The Innovation Center at Un Techo para mi País, created in 2007, transforms social problems affecting families that live in extreme poverty into overall development opportunities (economic, academic and social). We generate instances of co-creation between people in more vulnerable communities, academic world, and both private and public sectors. In this way, products, services and inclusive business models for the elimination of poverty are developed in the 19 countries that our organization has presence today. Thus, we have grown as a “social innovation lab” promoting the development of new contents that could be useful for any slum or poor neighborhood, including the ones in Asia.
Our team of 15 people works focusing on inclusive business models to impact the Base of the Social Pyramid (63% of the world), 4 billion people who earn less than 4 dollars per day. We recognize families in slums as customers of finished goods under a model that breaks away from a culture of dependency of what’s available in the market.
In this way, families that had been excluded from technological development and new businesses are included in the development of new technologies that satisfy the urgent needs at accessible prices. This inclusion opens a door for new solutions and new markets, democratizing globalization’s important advances.
Our core is to encourage all members of our society to use all their creativity and knowledge to contribute solving complex problems in a participatory way with the communities and private actors. We have developed ways of collaboration with institutions such as the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena), Singularity University NASA, Unilever, Microsoft, Masisa, Movistar, Gerdau Aza, Sodimac, Coca-Cola, Jarden, among others. As well as with students from all over our continent.
Our most ambitious goal for the next three years, in a joint project with the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), is to catalyze at least 3 new products, services or inclusive business, that reach a positive impact on more than 1 million consumers each.
We, as the only Social Innovation Center in our country, work under a research and development methodology based on the participation, collaboration and co-creation between all actors, engaging them in a common objective.
It’s necessary to conceive the consumer experience as an essential ingredient for developing the solutions to specific problems and needs. In our case, less income families today are paying, in many cases much more for the products and services that do not apply to their reality and context. This cycle ultimately puts them in a position where they pay more for less, which is part of the reality of having less income. That´s why we work directly with them!
We are a network. If we believe in our work and in the tremendous opportunity that we have in the growing countries to create a “revolution” of ideas to help overcome poverty through design, innovation, collaboration and inclusive business models, many people will follow us. Sometimes, the recognition of a “world class” institution like ICSID, can validate our job.
There is a classic Latin-American view: the best innovations and designs are made by USA, Finland, Japan, etc. They are the good ones, we have to follow them and copy them. We think that in some way that view is right, but they are working especially for the middle class and not for (and with) people who lives in poverty, with other specifics problems. We must recognize our population, our problems, and find the solutions for the majority here, in Latin America. That´s the reason why we think, this prize will validate us in a global scenario. And after that, will be easier to motivate companies, university students, professionals, and other actors, to follow this new trend: “Design for low income consumers, not only for people with lots of money. Create your own design, stop following others. Collaborate and create value with the users, not only for the users”.
At the same time, this prize will increase the number of designers and universities students who will work in our “open innovation platform”. There will be more people collaborating between themselves, and using the collective intelligence to increase the attraction. This can be a real movement of social innovation. Because of the many people involved in this platform (like students, developers, designers), companies will probably be more interested in create new business models and products through design innovation.
Our project is about collaboration. If we win the prize, it will be a prize not only for us, will be a prize for all the designers, people who lives in slums, companies, universities, and many other people who are working hard with us. This prize will create fidelity and will validate our collaborator’s work.
ICSID along with us have the duty to tell the world that Design for Social Impact is NOT philanthropy, is volunteering or giving money for poor people. Is about being creative, smart, a global-thinker. Is to think (and being able to live of it) a sustainably new design area, a new way and opportunity to create business. If we can validate this way of thinking, and we are at the top of this, we will transform this idea in a reality, through collaboration and collective intelligence. A new trend of social innovation has born, and now is validated by the first ICSID World Impact Prize!
Some important achievements:
-Conectados con mi País Project: Development of a laptop with a connectivity system and internet for vulnerable communities. This project considers the participation of 3 multi-national companies that now can make businesses with a positive social impact.
130 people were benefit with pilot n1
370 people will be benefit with pilot n2.
Escalation plan set to favor 150,000 people by the end of the year, and 1 million users for year 2013. (Approved by the company)
-Sustainable washing centers for emergency conditions: 10 washing centers located in slums so people can wash their cloth in a fast, effective and safe way. This project made in collaboration with Unilever and Art Center College of Design, allows women to save more than 28 hours a week in this task, by providing them washing machines, soap and electricity.
4 “Inclusivo” micro-factories: Inclusivo program attacks unemployment and the lack of opportunities by helping men and women living in slums to sell their handmade products through the creation of their own business. With the collaboration of renowned Chilean designers, people can learn to develop their abilities creating innovative, original and eco-friendly products that sell at a high-end market under Fair Trade statements. Earning a permanent salary that allows them to stay home taking care of their children while they work in the products, people venture giving themselves and their family a better kind of life, breaking the poverty cycle.
Today we can count 4 micro-factories born under the Inclusivo program: Los Aromos, reinventing shoes through ARMO; Nudos, knitting everything from boots to hats; Fragmento Taller, producing unique and colorful jackets; and Ladera Angelmó, using sheep wool and salmon leather to manufacture exclusive sleepers and bags.
H2020 Project: In collaboration with Erika Anderson, creator of the Water Poverty Initiative project. One of its kind, this project uses smart phones to collect data on water quantity, quality, access and price in slum communities. Using multidimensional space representation techniques enhanced with artificial intelligence, the plan is to combine this “crowdsourced” information with data from other sources, like water poverty reports and satellite images, and publish it using a map-based format.
The long-term projections of this initiative are to improve public knowledge about water problems in slums, increase the efficiency with which information is gathered and published, and stimulate implementation of scalable solutions. Also another goal for H2020 is to be present in all South American cities with a population of 2 million or more inhabitants.
Nowdays we are collecting data from 10 countries in Latin America and Africa….
Plasma Water Sanitation System: In a joint venture with “Chile Technology Innovation Center of the Americas” (lead by designer Alfredo Zolezzi), and San José slum neighborhoods, we are implementing the first Plasma Water Sanitation System.
This is a low cost water treatment, made of continued plasma, ultraviolet type C, infra-red light, electrics pulses, temperature, shockwaves and vacuum.
This product cost less than U$3,000 and can purify around 7,000 liters per day with an insignificant use of energy. Each person needs to drink only 2,5 litters per day. This is our first implemented disruptive innovation project.
Safe Agua Chile: In a partnership with Art Center College of Design and Designmatters department, we created the SAFE AGUA Project in Chile, and now we are moving forward with this initiative to Peru in September.
With Safe Agua, we created and implemented more than 5 designs for (and with) the Bottom of the Pyramid. Those designs won a lot of prizes, like Sparks.
One of those designs is “Ducha Halo”, a special shower that recreates the shower sensation in places where they don´t have running water. More than 100 families have this cheap design in their houses, in Argentina and Chile.
The social and economic impact boosted by the inclusion of the world of innovation, market and universities, in the development of products to overcome poverty, shows a new way on how to attend social problems in Chile and the world. This is why for this year, 2012 and 2013, the challenge is to create the world's largest Social Innovation Lab and inspire others “by making". Create 3 projects to impact more than 1 million people each, and much more.