SALINE, Michigan — Global Minimum, better known as GMin, is an international nonprofit organization seeking to help people solve problems in their own communities. Working in tandem with highly accredited universities and non-profits including Harvard and the Red Cross, GMin works to provide local innovators with the resources they need to realize their projects under the assumption that they know the issues best.
In 2012, Global Minimum launched its InChallenge competitions, which bring the organization’s work to a new level and challenge young people to create solutions to pressing issues within their communities. Each year, many of the ideas proposed are related to reducing poverty. Following the first year’s success in Sierra Leone, the project was expanded into Kenya and South Africa.
In GMin’s own words, “InChallenge is dedicated to improving the quality of life through the collaborative integration of scientific, socio-cultural, technological and entrepreneurial innovations.”
To participate in the InChallenge competition in their respective country, student teams create proposals outlining the local problem they want to solve and how they want to tackle it. Their high schools have the choice of nominating them for the competition. From this pool of nominations, approximately five teams are selected as semifinalists. These teams then receive funding and mentorship from professionals to create a prototype of their idea.
In addition to direct mentorship and feedback, the selected teams participate in an “innovation and entrepreneurship workshop” to further develop the viability of their idea. They are given the support system and resources necessary to make their idea happen. Roughly three teams of finalists are chosen, receiving up to $1,500 in total to complete their proposal over that academic year.
The competitions aim to cultivate inventive problem-solvers who can overcome challenges in their own communities. Not only is this a direct way of solving problems in the present moment, but also a tactic that looks toward the future by creating a generation of inspired thinkers who will have had first-hand experience implementing their ideas.
While some may view this project as too small-scale, Global Minimum wholeheartedly believes that its work will lead toward something greater, stating: “We are not only interested in solutions to big problems. Important change can happen on a small scale, and even the biggest projects begin with small steps. The most important change a country can achieve—something the InChallenge projects look to inspire—is towards a creative and innovative mentality.”
Judging by the success of its competitions over the past two years, it seems the organization may have started to accomplish just that. For example, propositions from finalists in the 2013 challenge year included the creation of a wind-powered laboratory, the development of an electric-hoist system to access clean drinking water from wells more easily, and a cost-effective method to create torches out of recycled material.
These competitions have shown that students all around the world have fresh ideas and the power to help their communities when given the resources to do so. Though they were not large-scale, each of these proposals changed people’s lives. Small-scale changes are a logical first step to take in the fight against global poverty.
Other organizations have also found creative solutions to help alleviate global poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action, working in Sierra Leone and Kenya along with GMin, evaluates the feasibility of new poverty solutions, and Striking Poverty, an online community directed by the World Bank, is a space where users can discuss new approaches and collaborate on projects that aim to eliminate global poverty.
These and other organizations like GMin show an increasing trend in using creativity as a tool to reduce poverty. David Sengeh, president and co-founder of GMin, while addressing the United Nations about the importance of harnessing creativity and of enabling youth to make societal change, called GMin’s work “the start of a revolution.” If InChallenge and GMin’s other projects continue to attain the widespread success they have achieved over the last few years, he may be right.
– Emily Jablonski