Innovation Spreads from Cape Town to Haiti: Fair Uses Crowdsourcing to Find Solutions to Conflict
- About 2,000 competition participants select finalists through online voting.
- Finalists incorporate technologies to improve governance and service delivery; others use media to tell stories of conflict-affected groups.
June 7, 2010- A global array of social innovators and peace-builders came together recently in Cape Town, South Africa, to share new ideas and raise their voices to help vulnerable people caught in the crossfire of persistent state conflict.
The World Bank Institute (WBI)-sponsored Innovation Fair, whose theme was "Moving Beyond Conflict," brought together project teams, conflict and fragility experts, social entrepreneurs, local software developers, and potential funders to discuss 32 finalist projects selected through a combination of crowd voting and expert juries.
Leonard Doyle was one of the "innovators" selected. His unfreedmedia.org project proposed new ways to give voice to journalists at a time of dramatic restructuring in the media industry and increased censorship in some areas. This week, Doyle will travel to Haiti to start a social accountability project-a direct result, he says, of what he learned in Cape Town.
"The Innovation Fair gave me a whole new perspective on what I personally can do to create change," said Doyle, former foreign editor of the U.K. Independent.
"Even more, it showed me the enormous potential of open data, crowdsourcing, mapping and social media to revolutionize journalism. By the end of this week, l'll be living under canvas in Port-au-Prince, putting together a combination of citizen and professional journalism to help Haitians rebuild their country."
Using Technology to Improve Governance
The April Innovation Fair marked the first time WBI used "crowdsourcing" to allow competition participants to select finalists themselves; about 2,000 participants reviewed, commented and voted on 224 entries.
Many of the finalists addressed new ways to use technology to improve governance and the delivery of basic services. Among these was Map Kibera, which is creating the first detailed and digitized map of the sprawling Nairobi slum where 1 million people live without water, sanitation, and other basic services.
Other projects proposed to use new technologies to improve to delivery of legal services in Ethiopia; connect rural communities in Sri Lanka via a variety of electronic communications; support peacekeeping in Nepal; and monitor elections in 24 African countries.
One media-focused project, Voices Beyond Walls, proposed a program of original stories, drama, poetry, photography, music, and digital video to help youth in the Palestinian refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem come to terms with living in conflict. Voices founder Nitin Sawhney said the project would allow youth to "express their own perspectives on history and culture."
Fair participants hailed from sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The group interacted online via an Innovation Fair Ning site, where they blogged, posted photos, and read the fair's Twitter feed. Participants also posted their thoughts on the Development Marketplace blog.
Fair co-sponsors included the World Development Report (WDR) 2011 on Conflict, Security and Development, the Institute for Security Studies, a South Africa-headquartered think tank that works on solutions to increase African human security, and Development Marketplace.
For WDR Co-Director Sarah Cliffe, the event provided an opportunity to sound out social activists and innovators working in countries vulnerable to conflict.
"We heard many courageous voices and learned a lot about how creative individuals and groups can pilot innovative ideas for violence prevention and service delivery in insecure environments," she said.
Next Steps: Discussions with Funders
Fair organizer Egbe Osifo-Dawodu, adviser in WBI's Innovation Practice, says early results of the Cape Town gathering look promising.
Some fair finalists have partnered with the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network; another group has launched a technical committee to pilot a human capacity development project for communities and youth in fragile zones of West Africa. Other project work was presented in May to a leading global e-learning conference in Zambia, and Doyle's citizen journalist initiative in Haiti kicks off this week.
The next step for many of the projects is writing a business plan with tools provided by the Global Social Benefit Incubator program of Santa Clara University. Thanks to introductions at the fair, some projects are in discussion with potential funders.
Finally, as a result of the pilot, Development Marketplace, a 10-year-old program of competitions sponsored in part by the World Bank, intends to scale up its use of online scanning for global innovation. Its next project will be the first Global "Apps for Development" competition in fall 2010.