here. This week we caught up with her and her colleague Raya to see how their project has developed since then.

    What are the key words you want people to remember about Essaim d’Accueil?

    Watch your attitude: be a peer!

    Essaim d’Accueil is non-profit organization with the mission to make society more inclusive. We work towards this goal by putting in touch people of various legal status and sociocultural origins while specifically including asylum seekers. We keep it informal and fun!

    Last time we talked, you were about to launch a crowdfunding campaign on OneMillionSparks. Where are you now?

    Our crowdfunding campaign is coming to its end! So these are the last days you can help us out! If we reach our goal on OneMillionSparks, we will be able to launch a “recreational education package” for our members. The idea behind this package is to legally and socially contextualize asylum in Switzerland. This could avoid misunderstandings and misconceptions such as that we are equally free to go visit the Salève smiling at Geneva from just across the border. The package consists of a presentation held by a legal expert, followed by a workshop on what it means to have a horizontal attitude, on what it means to engage in peer-to-peer interactions. Peer-to-peer interactions are not only fun, but also a powerful and eye-opening educational tool.

    What’s your next big goal?

    Our next big goal is to involve more people. Who knows: maybe we’re looking for you? Drop us a line in case you may be interested in joining our network of activities (parties, BBQs, cups of tea etc.) or you’d simply like meeting new people! Of course, some of you may be curious to learn more about what asylum seekers’ lives are like in Switzerland. In that case, you’re also in the right place! We’ll put you in touch and you can continue the conversation from there on ☺ The same goes for those living in housing facilities for asylum seekers: if you’re looking for new people to hang out with, get in touch!

    Our structure leads us to constantly enlarge our circle of friends, so please talk about Essaim d’Accueil in your surroundings!

    What will be possible when you achieve that goal?

    One day, we will get rid of prejudice! Because there will be no need to fantasize about how someone else’s lifeworld could possibly be. And no, we’re not just a bunch of dreamers ☺ We have seen misconceptions fade away!

    What do you need to do (or need readers to do) to reach this goal?

    We need you to become our member. Then, we need you to sign up in our monthly calendar to suggest a hangout. At least one other member will join you, and then you can go meet new people residing in facilities for asylum seekers. Sounds simple? It is! Don’t worry if you’re shy – we also organize bigger events, which can establish the first link. Afterwards, you’ll be more comfortable suggesting a more intimate hangout. A typical hangout could be 5-7 people. But of course participation is voluntary and open to all, so you and your fellow member could find yourselves in a situation where 10 people are spontaneously interested in joining your hangout!

    How can our readers help you?

    Check out our campaign on OneMillionSparks! You may be interested in supporting our recreational education package! Also, share this article and don’t hesitate to become a member! If you have an idea very much in line with a peer-to-peer attitude, please tell us about it! We would love collaborating with you to make it happen!

    What have you learnt since the last time we talked that might be helpful for other innovators?

    Be clear about your mission. There are many brilliant things happening, but nobody can do everything.

  • in

    On a mission to save the world’s little pollinators

    The Journey:
    Nathalie Lafosse gave up a professional cycling career in her teenage years and any dream of winning a medal. However, one never knows what awaits in the future. On October 21, 2017 Nathalie won the PremaGyan Good100 medal at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne. There she presented her project, Merci les Abeilles, to the GoodFestival 3rd edition. In June 2017, Nathalie started this project and by the end of August she gave up her full time job.

    Teaching innovation and entrepreneurship in schools with Graines d’entrepreneurs / InnovEntrepreneurs, Nathalie was in awe of new agricultural drones. However, this technological advancement left her wondering what had happened to the bees, and until that point she did not know that bees pollinated the fruits and vegetables we need to survive. Throwing herself into research, Nathalie found up to 80% of bees in Europe are dying due to three factors: pesticides, pollution and climate change. Why invest so much money in new technology when a solution already exists? A solution which has been around for hundreds of years; years before pesticides came into play. While she knew that she could not single handedly take down Monsanto, inspiration struck.
    In the U.S. and Canada, a reusable beeswax wrap exists to replace clingfilm and aluminum foil to reduce waste. There is one thing Nathalie is certain of: everyone can play a small part in saving our planet and saving the bees but they need to be more conscious, and reduce the amount of waste each individual produces on a daily basis. In an effort to reduce waste, it seemed absurd to buy an eco-friendly product that has travelled from China to the U.S. to Switzerland. So Nathalie set to it; watching tutorials on YouTube, learning to make her very own beeswax food wrap, and coming up with her own method.

    Although it may seem crazy to create a product from bees, because Nathalie herself is actually afraid of bees and insects, her beeswrap prototype is getting ready for Swiss and European markets. Not only is the revenue from her zero waste website going to finance bee preservation, Nathalie shall run workshops teaching people about building, running and owning hives, educating children, teenagers and adults about the urgency of the world’s little pollinators’ situation. She hopes to raise awareness for local beekeepers, and ramp up their profits through the sales of beeswax to individuals making beeswax wraps at home.
    Having recently started the journey, along with her family, to become zero-waste, the Merci les Abeilles website sells other zero-waste products and provides tips to help people begin the daunting journey of becoming zero-waste.

    The Future:
    Even more impressive for a four month old startup are the big plans Nathalie has for the future. The big idea is to have a marketplace connecting local beekeepers and zero-waste products to consumers. Not only is she working to start campaigning to save the bees in Senegal, she hopes to set up a social project providing jobs for disabled people in Switzerland; employing them to make beeswrap and other zero-waste products.

    Nathalie wants you!
    Lab tests are expensive, but Nathalie needs her beeswrap to pass Swiss and European muster. She has done what she can, but the bees can not wait. Therefore, Nathalie is running an impressive crowdfunding campaign on One Million Sparks. Within an hour and a half, donations have doubled from $600 to $1,120. With a goal of $10,000, she hopes to translate her website into multiple languages, run workshops in cities and schools across the continent, and generate income for beekeepers… all on a quest to save our bees.


  • in

    Building Bridges, One Link At A Time

    Based and operating in Geneva by eight hopeful young adults, the Essaim d’Accueil team works tirelessly towards the social inclusion of asylum seekers. As they profoundly word it, “Many who are called ‘migrants’ are not treated as individuals, but as part of a faceless mass. Essaim d’Accueil decided to build bridges between the asylum seekers and the current residents of the same area, despite different legal status and backgrounds.”

    All around the world, bringing people together in a safe environment has the power to build connections, diminish ignorance, generate understanding and spark creativity. Essaim d’Accueil applies that to the continuously expanding refugee crisis we face today. Using a network of volunteers, they welcome refugees, and non-refugees, with open arms, organize get togethers to spark connections, and counter populist messages of exclusion recurrent in Europe today.

    While building membership base of 60+, they have coordinated BBQs, city tours and cinema outings. The hope is to increase general sensitivity to a contemporary social phenomena; drawing attention to the causes and effects of ‘us vs. them’ and ‘sedentary vs. migrant’ perceptions. To do so, they are working to integrate workshops into their program, focusing their efforts on building a peaceful society.

    What makes them different? No transaction of goods takes place. Instead there is a private, personal exchange in a space without judgement or categorization, a space where everyone is equal. The team is open to new ideas; opening themselves up to anyone who wishes to get in touch and make their ideas come true.

    Essaim d’Accueil does not sell a product, but relies solely on donations. In order to reach more immigrants, Essaim d’Accueil is running a OneMillionSparks campaign: all donations go towards training their 60+ members and solidifying the foundations of membership. This will allow them to broaden the diversity of participants and increase their impact in the Geneva area.

    Winning a PremaGyan Good100 medal at the April 2017 edition of the GoodFestival, Essaim d’Accueil is looking forward to attending the next GoodFestival event.

    Want to get in touch?
    E-mail: comite.essaimdaccueil@gmail.com
    Website: http://essaimdaccueil.weebly.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/essaimdaccueil/

  • in

    Enabling a better start in life, supporting our smallest

    The Premayotte Association is helping the most vulnerable among us: premature born babies. In the neonatology service located on Mayotte island near Mozambique, the little ones and their parents receive the support required for a better start in life.

    The hospital of Mayotte has the biggest French maternity unit with more than 9514 registered births, of which 4 to 5% require neonatology services. Being on an island, providing help to such prematurely born children is extremely challenging. Besides, Mayotte is facing a wave of immigration from Comoros island. This brings a significant number of pregnant women into the hospital, making up 70% of all females treated in the department. Most deliveries happen as emergencies and under stressful conditions, caused by the unstable health of the new-born babies.

    During that challenging time, the Premayotte Association is supporting parents by providing their babies with material (such as clothes or bath products) after a premature birth. In addition, parents can interact with other parents who experienced the same situation, via social network chats, thereby reducing anxiety and stress.

    The association also introduced sewing classes where volunteers learn how to manufacture blouses and incubator covers. Blouses are intended to be used for the weakest babies, for whom wearing “normal” clothes is impossible due to their condition. The incubator covers allow the babies to stay in a dark and quiet environment just like in the utero, helping them to grow and thrive.
    The association was created in September 2016 and so far, they have already assisted more than one hundred babies with 40 kg of material. The next big project is to get ergonomic cocoons for premature babies. They will allow infants to lie in a position similar to the fetal position and avoid orthopaedic problems which would require additional treatments.


  • in

    Help Fund Momentom Collective: Legitimizing circus and yoga as sports for development

    Looking to invest in a project defiantly making the world a better place? Help Momentom Collective grow and bring them to the GoodFestival.

    Momentom Collective uses yoga and circus arts as a medium to promote social inclusion and trauma alleviation through Project CirQus. Their goal? To cultivate useful life skills among vulnerable populations. With a specific focus on refugee camps, the collective developed a curriculum that combines yoga and circus arts tailored to deliver core educational and recreational values to refugee and/or internally displaced youth in post-conflict or state-of-emergency recovery.

    Help fund their journey to the GoodFestival:

  • in

    Learning languages fast and fun way with Speaksli

    Speaksli began as a true labor of love. After marrying a Swiss national and becoming a resident of Switzerland in 2014, Speaksli’s founder, Elizabeth Cummins, challenged herself to create animated videos teaching herself German and Swiss German. She started publishing her videos on YouTube and watched in delight as the channel rapidly grew to over 3.2 million views in 196 countries. Today, with a 97% approval rating and countless glowing user testimonials, Speaksli fans show a strong emotional connection to the brand and clamor for more content.

    The main goal of Speaksli is to develop engaging video content so learners can quickly develop confidence and proficiency in a new language at their own pace. By creating simple, affordable and accessible technology solutions, the company hopes to reduce the frustration of learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture. The growing European refugee crisis in late 2016 showed how conflicts can arise from cultural and language differences. Speaksli hopes reduce these conflicts by promoting international understanding by facilitating language proficiency and communication across cultures. Language skills serve as one of the most essential early steps toward successful cultural integration and the obtainment of gainful employment by new immigrants. Speaksli could greatly help with cultural integration and economic empowerment within these communities.

    Beginning with the 2016 MassChallenge Startup Accelerator program in Lausanne, Switzerland, Speaksli received great market validation through conversations with government officials and refugee aid workers. Soon thereafter, Speaksli was awarded the prestigious PremaGyan Good100 Award at the GoodFestival while also being selected for mentoring by Google at ImpactHub in Zurich. Next, Speaksli was selected as one of only 100 exhibitors out of 7,400 applicants for the StartupGrind Global Conference in the Silicon Valley, February of 2017.

    Elizabeth always strived to make a meaningful contribution to society. As a result, Speaksli set off on a more formal journey to help refugees, fueled by the passion of many mentors and the support of many startup organizations.

    Beyond helping refugees and recent immigrants, a secondary aim of Speaksli is to equip students, travelers, expatriates and lifelong adult language learners around the globe with a flexible learning platform that makes learning a second language fast and fun. As a starting point, Speaksli will license content to the eGranary Digital Library, which is installed in over 1,100 schools, clinics, and universities in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, and many other locations. Ultimately, Speaksli plans to offer core basic language content in 7 languages by 2020, growing one day to 12 languages.


  • in ,

    Waterock L3C – bringing back indigenous water harvesting techniques

    Laurence de Bure, a French born immigrant, brought an agricultural background from farm life in the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France to Tucson Arizona. Her appetite to learn of the tribal life near her new surroundings led her to discover traditional indigenous water harvesting techniques. This in turn led to her current mission; encouraging its reintroduction to the Hopi and Navajo tribes, especially promoting youth empowerment and traditional knowledge building.

    Conceptualized in 2013, Waterock L3C is an investor owned, limited dividend, for-profit company. It is providing economic opportunities to disadvantaged individuals and communities through a business-like approach. During the past three years, the company has organized 15 training workshops focused on land and water restoration techniques, which have involved over 150 Hopi and Navajo youth. These workshops have been introducing indigenous techniques focused on the construction of rock based Trincheras, Gabions, and water catchment basins to slow the flow of rainwater runoff in the watersheds of their reservations. These are not voluntary activities but “on-the-job” trainings in which participants receive a cash stipend well above the minimum wage in the United States for their work.

    The success of this initiative led to international recognition through awards received from the Swiss based “Good Festival” symposium in 2016, and by the French Government in its worldwide competition, “100 Projects to Combat the Effects of Climate Change”. Furthermore, it has also led to requests for similar rainwater harvesting workshops and collaborations. One of which foresees the collaboration with the Embassy of the Earth Foundation, the Netherlands Center for Indigenous people, and the DHAN Foundation in Tamil Nadu, India, whereby the organization of a series of workshops to be conducted in the Fall of 2017 in Tamil Nadu State was agreed upon.

  • in

    LEDsafari: lighting the path for a sustainable future

    How would you encourage youth entrepreneurship while reaching for a sustainable future? Directly impacting 15,000 students, indirectly 60,000 and saving 24 kilotons of CO2 emissions, it is safe to say that LEDsafari has a solution.

    First place PremaGyan Good 100 medalist at April’s GoodFestival, founder and CEO Govinda lives his dream of empowering future generations to tackle climate change every day. LEDsafari encourages and empowers youth through education and training to tackle climate change. Why? Because climate change will have a great effect on their future lives.

    Based in Switzerland, LEDsafari actively works in over 20 countries (India, Rwanda, Kenya, Germany…) teaching sustainability using hands-on education in Swiss and European universities and schools. In developing countries they do the same, but the aim is to provide energy access in underprivileged, electricity-scarce areas.

    Their story started with a simple DIY solar lamp which made clear the power of solar technology. Now they offer a sensor solar lamp as well as a solar mobile phone charger. The basic solar lamp kit consists of a solar panel, Li-ion battery, switch and a few other essential parts. Creativity plays a major part as only the essential parts are provided – the lamp body individuals must build using recycled materials. Providing safe, clean lights to students in developing countries, LEDsafari helps encourage the growth of literacy.

    With measurable figures already in the thousands (and tons!), one of their goals is to reach 100 million students in the next five years. To do this, they are looking for educational partners and investors all around the world. The other? To become a technology sharing platform for people around the world to become familiar with and adopt sustainable technologies

    When asked about what the average person can do in their daily lives, Govinda encourages us to “be conscious and judicious with the use of energy and adopt renewable energy sources wherever possible.”

  • in

    Your creativity for the good of the sea

    A better understanding of the oceans and a rational management of their resources, that is what the European Marine Information (EMI) strives for. Founded in September 2016 by two engineer students specialized in marine sciences, the project aims to combine innovation and oceanographic research by bringing together students and experienced scientists.

    The team provides students with information about careers in the marine sciences sector and puts them in contact with seasoned professionals. EMI also promote events of research laboratories as well as jobs and internships in the domain. By doing this, they improve the relationships between various actors and create new relationships between universities, research organizations, and enterprises.

    EMI currently focuses on the area of disease prevention in fish farming based on satellite remote sensing. EMI wishes to support companies seeking to harness marine potential respecting coastal and oceanic ecosystems. This new way of involving scientists with responsible companies enables a quick and sustainable implementation of inventions.

    By 2019, EMI plans to open a web platform where each actor of the maritime progress (entrepreneur, student, public institution or researcher) will find a place to change or make use of marine resources in a concerted manner. In this regard, the team is currently looking for partners and raising funds.

    In the near future, EMI is looking to increase their impact in Europe by getting involved in the common policy of global ocean development. In the long run, they envision projects abroad with a focus on Francophone countries and research.

    EMI is becoming a tool for the preservation of oceans by promoting collaboration and interdisciplinarity.

    Website: http://european-marine-information.strikingly.com/
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/euromarine.information/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/euromarineinfo
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12019603/profile

    Like a fingerprint to humans, flukes are individual to whales. EMI has the ability to create a unique database of these pictures to develop a recognizing system for humpback whales.

  • in

    GoodFestival: The Power of Eight

    Stripping away race, gender, religion, nationality and wealth, we are left with the naked truth about two types of people in this world: those who want to actively better society and participate in random acts of kindness, let’s call them Group One, and those with the resources to help them do it, Group Two.

    But what happens when a small selection of Group One pool together their ideas and limited time? Well that is the story of GoodFestival – from random acts of kindness to structured acts of greatness.

    With a core team of eight, today we have the chance to incorporate multiple ideas and opinions to shape the GoodFestival into what it will be tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

    It all began when the City of Lausanne chose to trust a young family of three (an American, French and an Indian) to create an international event and a global digital platform bringing together Innovators building a better world. GoodFestival welcomes all levels of businesses whether they have just started or are established, for profit or not for profit, local or global scale. What matters most, and what lies at the very heart of GoodFestival is that these projects promote sustainability in any of the following eight categories: education, water, nutrition, health, habitat, energy, environment and the arts. It seems that eight is the magic number – eight categories, eight core team members!

    Within a small team of eight, seven nationalities came together to participate in, or deliver, at least one of the past two GoodFestival events while managing a community of over 340,000. As you can expect, each member has a strong opinion and volunteers their time every day to support Innovators from around the world in scaling up, crafting partnerships, raising funds and telling their stories.

    Created, launched and grown in nine short months, the GoodFestival is on its way to great things. With the support of mySwitzerland, Vaud SPECo, Lausanne City, Lufthansa and over 20 other organizations, GoodFestival has become the world’s biggest celebration of sustainable innovation. Bringing together 100s of Innovators seeking collaboration, partnerships, and growth from around the world, GoodFestival convenes twice a year (April and October) at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. With two events under their belt, the 3rd edition is scheduled to take place between the 17th and 21st of October 2017.

    Why do they do this? Because they want to see Good spread around the world. Because they were supported by incredible individuals and organizations who believed in them. Now? They are giving back.

    The PremaGyan Good100 medal winners from April 2017.

  • in

    Making A Difference, One Traveller at a Time, but how?

    Elisabeth and Nicolas, a young French couple, were travelling in Malaysia when they came up with the idea for My Green Trip. What is My Green Trip you may ask? A way to connect environmentally-concerned travelers with locale, nature-friendly tourism organizations aimed at cleaning beautiful places plagued by our rubbish. These tourist organizations are our partners that make the whole system work.

    The non-profit association, based in the French part of Switzerland, just keeps growing. By the end of 2016 alone, they went from a team of two to a team of 13 passionate volunteers. No small feat! At this time, they developed a trial branded cleaning kit (aimed at facilitating the disposal of collected rubbish) consisting of bin bags, gloves, flyers and stickers. These kits are distributed amongst travelers via their partner organizations. Currently setting up pilot projects with partners all around the world, the first one just took place in Cuba: a place threatened by increasing tourist traffic, Croatia, Spain and Portugal. Always looking to expand, My Green Trip actively searches for possible partner tourism organizations to implement projects globally. The goal is to have at least 1000 active partners throughout the world by 2020.

    The Swiss project, made with CPV (centre protestant de vacances), will see 1,200 children, 300 adults, cleaning up vacation camps during the summer. Through this partnership My Green Trip seeks to educate and create awareness amongst the eyes of tomorrow regarding the need to clean up and save our planet.

    While the primary impact is preservation of the environment, travelers are able to inspire others, all around the world, to follow suit. It is kind of an “education of others through leading by example”. The initiative allows others to follow suit via word of mouth, encourages travelers the world over to do their part in preserving our world, making our planet healthier, and ultimately reducing the amount of littering that occurs. Not only that, but My Green Trip can bring the benefits of a stronger, greener brand image to the businesses involved.

    Today: build their community
    Tomorrow: develop partnerships
    After Tomorrow: develop an app and web tools

    Website: http://mygreentrip.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mygreentrip/
    Instagram: @mygreentrip

  • in

    No More Paper Medical Instructions – dokspot: Helping Medtech Companies Go Paperless

    With deforestation on the rise, it’s important, now more than ever, to reduce paper usage. Working as a product manager in the medical device industry, Hans was in charge of making products Fit to Market. This included the implementation of instructions for use in product configuration. Hans noticed an incredible amount of waste – the same content written in as many as 27 languages.  Although companies invested a lot of resources and money into providing these instructions, Hans observed that the first thing consumers did upon opening the product was to discard them, unread. At that point, Hans decided to do something.

    In June 2014, Hans and Cyrille co-founded dokspot GmBH in Zurich. Their goal: to reduce the environmental and economic impact of multilanguage product instructions. They developed a software platform for medical device manufactures to communicate their instructions digitally and in compliance with regulations. Additionally, they consult their clients on the processes of changing from print to digital; reducing costs while increasing agility.

    Using the cloud, dokspot integrates into manufacturers’ processes and corporate identity – the only solution of its kind, running in the background through an integrated portal on the manufacturer’s website. Not only that, but by focusing on the consumer, dokspot is able to link the physical product with digital instructions providing them with straightforward, easy access to instructions removing the never-ending process of finding accurate product information on the internet: no searching, no navigation, no doubt.

    Tapping into the medical device market, dokspot focuses on the needs of the consumer in order to provide a continuously evolving platform. Already servicing their first clients, dokspot provides a simple and innovative solution to increase efficiency and cut costs in the MedTech Industry.

    For more information:

  • in

    Earth Overshoot Day – Let’s Rethink our Resources!

    08.08.2016. Earth Overshoot Day 2016. On this day, we have consumed all natural resources available to humanity for this year. After that, we live and eat and travel on account of the future. If this date continues to move forward, at some point in the future, we will have exhausted the ability of our planet to provide us with primary resources and a place to dump our waste.

    And still, even though global warming is progressing, even though 30% of all food is wasted, we believe there is still hope! Hope that it’s not too late for us to change.

    To change, we must find out what got us into this miserable position in the first place. As so often, it is a matter of paradigm. In the last century, humanity has become incredibly good at optimising the efficiency of every single economic actor, every node that makes up the network of our economy. This is where we lost focus, in optimising nodes rather than the whole system of value chains that create outcome and impact alike.

    But who is to blame? After all, everybody simply does what the market demands. Our existing, grown markets are really good at doing what was important 100 years ago. As globalization has changed the circumstances, existing markets cannot keep up with emerging challenges. The markets dictate the rules of the game, and the optimisation of entire value chains is not a part of it. Markets have become a master of change, rather than a servant. How can we return to systems thinking? How can we optimise our resource economy as a whole?

    We need to change the game. We need a market that allows us to transform from our current take-make-waste business model towards one where value chains are interconnected, where waste is not dumped, but reused as a secondary resource. Thus: removing the current inefficiencies from our economy. This is exactly where Rethink Resource steps in. They believe, that it’s not too late to solve the sustainability problem of our current economy.

    Rethink Resource takes a systemic approach that appeals to manufacturing and processing companies’ will to transform their business, through collaborative and sustainable innovations. Over and over, we see that the will and commitment to sustainability is strong, but the tool is missing. So we set out on our mission to provide the producing economy a platform to collaborate by trading side and waste streams and exchanging knowhow to allow them to autonomously transit to a circular economy. This way, with our partners, we want to start building more sustainable and resilient value chains. Sustainable, because more circular, less dependent on primary resources, less landfill and incineration. Resilient, because we remove rigidity from the resource economy and allow it to quickly adapt to whatever change may be coming.

    Sustainable access to natural resources is essential to all of our lives. Opening up a platform for the industry to engage in a circular economy will strengthen the recycling and reuse opportunities and support sustainability innovations. Rethink Resource will facilitate the implementation of a circular economy. A functioning circular economy will put limits on incineration and significantly reduce landfilling but also reduce the excavation of primary resources and thus cut down carbon emissions.

    To give a few examples, the Ellen McArthur Foundation estimates that a circular economy will create over 100’000 new jobs within the next 5 years and circularity in manufacturing could yield net materials cost savings of up to US$ 630 billion per year in the EU alone.

  • in

    The Power of Design

    How are office buildings, skyscrapers, and high end residential homes helping others? Kelsey Bradley, designer and founder of Design Cause Inc., too, was not able to connect these dots. As an architecture student, she discovered the desire to use her skills to benefit underprivileged communities, not just for another high-rise building.

    With that, she founded a secondary school in a small village in Northern Cameroon. The poorly designed government classrooms contributed to feeble academic performance, while being a burden on the community due to their high price tag. The inhospitable classrooms led many students to leave school all together. The community suffered – a growing percentage of poorly educated individuals led to increasing levels of poverty and crime.

    After intensive research, Kelsey developed a new classroom addressing four key challenges: interior thermal comfort, use of local and sustainable materials, reduced cost, and easy replication. The project became her final university thesis; with the diploma in hand, she felt a deep responsibility to follow through and complete the project.

    Thereon, Kelsey quit her 9-5 life to follow her dream: realizing her own design. In January 2016, she received official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for Design Cause Inc., an architecture firm working directly with communities in need, solving their most pressing problems through design. Kelsey continued building a community of supporters to complete a block of two newly designed classrooms in Cameroon.

    Nothing about fundraising was easy, learning how to manage a nonprofit organization was less than smooth, and the construction process came with many more challenges than anticipated.

    In the end however, the project surpassed expectations. The local community loved it and wants to replicate the design in other educational buildings. The project showed students, faculty, the community, and entire region that problems can be solved through the power of design. After their first success, Design Cause Inc. hopes to continue bringing their work to other communities in need around the world.


  • in

    Using Sign Language to Connect the World

    According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 360 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the world. However, only 2% of them are educated in sign language. The main reason for this is the complexity of sign languages as well as each country using their own sign language, making international communication difficult.

    Until March 2016, sign language was banned in Indonesia and deaf people were forced to read lips and speak. Our colleague, Rizky Ario, witnessed first-hand his aunt going through this horrifying experience, which led him to start Isara as project of his software house company. Along with a few other activists, he recorded over 10,000 sign language videos in 9 different cities in Indonesia and compiled the first Indonesian Sign Language dictionary. After meeting with the Minister of Education and even the President of Indonesia, he convinced them of the importance of using sign language.

    The right to use sign language is now a part of the Indonesian Constitution.

    Isara offers a comprehensive Deaf community-centred platform including an open sign language learning application and an online sign interpreter service as well as a new mobile app with two features: Isara Learning and Isara Interpreter. Isara Learning, a wonderful source, consists of an online dictionary and interactive sign language courses, where people can learn how to sign from scratch. The Isara Interpreter, on the other hand, is an on-demand interpreter service. Through the App, one could be connected to an available interpreter via video call, making it the ‘Uber for sign language interpreters’.

    In order to scale up, Isara created a community-powered engine called Isara Incubator, where the Deaf community can contribute to the course by editing and maintaining the contents.

    To increase awareness on the issue, and specifically the project, the Isara team started participating in different competitions and events, including University Startup World Cup and the GoodFestival. This gave the team to exposure to meet numerous political key figures, such as Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, and Susan LeVine, US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

    After participating in the MassChallenge, Isara relocated to Paris in February 2017, where it is further developing the project under supervision by the French government through its French Tech Ticket program.

    Isara. Empowering Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to take care of themselves and enjoy an unprecedented independence. Creating an opportunity to reintegrate into society. Enabling them to actively shape the spreading of the sign language.


  • in

    Project Elpis

    Imagine leaving behind everything you have ever known. Your only form of contact, access to money, access to information? Through your phone. Your phone is now your lifeline.

    Statistics show that roughly 86% of today’s refugees have access to smartphones. Unfortunately, access to electricity is limited in camps, as are opportunities for advancement and education. To address these problems, the student-founded organization Elpis (Greek for hope) has developed a sustainable solution which is already making a difference for thousands of refugees across Greece. This sustainable charging station (Solar Hub) can charge up to 120 phones a day, running solely on solar energy.

    Their latest Hub, piloted in camps in February 2017, contains an offline platform providing educational eBooks, legal information and translation apps available in Arabic, Farsi, and English. Users can connect wirelessly to access these materials on their electronic devices. With over 12 solar hubs already installed across Greece, Project Elpis aims to further develop the platform by tailoring it to the respective feedback of each camp.

    Project Elpis’ experiences at camps never fail to leave them inspired and hopeful. During their latest installations, the team had the pleasure of meeting Heba and Ahmmad, a couple from Damascus. With Project Elpis’ educational offer, Heba can carry on with her studies in English Literature, whilst her husband, whose background lies in mechanical engineering, has been able to assist with their Solar Hub installments. Now, Ahmmad is their point of contact in the Andravidas camp in Kyllini.

    Providing people like Heba and Ahmmad with the tools to move forward with their lives, despite living in camps like Adravidas, lies at the core of everything Project Elpis does.

    Continuing to grow, looking to partner with leading organizations and exploring new ways to scale up their impact, Project Elpis continuously looks forward. They hope to expand their services, ideally providing satellite coverage through their unit, as well as extend their reach beyond refugee camps in Greece.

    We are experiencing a defining moment in history, but it rings familiar; it is always in the darkest points that the greatest examples of human compassion and resilience can be found. Project Elpis is proud to be working to provide a small solution to one facet of this very complex crisis.


  • in

    The Evolution of the Toilet

    For the last 100 years, no one has questioned toilet usage – the way we use them, sanitary problems, nor the sewage system itself. We continue using out of necessity, even though the traditional toilet is a large contributor towards water pollution and waste creation. This is where Kompotoi steps in – revolutionizing the waste process.

    Their aim? Using human waste in compost to improve soil, thus closing an important natural circle. Based and developed in Switzerland, Kompotoi’s latrines convert human waste into valuable compost while simultaneously minimizing pollution and water wastage. Simply by adding biocarbon to the compost, nutrients can then be stored in the soil, creating a healthy and fertile ground for agricultural use, soil remediation or the prevention of soil loss.

    Kompotoi offers portable installations for events, as well as for private and public facilities. These composting toilets are not only aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally friendly and odor-free. Kompotoi offers a pleasant, user-friendly and ecological solution to events, drawing attention to the problems of “traditional” toilets and providing an extremely efficient composting system.

    Though the concept is profit driven, Kompotoi holds partnerships with developing countries to tackle this taboo subject, a subject that no one seems willing to approach.

    After four years of intensive development and gathering experience, Kompotoi is now at a stage where they are focusing on scaling up and increasing the level of awareness of their product. Currently, their main goal is to increase production and expand infrastructure within the next two years.

    Kompotoi – rethinking modern day latrines, making the world a cleaner place.

  • in

    Initiating the Uninitiated

    It is true that education is the foundation of a good society, no? Education comes in many forms; starting with learning from our elders, steadily gaining experience, studying at conventional schools… the list goes on.

    Over time, the education system in India has been distorted, often resembling a commercialized assembly line – the “One Size Fits All” approach limiting choices. People have lost the ability to think independently. Who are those most affected by this? The rural population, or rather, the Uninitiated – lacking a support structure.

    Providing just that, filling this void with support, Project DEFY was born: aiming to bring education to unprivileged people, customizing their learning according to their needs. This is how Project DEFY wants to initiate the Uninitiated, envisioning equal participation from both urban and rural citizens.

    Students learning and cheering how the self-built quadcopter flies.

    For Project Defy, it all began as a small experiment in 2014. In Banjarapalya, located on the southern outskirts of Bangalore, in a modest room equipped with a few laptops where local children came to play games. The internet was not the only attractive activity drawing these children, soon they started collecting old broken items found in their homes.

    With some electronic components and a few hand tools provided to them, the children slowly began turning these items into bricolages of small robots and crafts. Since then, participants of any age engage in a customized setting: “Nooks;” these nooks are safe, collaborative and explorative spaces. Project DEFY has now gained traction with centers in Mangalore, Kochi (both in India) and Uganda.

    An Air Boat made by one of the students consisting of discarded materials such as coke bottle, 2 motors, a laptop battery, and a propeller from a toy fan

    The bottom line is this: education is a must for every human, but it needs to be adapted to an individual’s preferences. Project DEFY wishes to communicate that people have a choice – they can learn according to their interests, at their own pace. By giving them an opportunity to (re)discover themselves, they stand out both individually and at a collective level – using their innovations for the common good.

    Project DEFY: embarking on a journey to defy popular beliefs, confident that this is the way forward.


  • in

    Creating a 100% renewable world

    With the rapid depletion of the world’s resources and ever increasing waste, now more than ever it is important to reduce our negative footprint on the world.

    Founded in 2013, EKOenergy is spreading around the world with 100,000 consumers from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Luxembourg… even corporate consumers have started to use the EKOenergy label, showing their commitment to a 100% renewable world.

    Widely used benchmarks, such as Greenhouse Gas Protocol and LEED, recognize and promote EKOenergy. Both institutes encourage consumers to explicitly buy energy with the EKOenergy label. The ecolabel is also acknowledged by CDP, an organization helping more than 5000 of the largest corporations to calculate and decrease their carbon emissions.

    EKOenergy is an international network of more than 40 environmental organizations, whose mission is to promote a 100% renewable and a sustainable world. Its most visible tool is their “EKOenergy” ecolabel, which is currently the only global ecolabel for renewable energy. Energy sold with this label fulfills strict environmental criteria and raises funds for renewable energy projects.

    For every MWh of EKOenergy sold, a minimum of 0,10 € goes to the EKOenergy Climate Fund. This money is used to finance small solar projects in remote areas of developing countries, managed by other experienced organizations. So far projects have been financed in Tanzania, Indonesia, Cameroon, Togo, Nicaragua, and Peru.

    Sellers of EKOenergy labeled hydropower pay an extra contribution to EKOenergy’s Environmental Fund. This money is used to finance projects that aim to revert some of the negative impacts of hydropower on river ecosystems.

    All around EKOenergy goes above and beyond to do their part while challenging others to do theirs. If that’s not Good, what is?

  • in

    Turning Challenges into Solutions

    If you are in your early twenties, looking for a job, what would you do? Now add that 83% of young people in your country are unemployed, how would that change? The youth in Uganda must ask these questions daily. Due to rapid population growth, the fastest the world has ever seen, each year unemployment rises. An entrepreneurial is not an option; always taught to follow authority, without question. Creating a business, however, requires critical and bold problem-solving.

    This is where the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) comes into play – empowering youth to find their purpose and make a living. Inspired to use their strengths and think outside the box in a self-organized learning environment outside Kampala, marginalized youth are in charge of themselves. SINA’s encouragement results in creative solutions such as houses built out of plastic bottles, flooring made from plastic bags and egg shells, or a human waste powered biogas-latrine. The empowerment and the community at SINA enables marginalized youth to stop looking and start creating jobs using their life experiences as a valuable asset, rather than the subject of shame. Current ideas of SINA scholars are the world’s first opportunity hub for, and by, refugees or a motorcycle ambulance for inaccessible rural areas.

    Losing her whole family to AIDS, an HIV-positive former orphan, Ruth Nabembezi created “Ask Without Shame,” a mobile platform delivering emergency sex education anonymously and for free. Instead of regarding herself as a victim, a personal tragedy made her stronger. In the first year, she answered over 50,000 questions. With SINA’s guidance, Ruth transformed into a strong leader, inspiring others with her story. This transformation led Ruth to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award by Her Majesty the Queen of England, Elizabeth II.

    17 to 27-year-olds from various deprived backgrounds (refugees, orphans, street children and former child soldiers) have been labeled useless by society after dropping out of school. SINA gives them a place where their potential is unleashed to develop social enterprises; inspiring, motivating and giving them confidence previously lost. They don’t leave with a certificate, they leave with a self-made job.