Social Impact Design Competition from Siemens Foundation

Hey all, passing this on from a friend.  I hope it’s of interest and a good opportunity for some of you:

Announcing:  The Siemens Foundation Empowering People Award

The Empowering People Award is looking for solutions or products which have the potential of social impact for people in developing and emerging countries in the following categories:

  • Water & Waste Water
  • Energy
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Waste Management & Recycling
  • Healthcare
  • Housing & Construction
  • Information & Communication Technology

The prizes will be allocated as follows:

1st Prize EUR 50,000.00
2nd Prize EUR 30,000.00
3rd Prize EUR 20,000.00
20 runners up EUR 5,000.00 (each)

Please have a look at the criteria here: http://www.empowering-people-award.siemens-stiftung.org/empowering-people-award/evaluation-criteria/ . This is a great opportunity to receive recognition and funding and I hope you will apply and spread the word about this.

To registerhttp://www.empowering-people-award.siemens-stiftung.org/award-registration/

Feel free to spread the word on social media channels, and find the Empowering People Award on Twitter: @emp_ppl_award

And if you have any questions or need any more info, you can follow up with Vallabh Rao (@raovallabh).

Good luck!

The LeafBed: A Cardboard Bed for Humanitarian Use

This one comes from The GUST Project, with a heads-up from @raovallabh.

The LeafBed, designed by Julien Sylvain and Leaf Supply, is a modular bed made of custom-cut and folded cardboard.  Multiple blocks join together to create the desired length of the bed and they are strong enough (with perpendicular criss-crossing cardboard struts inside) to withstand a hefty amount of weight from people sleeping, standing and sitting on them.  The LeafBed is intended for temporary use in humanitarian and disaster situations.  The blocks can also be used as table stands and temporary seating, for example.

As the video says, cardboard furniture is not a new concept, but what has been used in the past for humanitarian purposes is usually coated to be water-resistant.  The LeafBed doesn’t bother with additional coating, opting instead to use standard corrugated cardboard which allows them to be manufactured by any cardboard maker much closer to where the beds are needed.  This shortens shipping distances significantly, which speeds delivery to disaster-affected areas and cuts costs for Leaf Supply and for buyers.  It also prioritizes giving business to local cardboard manufacturers, which is a positive element for helping local economies, especially during or after a crisis.

The problem is that until now, cardboard furniture wasn’t made with standard packaging cardboard, but with treated cardboard which withstands water and humidity. Our innovation has been to produce furniture with standard packaging cardboard in order to use the cardboard industry, which is already present in every country.

I like the sound of the designers’ choice to forego weather treatment in favor of allowing local production and recycling after use.  It shows bigger-picture consideration and a confidence of not trying to be something more than what it really is—a temporary bed made of paper.  LeafBeds probably aren’t right for wet climates or on wet floors, but field tests in Niger show impressive durability even after six months of use.

The next natural questions would be first, how well these cardboard beds meet real needs—how well do they function, and how happy are people with them?  Then, what measures does Leaf Supply take to try to ensure a sustainable and socially responsible product life cycle from start to finish?  Issues like where the paper pulp comes from, what chemicals are used and how they’re disposed of, and what happens to the Leafbeds after their use are all important to try to steer for a holistic, responsible solution.  I’m sure using many different manufacturers presents a challenge.  Creator Julien Sylvain says he’d like Leaf Supply “to be the first socially responsible supplier of humanitarian equipment,” and that’s certainly a good sign.

According to Leaf Supply’s field tests, out of 75 users interviewed after 6 months of using LeafBeds in Niamey, Niger: 99% of users use the LeafBed as a bed (rather than using the blocks for other purposes), 74% of users use additions like a mattress, blankets or mats, and 99% report being satisfied after 1, 3 and 6 months of use.

Has anyone seen these in action?  I’d love to know more about what users think and hear about how they do in different circumstances.  Leave a comment below if so.

For more on the Leafbed, visit their profile page on GUST’s website, or Leaf Supply’s website itself.

For more examples of social innovators around Asia captured by a group of dynamic and wandering near-college-grads, check out The GUST Project.  Looks like cool stuff so far.

Photos provided by Leaf Supply

Micro Manuals for 4 Earth Building Techniques

Forwarded to me by Dhruv Chandra Sud—thanks Dhruv!

Self help construction booklets from barefoot architect Sourabh Phadke are the best way to get started on your love affair with mud building. Although based in Pune (where he also teaches ecology at the AmanSetu school), Sourabh has been advocating natural building & self help construction in several parts of India. Best of all these delightful and informative primers can be downloaded FREE!

From Sourabh:

“This series of five booklets intends to introduce you to four earth construction techniques that have been instrumental in shaping the world that we live in.

These tiny booklets are designed to deliver just about enough information to give you a flavour of the subject matter, but to keep you hungry for more! And although not strictly necessary, this mucky matter could be consumed with the natural additive provided (for better digestion).”

Click on the images below to download the PDF’s (2.9–3.6 MB each):

You can also find these micro-manuals and more on Sourabh’s website.  Happy building!