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I recently spent a day in a township near Cape Town, South Africa called Langa. My colleagues and I met a family of four who recently moved from a bleak room within a hostel to a shack in the back of a private house. They were immensely grateful for their good fortune (all sharing one bed and one room) explaining how much better their lives were with access to a private toilet.
What struck me was the optimism of the middle daughter, her desire to improve her life, her hope, and her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She smiled as she told us she could not play outside because it was not safe and had no heating as winter approached. But she was grateful because of another reality she knew too well.
"The best thing about my job is the amazing people I meet—and last week was better than most. I was in Cape Town for a meeting of social entrepreneurs and peace-builders. They were gathered under the banner of the World Bank Institute’s Innovation Fair to surface new ways of addressing conflict and delivering services to poor people in fragile states..."
Right now in Cape Town, the Development Marketplace is holding the first of a new generation of DM activities -- an Innovation Fair on Moving Beyond Conflict tied to the 2011 World Development Report and drawing on a pool of innovative solutions discovered during an on-line competition (the new innovation "radar") last month which registered 2,000 users, producing 223 projects from 40 countries.
You can follow the action and join the event virtually through this website hosted by our local partner:
Here's an update on the new Innovation Fair: The on-line competition which has been running for the last 3 weeks officially closed at midnight on Sunday March 7. The response received, especially given the short time, surpassed our expectations with over 1900 registered users and 223 submitted projects from over 40 countries. Ideas ranged from innovative uses of crowdsourcing to map peace in Kenya to tools that can improve governance in Haiti in post-earthquake recovery. The participation has been a truly global one with entries from conflict-affected countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burundi, and those from countries that, per se, are not considered conflict-affected but still experience some of the same issues such as youth violence. What impressed me most was the dialogue that sprang up among many of the users -- exchanging ideas on how to replicate one project in a different context, how to improve an idea based on experience and in same cases, simply words of encouragement.
It was this same crowd of users that through their votes selected the proposals that were passed on to be now reviewed by a panel of experts composed by World Bank and International Finance Corporation staff, academics and practitioners. All proposals that received 8 votes and up made it to the second stage this time and are now being reviewed by the panel of experts that will select the 30 projects that will make it to the Fair in South Africa. The list of 30 selected projects will be posted on the innovation radar platform next Wednesday, March 17. Thanks to everyone who's contributed and for the great ideas you send in -- this is a pilot and we are already learning how to do this even better next time!
In case you are wondering why a busy person -- like you -- should take some time off to offer ideas for the Innovation Fair on moving beyond conflict in Cape Town in April -- well, here's a story...
Today, I learnt that a high school classmate was burnt to death by rampaging youths during a violent crisis in an African country. I keep imagining what she was thinking about the last few minutes of her life. I remember us talking about growing old, having children and grandchildren -- the dreams of youth. Those dreams will never come through for her, and mine for as long as I have them would always be scarred. Now if this was a rare and unusual incident, we could dismiss it as an unfortunate tragedy and move on. Yet on daily basis, thousands of people in various parts of the world have to face and live with such tragedies -- losing sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, parents, cousins, and friends.
With a significant proportion of the world living under conflict conditions or under the fear of a potential conflict, we live in extraordinary times. The need for intellectual exchange, thinking outside the box, and cooperation has never been greater. Armed conflict, crime, and violence spill over borders -- no one is immune. How we handle these challenges will determine the world's fate for generations to come. To address these issues can we continue business as usual? The answer should be clear: We can not.
Call for Proposals - Feb. 15 –
March 2 NOW EXTENDED March 7 - Now Accepting Proposals
Soliciting Innovative Approaches and Research to be presented during the Conflict and Fragility Week in Cape Town, South Africa, April 12-15, 2010
Necessity is the mother of invention. Many times, people living and working under the most difficult and challenging conditions, with minimal tools and capacity, have come up with creative and even innovative solutions to the enormous challenges they face. Organizations and researchers around the world have been equally creative working with communities living in situations of fragility and conflict to find solutions to ensure delivery of basic services, improve governance and create jobs.
Innovation Fair: Moving beyond Conflict
This Innovation Fair, organized by the World Bank Group, is seeking to identify such high-impact approaches to working in fragile and conflict-affected states in order to share and, if possible, scale them up. The Fair will convene international experts on conflict and fragility, development researchers and practitioners, software developers, donors and private sector to exchange experience, establish new collaboration, and forge longer-term partnerships.