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As worrying news continues to dominate the headlines, it has become increasingly difficult to escape talk of the virus, while the need for some positivity has become even more important. As COVID-19 has forced countries to close their borders and enter states of lockdown, each and every one of us must make the best of what we have at present. Crisis moments often reveal new opportunities, including more sophisticated use of technology and limited resources. Here at Social Innovation Academy, we bring you 8 impactful examples of social innovations that remind people of the good in the world during these strange and isolating times.

 

 

EpidemiXs

Despite the flow of terribly sad news, humanity also needs updates on the novel coronavirus that can provide a ray of light during these testing times. Instead of focusing on the negative, people need to return to a new seriousness that faces challenges with a smile. EpidemiXs is a universal doctor project that outlines the reasons to think positively during the lockdowns. The project is a bottom up-initiative deployed in Spain where citizens (ciudadano) and medical contributors (profesional sanitario) use digital tools to facilitate access to validated health information related to the coronavirus crisis. The project offers a great array of services related to the health crisis, with medical contributors providing health information updates and aid, ranging from psychological support to recommendations for drugs closely linked to Covid-19, as well as online courses and live TV sessions that provide citizens with updates on the pandemic. As opposed to medical contributors, citizens provide ideas and tips on how to remain healthy and active while at home, sharing information they have gathered on children and people in vulnerable groups with health issues (e.g. diabetes, asthma, cancer etc.) and many more. A reminder to make the best of things based on what we have today!

 

WirVersusVirus

With coronavirus having infected unprecedented numbers of people across the planet, it is essential to find new ways to come up with solutions that address the situation; solutions that can go viral and create a positive impact. Indeed, it is hard to come together and work in teams to find solutions, as almost all countries have been forced into lockdowns and people staying indoors often feel alone in battling the novel virus. However, while many find the thought of social distancing intimidating, experts are on the lookout for ways to include people in the efforts to find effective solutions while also avoiding the risk of transmitting the virus. It seems that the answer lies in online hackathons. Hackathons are widely known for maintaining a culture of openness and knowledge sharing among participants. WirVersusVirus, together with the federal government, created a digital participation process during the pandemic. In two days they managed to bring together 28,361 participants who worked on over 1,500 solutions. The response to the call was so great that WirVersusVirus is currently the biggest hackathon ever to have been set up worldwide. What’s next? These solutions must be brought to life!

 

Babbel

The new coronavirus is responsible, among other things, for disruption to education, as most governments have responded to the threat by closing schools, colleges and other educational institutions in a bid to reduce the spread. Based on UNESCO, ‘nationwide closures are impacting over 91% of the world’s student population’[1]. Among those most impacted are vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. With students forced to stay at home, new solutions are needed to facilitate the continuity of remote learning. At times of global concern, students should be able to utilise tools that help them continue with their studies, while humanity should be seeing more similarities among cultures than differences, the latter of which could lead to polarisation. Babbel, a business listed among the top innovative companies in education, made its language learning app free in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Top language experts cover more than 10,000 hours of content in 14 languages and students can access all the materials from the comfort of their own home. As the virus has turned online conveniences into daily necessities, Babbel is seen as a great social example that is disrupting the educations of young learners. Is this a new era of digitised education? Just how well are students able to learn on their own? Whether it’s merely a self-learning trend or the future of education, we couldn’t overlook shedding some light on such a remarkable example of social innovation aimed at nurturing children’s personal development!

Ibtikar

Outbreaks can be stressful for everyone. While some of us are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on the individual) to be quarantined with our partner or families, many people are riding out the lockdowns alone. Covid-19 has created an unprecedented situation where fear, anxiety and loneliness can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults, the elderly and even children. No one likes to feel alone and coping with stress is of the essence to make communities stronger. Ultimately, everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and the coronavirus is already affecting people in terms their eating patterns, difficulties in sleeping and concentrating, worsening of mental conditions, and so on. So how can businesses aid in strengthening the capacity, skills and positive mindsets of people affected in this way? Well, Ibtikar, for example, has started conducting virtual workshops and training programmes that help people discharge and cope with their trauma and loneliness. Interested in learning more? Ibtikar has already organised virtual workshops under the topics of a) The Transformative Nights and b) The Young Social Innovators. Who said isolation and lockdowns can’t be a great opportunity for self-reflection and change?

 

Dimagi

Coronavirus has largely resulted in a sudden and unexpected halt to normal life. For most people, this has led to either a temporary or permanent interruption to their working conditions, access to education and wellness; in general, to all aspects of human life. At times of high resource constraints, mobile data collection platforms can become fundamental instruments for people to understand the outbreak. Dimagi is one of the world’s most powerful mobile data collection platforms that helps individuals and organisations build smarter apps that allow the collection and tracking of data over time. CommCare by Dimagi is an app designed to aid ordinary people in the secure collection and sharing of accurate data on Covid-19 cases. People interested in accelerating their response to Covid-19 can utilise digital tools as CommCare to improve the speed and accuracy of the pandemic response. It is already ‘leading NGOs and government agencies to improve community-based data collection and service delivery efforts globally’.[2] Are you working for an organisation attempting to address Covid-19? The good news is that CommCare is currently free for all enterprises addressing the global pandemic and the best thing is you can scale your technological social impact without even being a developer!

 

Wellness apps

With the novel virus keeping people contained at home, they are starting to experience changes in their perceptions of the outside world and what really matters to them. Stress and anxiety are universal impacts, especially in times of crisis, and taking care of yourself and practising mindfulness should never take a back seat. Currently, ‘meditation apps are seeing an increase in downloads and usage amidst the coronavirus pandemic’[3]as people seize the moment to strengthen both their health and coping skills. Mindful activities essentially help people to ‘clear’ their heads at a time when uncertainty about tomorrow and the economic impacts are impacting millions of individuals and their households. In light of the situation, various meditation apps are available either for free or are curated for use by certain groups. Headspace, a meditation app, offers some of its services for free related to the topics of ‘relieving stress, ‘feeling overwhelmed’, etc. Aura, a mindfulness app, helps people enjoy a restful sleep and take care of their emotions. Simple Habit, a wellness app, empowers individuals to relieve stress by offering services related to mindfulness for children, meditation for parents and meditation for global healing. WIM HOF METHOD, a mobile app that you can use wherever you go for consistent practice, encourages a combination of meditation, breathing exercises and exposure to cold, all of which help to increase energy, improve sleep, reduce stress levels, boost the immune system, and so on. While many people engage in mindfulness practices to support resilience and better cope with stress, the benefits of these practices also extend to people’s interpersonal domain. The mindful trait is shared by many successful social innovators and entrepreneurs that act as change agents to solve inextricable social issues. As people go through personal shifts, becoming mindful with the help of meditation can help us adopt a more positive view of ourselves and our wider communities. Mindful people are compassionate and understand the need for change, which helps them make more informed and effective decisions to catalyse social innovation as a force for good.

 

Coping with social distancing

Surviving social distancing in the age of Covid-19 is certainly a different process for everyone. Limiting face-to-face contact and keeping a safe distance from others are considered appropriate practices to reduce the spread of the virus; however, it does not necessarily mean that people are left with no ways to socialise. Coronavirus lockdowns and social distancing are fuelling a surge in the use of apps that promise users effective ways to stay connected with their family and friends during the crisis. From video conferencing platforms as Zoom and Skype, to other extraordinary apps as Marco Polo, Houseparty, WhatsApp and Netflix Party, people are finding ways to stay in touch with those closest to them. For instance, Netflix Party is a new Google Chrome extension that, when added, allows users to sync up their streaming platform with personal contacts so everyone can simultaneously enjoy and watch the same show or movie. For many individuals these apps can act as substitutes for the feeling of being with a friend or family member and are seen as a silver lining amidst all the negative news. As we hold out hope that the crisis will be over very soon, it is crucial to treasure the little moments we can enjoy with our loved ones, even if we are physically miles apart.

 

Corporate response

Thousands of companies across the globe, faced with a new reality due to coronavirus, initially focused their employee communications on travel guidelines, rules for remote working and protective measures to safeguard employees’ health. With stock markets plunging and coronavirus cases surging, employers have begun coming up with creative ways to help governments address the situation, provide financial security and support employees impacted by the lockdowns. It is indeed a dire situation that demands our attention to prevent the worsening not only of the outbreak but also of the negative impact on our economies. Starbucks has committed to expanding the mental health benefits it provides for employees by offering up to 20 therapy sessions. Airbus has employed its fleet of aircraft and industrial resources to help in governments’ responses to the novel virus. AB InBev, a leading global brewer, ‘is harnessing its key ingredient as a weapon in the fight against COVID-19. Working with partners, the company is both packaging the disinfectant alcohol alone or transforming it into hand sanitizer.’[4] Microsoft has responded to COVID-19 by helping communities mobilise AI for health and funding for virus research, adapted its stores to deliver emergency remote operations, used its healthcare bot to aid in the global fight against the virus and repurposed food for schools and families during this time of magnified need. The time for social change is lucidly ripening and more businesses should join forces with governments for more scalable and impactful solutions.

 

Learn more at Social Innovation Academy 

For more social innovation updates on current events, check out the Social Innovation Academy – the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation. Subscribe to our newsletter, join our private LinkedIn group, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.

 
 
 

References:
 
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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