Five Collaborative Innovations for the Developing World


SEATTLE, Washington — Five collaborative innovations are taking small but significant steps to improve the developing world. These following initiatives address the importance of basic necessities, and represent just a few of the innovators, collaborators and creators trying to make health and education a worldwide priority.

1. Well-Good
Well-Good provides money to various water charities while encouraging children to practice math skills. The program was founded by two math teachers at Bolton School in the United Kingdom. The program’s sponsors donate money to water projects in the developing world based on a number of math questions answered correctly per student.

Students practicing math at Bolton School and Haslingden High School in England built two wells in Pakistan. The Bolton School Girls’ Division completed a five million-point challenge through Well-Good to provide clean water and sanitation to the Meserani Juu Education Centre in Tanzania. Providing clean, safe and accessible water is critical to improve life in the developing world. According to the United Nations, 783 million people — 11 percent of the world’s population — do not have access to clean water.

2. Flo
Flo is an affordable period kit that girls can use to wash, dry and store reusable sanitary pads. The device is comprised of two bowls, one basket and a string. The device spins to dry the pads, and the basket is used as a hanging rack with a cover for privacy.

Menstrual cycles are still surrounded by considerable stigma and shame in parts of the developing world. Disposable pads and tampons are frequently unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Reusable pads are an effective solution, but keeping them clean is a challenge since women are sometimes not allowed to wash them with other clothes, or are not permitted to dry them in public.

It is estimated that one in 10 girls in Africa misses school at least one day per month due to their period, and some drop out completely. In Ethiopia, 50 percent of girls miss between one and four days of school per month, and Bangladesh reports widespread infection due to unsanitary menstrual practices. Students at Yale Business School and the Art Center College of Design in California conceived the idea for Flo, and it was sponsored by the Nike Foundation.

3. Global Business Coalition For Education
Dubbed ‘Tinder for Global Education‘, the Global Business Coalition for Education is a database for businesses, governments, NGOs, the United Nations and individuals to partner and provide services that mend gaps in education.

The coalition brings together companies and organizations that can provide essentials learning resources, from school buildings, textbooks and teachers to technology and transportation. The coalition recognizes that money alone cannot solve the problem; area experts are needed to provide infrastructure, staff and materials.

Currently, about 124 million children around the world are not in school, and 250 million are not learning the basic skills needed for employment. This is a recipe for an entire generation of lost children without relevant skills in the global economy.

4. The Embrace Warmer
The Embrace Warmer is a reusable wrap to prevent hypothermia in infants in developing countries. Every year, an estimated one million babies die on the day they are born; 98 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Infants in developing countries are more likely to suffer from low birth weight and premature birth, making them vulnerable to hypothermia. Hospitals in developing countries are often overcrowded and lack dependable electricity and adequate transport options for infants suffering from hypothermia.

The Embrace Warmer is small, portable, cost effective and has reached 150,000 infants. The warmer is one percent of the cost of an incubator and does not require electricity. It started as a class project at Stanford University when a group of students was tasked with designing a product to address hypothermia at a fraction of the cost of an incubator. The product was piloted in rural India.

In 2015, Embrace joined Thrive Networks in Asia and Africa with the goal of improving health in underserved areas. The Embrace Warmer is manufactured in India by Phoenix Medical Systems.

5. Grand Challenges Canada 
Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Canadian government, a global leader in mental health funding, and has invested $39 million across 70 projects in 26 countries. Its focus is low and middle-income countries, where three quarters of mental health disorders occur. These areas lack resources and trained professionals to deliver adequate care.

Grand Challenges Canada recently scaled up investments in six mental healthcare projects in developing countries that lack resources for mental healthcare. Its Kenya Initiative focuses on the use of healers and community workers to identify mental illness. This project identified more than 500 cases, serving as inspiration for a scale-up in funding. Two projects in Uganda and Zimbabwe focus on the integration of mental health screening and care with HIV/AIDS intervention, and two projects in Pakistan and Vietnam provide affordable youth services, adult care and the identification of developmental disorders. Haiti has a program to provide treatment in rural areas, where bipolar and neuropsychiatric disorders account for 10 percent of the country’s health burden.

These collaborative innovations for the developing world are making strides toward ending world poverty. With continued innovation such as this, the dream of a poverty-free world can become a reality.

Mandy Otis

Photo: Flickr


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