This time, we have asked 8 successful social innovators from different fields, sectors and countries to explain how they made sure that their ideas could meet user needs in social innovation fields they were targeting. Here is what we’ve learned.

By talking to them and listening to them! Our launch partners and hundreds of beta testers were very communicative in what they want, what problems they would like WokenUp to solve and how to best do so. We’re now in the process of raising further funds so that we can implement as many of their great ideas as possible, as quickly as possible.

Simon Puleston Jones

First we did a paper pilot, a skinny version of what the app would do, and asked people what they thought. We had a sample of 100 parents and teachers and in short, over 90% reported that the coloured letters helped with regard to various criteria. Then we coded a browser plugin, but it was too difficult to use, so not many people were using it. But when we offered ‘kobified’ stories to download, we got a great response. We quickly built a decent list of subscribers that were obviously very interested in what we were doing. We are also writing blogs providing tips and useful insights in literacy development.

Ursula Lavrenčič

I think that in social innovation you cannot be sure of nothing, you have to challenge the mainstream design daring new visions. So according to that purpose and considering our experience and expertise with the target group on the project, we just believe and try to do our best to meet the needs of the users.

Enrico Dolza

Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. And even if at one point you think the model is working, you should not forget that the world and people are continuously changing, so you must be able to adjust. Our solution was to create an HR Sustainability Model. People who join our initiatives have the opportunity to follow different paths, so the more they participate and as their interests and needs change, they can have different roles. To be more specific, someone joins us as a volunteer and supports our different actions for 5-6 months, then eventually his/her interest starts declining. This is the moment when we give him/her the possibility to be trained in order to evolve into a volunteer coordinator (known as a ‘Captain’). As a captain, he/she has more responsibilities and benefits in order to remain engaged. And then, from Captain they can become a member of our projects teams and then a project manager for one of those projects. Eventually, this leads to a career opportunity; there were periods when 80% of our employees started as volunteers. This model secures the cultural fit and the common passion. It also has one more advantage – by periodically creating a new generation of captains, we have the same time to be much closer to each new generation of volunteers who join us. Even though I am still under 30 and do not feel old, I have to admit that I can’t understand 100% of our new volunteers who were born after 2000 and use Snapchat and TikTok instead of Facebook and Instagram.

Kostapanos Miliaressis

First of all, we realized there was a business case for working on food waste. In 2019, the World Resources Institute conducted a survey among 114 restaurants in 12 countries. On average, a business investing $1 in food waste prevention will get back $7 after 3 years.

Rethink2gether has also conducted a food waste survey in Vancouver. Some of the hotels that took part generate more than 400 lbs of food waste per day. So there are big opportunities to save food and money at the same time. On top of that, the City of Vancouver has recently approved a long-term strategic vision to achieve the goal of Zero Waste by 2040. Vancouver is aiming to become a leading city in food waste prevention. This will impact on how food businesses operate, including retailers, hotels, events and restaurants.

Laure Dupuy and Ben Liegey

I strongly believe there are many people that would love to do more to reduce their carbon footprint, but have limited knowledge: what works best, what is really worth the effort, where to begin? Obtaining rewards that reliably reflect avoided emissions is a way to start getting answers to these questions, and shaping one’s behaviour towards less carbon-intensive lifestyles. Provided partners such as cities, utilities or companies accept the coins earned by the citizens as payment, as a way to stimulate decarbonisation, a path may then be opened towards a monetary space, or ecosystem, in which, by design, transactions contribute to decarbonisation. One of the levers to get there is that if institutional partners get credit for accepting payments in climate action coin such as survcoin, individual users may also find, along the way, an incentive in conventional monetary terms to go in that direction. 

Jean Lasar

You have a company that has a product and the code in the product can improve the quality of life of 10% of the population of male buyers or 6% of their customers. You have a contribution to give to a society that becomes sensitive or to a cause that society is condescending about. 41% of colour-blind people have difficulty in social integration. Why? Because society has forgotten this and always makes a demeaning judgement of a guy they see wearing a wrong clothing combination; they’re seen as ‘a tacky person’, not as someone who is colour-blind. And by showing companies that my product materialises in their product and their product will do ‘good’ to others. 

Miguel Neiva

Most garment workers live paycheque to paycheque. Whenever I am in Bangladesh for production I talk to the workers to find out what is happening and have been a guest in their homes. Most workers’ income is distributed in three major areas: rent, food and supporting elderly parents or children’s education, if they have any. They do not make enough to save for their future or to cover situations in the event of accidents/death. The industry or government provide little or no safety net or benefits for these workers and that which is provided is of limited utility.

Nurjahan Begum

Would you like to learn more from other inspiring social innovators?

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