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!

Embrace Infant Warmer

Happy Mother’s Day from BoP Designer!  Today’s the perfect time for a post about a design innovation I’ve been researching just recently: the Embrace Infant Warmer.

Embrace is a low-cost alternative to expensive incubators for babies born prematurely or otherwise unable to maintain their own body temperature.  According to Embrace’s website:

20,000,000 low-birth-weight and premature babies are born each year. 450 of them die each hour. This occurs primarily in developing countries, often in areas that don’t have access to innovations in modern medicine. One of the biggest problems these babies face is hypothermia: they are not able to regulate their own body temperature, and therefore cannot stay warm. In fact, room temperature for these small infants feels freezing cold. 4 million babies die within their first month of life. Those that do survive often develop life-long health problems such as early onset of diabetes, heart disease, and low IQ.

Their solution “looks like a miniature sleeping bag that incorporates a phase change material, which stays at a constant temperature for up to 6 hours. This low-cost solution maintains premature and low birth weight babies’ body temperature to help them survive and thrive.”

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Insights from Embrace on Design for Social Impact

The following is reposted with permission from Embrace.  The original post appears here, originally published June 27, 2011.  

The Embrace Infant Warmer (profiled here on BoP Designer) is a low cost alternative to traditional incubators with many other benefits. In this insightful post, Embrace’s designers answer questions about design thinking and what it means to have been selected as a finalist for the INDEX 2011 design awards, asked by Embrace’s Business Development Manager, Ana Manzur-Allan:

Ana: Somebody said that to be an effective designer for social impact, we need to be humble listeners and fearless leaders, all at the same time, which is no easy feat. What are your thoughts on this?

Eu-wen: The person who said this was Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design and she is absolutely right. One of the key difficulties we face in our work is that the vision we have of the future, the vision that inspires and drives us in our work, is a fiction that many of our users and external stakeholders find difficult to be able to share with us. Our users grow up under severe resource constraints, and tightly circumscribed sociocultural norms. Opportunity to dream of something better is a luxury that we take for granted, but is often not even a rewarding exercise for people like our users because more often than not, that is exactly what it turns out to be for them – a dream.

Thus it is rare for us to be able to effectively co-create with our users, especially under the kind of pressing timelines that we put on ourselves (change should have happened yesterday, and I am impatient). The only viable strategy to create effective design for social impact, is then to carefully understand our users as best we can, in ways that they might not even be able to imagine themselves because we are imagining them interacting in a future with a new product that does not really exist yet. It then becomes our terrifying responsibility to take this understanding, and boldly make design decisions on behalf of our user. I guess I actually would tweak Pilloton’s statement to say “bold” rather than “fearless” because especially where Embrace is concerned, developing medical devices for social impact, failures in our design’s usability can lead to exposing infants to more harm than good, and so it is with no small amount of both boldness and trepidation that I craft my design.

The nutshell is this: Designers and engineers generally do not come from poor villages. They thus need the humility and tremendous empathy to understand their users who come from completely different backgrounds and often utilize very different mental models to understand and frame their world. Bold leadership is thus especially necessary when you consider how audacious and presumptuous one must be to create a design for people so unlike yourself. Continue reading

An Argument for Ecological Sanitation — “Ecosan”

Ever wonder about the efficiency of our “modern” toilet and water-based sewage systems, or if they even really make sense? Dr. Lucas Dengel shares with us the argument for Ecological Sanitation, or “Ecosan,” from his practice and perspective in Tamil Nadu, India. Ecosan is a universal concept that can (should) be considered everywhere, with practices adapted to local needs and conditions. The transition to a better way of separating, treating and actually gaining benefit from our sewage may be easier said than done, especially in cities—as most common ecosan practices rely on outhouses and composting containers, not conveyance through large, multistory buildings. But it’s time to start shifting our thinking. There’s a real need for healthy sanitation worldwide, and there’s a lot to gain from waste.

The following is reprinted from a document written by Dr. Dengel in January 2011, with minimal edits. Dr. Dengel is a medical doctor who became interested in the prevention of disease, rather than just treatment, early in his career in India. Now an organic farmer and an expert in ecosan, he champions its adoption, along with the use of effective microorganisms (EM) in treating sewage and waste—both for the sake of public health and for their many other benefits. Dr. Dengel lives and works in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India. 

Dr Dengel with UnBox Fellows

Dr. Lucas Dengel talks ecosan with UnBox Fellows in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India - Jan 2012

Ecosan – ecological sanitation

Why should there be a need for an alternative to flush sanitation?

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