Citizens tackle big world problems through creativity

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Everyday people are increasingly taking the initiative to solve problems that historically have been the responsibilities of government organisations or companies. There are growing problems across all aspects of society that have been brought on by globalisation. However, those that are part of the problem aren’t acting. As such, citizens are using their creativity, and often the infrastructure that caused the problem to begin with, to solve these “new world” challenges.

colalife1-web-14e93119e1f6b5-500xAUTO-centerOne of the more exciting examples of this “citizen cause creativity” comes from Zambia. Simon Berry, and aid worker, wanted to find a way of getting ant-diarrhoea medicine to the many disparate communities in Zambia. He leveraged the one infrastructure that could access all these parts of the country – the Coca-Cola Bottling network. Simon developed very specialises kits that fit nicely into the bottle crates without taking up any bottle space (see picture on the left). He realised that working with an existing process and delivery vessel was his best chance to scale his innovation. In doing so, this important medicine was able to be distributed easily and quickly across the country. Clearly the local Coca-Cola Bottling company was quick to embrace and help Simon’s innovation. Absolutely brilliant.

Another fantastic example of “citizen cause creativity” came from Belgium where the auto manufacturer Opel actually called upon its consumers to come up with ideas to address a problem that hadn’t been tackled – infant care-induced heat stroke. They did this in the form of a “crowdsourced inventors competition”. Among the many ideas that they received one ingeniously leveraged existing features of the car – the child seat and the car keys. The invention was called “Gabriel”. Opel designers developed the product and it was then produced. The case study video brings this great invention to life.

The next innovation was not developed by an everyday consumer to tackle a major societal challenge in the Philippines, instead it was a telecommunications company. The issue that they wanted to tackle was easy access to school books to improve education BUT they wanted to use their existing infrastructure instead of creating something from scratch. While in the Western world, the ability to ensure students have all their course books, tablets are used. In the Philippines this would be too costly for citizens who mostly use simple analog phones as their main technology in the home. As such, Smart, the local telecom operator, developed text-based books. They partnered with education publishers and developers to create 160 character questions that could be easily viewed on analog handsets. They compiled all questions onto recycled SIM cards and distributed the books through their networks. In other words, they worked with a local economic and consumption reality as well as their distribution network to make a huge improvement to national education. Unbelievable! Have a look.

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