This weekend I drove by a Popularise sign and wondered what it meant. I learned later that a local commercial real-estate investor, Dan Miller of WestMill Capital, has been using Popularise to encourage communities to share their ideas about possible development ideas. This is a great way for “grassroots” brainstorming on commercial development.
In an article in The Washington Post about this phenomenon, Dan Miller states, “Most people…don’t get a say in how their neighborhoods take shape. Popularise is one solution to … a "broken community engagement" process…In [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] meetings, you have a vocal minority that dominates…You can have a much broader discussion with thousands of people and have it be dynamic. Popularise is the 21st-century version of a community meeting.”
One could feel the ‘buzz’ at the Open Innovation Africa Summit² in Nairobi. Enthusiasm was teeming, lots of energy displayed in animated discussions and business cards eagerly switched hands at the event, organized by the World Bank’s infoDev and Nokia, which brought together more than 150 inspirational people from across the continent. Sleepy summits come and go, but these three days of sharing, debating and mapping out action plans across four discussion streams all dealing with entrepreneurship gave everyone something tangible to go home with; tools and networks that can create and grow better companies, foster better business environments, and link entrepreneurs to capital.
As Albania prepares to celebrate 100 years of independence in 2012 with an eye towards becoming a member of the European Union; it must make crucial improvements in a sensitive area: good governance.
For better governance, citizens need more access to information; budgets and local taxes need to be transparent. Women and youth need equal opportunities in business, and agriculture policies need to be developed openly.
To address these, the government is drafting and implementing new policies for central and local government, with support from the World Bank Project for Good Governance in Albania. The World Bank is further supporting the government's agenda through support for civil society projects using the Development Marketplace competition platform to solicit and select high impact projects for implementation. The British Council is overseeing their implementation.
Last week, Aleem Walji participated in GE’s global conference, ‘Disrupt or Be Disrupted’. He has written an entry that is being featured in The World Bank's "Let's Talk Development" blog. Below is an excerpt:
How do you ‘disrupt’ your business from the core by building on your strengths and leveraging your assets? Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO talked about the fear of losing too many engineers and scientists who don’t ‘fit corporate culture’ but proceed to found billion dollar businesses (Sergei Brin started at GE). It reminded me of a session at the Indian School of Business led by a senior Google Executive where he said that it’s not Microsoft, Facebook, or Twitter that keeps him up at night, it’s ‘three kids in a garage’. Hewlett Packard, Apple, Google, and Groupon, all started small, learned fast from failure, took risks nobody was willing to take, and then fundamentally disrupted business models and industries.
For the full blog entry, click here.
Follow Aleem Walji on Twitter!
Last week, I participated in GE’s global conference, ‘Disrupt or Be Disrupted’. The theme of the event was simple. As barriers to entry fall in nearly every industry, no company is safe or immune from being disrupted in a fundamental way. It’s no longer uncommon that industry leaders lose their edge in months, and wither to irrelevance in record time. Unless corporates have the courage to embrace and empower their ‘creatives’ they don’t stand a chance in sustaining their competitive advantage.
Having traveled to both East Africa and India over the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what ‘innovation’ means in different contexts. It’s easy to get caught in a technology-centric worldview in places like Bangalore and even Nairobi these days. But when I get past the superficial stories and dig a bit deeper, I realize that impactful innovation is less about shiny tools and technology and more about ‘listening to users’ and transforming social processes to solve problems that matter to people.
My walk through a Delhi slum comes immediately to mind. While there I visited Operation Asha, a 2011 India Development Marketplace winner that is working to arrest the spread of tuberculosis (TB). India is one of the only countries in the world where the rate of infection is growing despite the falling incidence of the disease globally. The previous day, I sat with colleagues from Microsoft Research in Bangalore who explained the simple but critical advances they had made in writing open-source software to verify the identity of patients visiting clinics, aggregating data on missed doses, and using text messages to increase compliance.
“SRN: Smart Rickshaw Network” by Aadhar Bhalinge – a prolific technology developer from India – is the winner of m2Work, the mobile microwork innovation contest that infoDev and Nokia launched in February. The infoDev team has taken a closer look at his and the other five finalists’ backgrounds, and we found some helpful insights about new sources of innovation, their promise, and their needs.
To put these lessons in context, let’s take a look at the microwork ecosystem before m2Work. Microwork platforms, like Samasource and MobileWorks, were already connecting thousands of people in developing nations with jobs like moderating websites, tagging images and video, and so on. But these platforms were most useful for workers with access to computers with broadband, which are the exception rather than the rule in many regions.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Different Take on Africa
Good Governance vs. collective action
"It’s time for donors to get out of their addiction to Good Governance! No country has ever implemented the current donor-promoted Good Governance agenda before embarking on social and economic development. This was true for rich countries before they became rich, and it is true for the rapidly ‘catching up’ countries of Asia today. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are no exception. They are therefore not helped to get out of poverty by donor insistence on prior achievement of Good Governance, meaning adoption of the institutional ‘best practices’ that emerged in much richer countries only at a later stage in their development. This is a main message of the Joint Statement of five research programmes, which has just been published. You may also like to see the PowerPoint presentation of the Joint Statement." READ MORE
South by Southwest (SXSW) is a company that plans and executes conferences, trade shows, festivals and other events. Collectively, SXSW sponsored events are the highest revenue-producing event for the Austin economy, with an estimated economic impact of $167 million in 2011 (Wikipedia).
The biggest SXSW story that recently made the rounds was that SXSW, through the company BBH wired homeless people so that they can provide 4G hotspots to “make the invisible “visible”. The BBH company blog says:
This year in Austin … you’ll notice strategically positioned individuals wearing “Homeless Hotspot” t-shirts. These are homeless individuals in the Case Management program at Front Steps Shelter. They’re carrying MiFi devices. Introduce yourself, then log on to their 4G network via your phone or tablet for a quick high-quality connection. You pay what you want (ideally via the PayPal link on the site so we can track finances), and whatever you give goes directly to the person that just sold you access. We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity.