Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Spring Pitches – Join a team

Last evening we had our Spring Generator Dinner. Over 140 people joined us to hear from three past winning teams – Recovers.org, EyeNetra, Leveraged Freedom Chair (GRIT) and OpenIR. 13 individuals pitched ideas and their skills. Below are the slides from the evening, if you’d like to reach out to anyone who joined us. Thanks so much for all who joined us.

A few key next steps:

  1. If you’re entering this year, submit a Scope Statement by February 27.
  2. If you’d like to help a team or join a team, check out the Help Wanted or fill out a Help Offered.
  3. If you’re still looking for help, fill out a Help Wanted.
  4. If you’re trying to recruit teammates, fill out a problem page about the idea you have.

Offer your help + meet our 39 MIT student-led teams

[This is the latest newsletter from MIT IDEAS Global Challenge. If you'd like to subscribe, add your name and email here.]

Happy New Year from Cambridge, Massachusetts!

So far this year, 39 teams are entering; teams are currently working to develop their ideas like a hand-powered centrifuge that aims to improve the diagnostic capabilities in India’s medical clinics to water distribution machines who’s goal is to reduce bottled water consumption by 90% on college campuses within a year.

There are 70 requests for help at the moment – teams are looking for people to help with business models, design questions, market research, programming and much more. See if you can help: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/help/wanted.

We welcome you to log into globalchallenge.mit.edu, get to know the teams entering this year through their profiles, offer your help and feedback to teams.

@ IDEAS Global Challenge EVENTS

Generator Dinner: Last October, we hosted 200+ people at our  Generator Dinner as a space for people to gather and learn more about IDEAS Global Challenge, for people to join teams , and for teams to pitch about their projects and recruit team members. More than 30 people pitched an idea at the Generator Dinner and you can read more about their ideas by clicking here. If you’re in the Boston area, join us for the next Generator Dinner happening on Thursday, February 21 at MIT.

Bose Mentorship Night: We were thrilled to bring together our MIT student-led teams and Bose senior management and employees, who served as mentors in helping the 19 participating teams develop business plans, marketing strategies, and more. For the MIT News Office’s coverage of the evening, click here. We’d love to explore similar opportunities with other organizations.

UPDATES FROM TEAMS

…and much more. To read on more updates and news on IDEAS Global Challenge teams, click here.

MOVING FORWARD

Join us at:

  • MIT Scaling Development Ventures Conference: Feb 8-9 @ MIT — We are thrilled to be part of a group of centers around MIT that are hosting the first MIT conference that explores the growth of social ventures in developing regions. We’ll be live-blogging the event and send out the link later. Stay tuned.

Get involved:

YOU CAN HELP TEAMS through the IDEAS Global Challenge site. Teams request help and individuals offer their help. Come help out! http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/help

YOU CAN HELP IDEAS GLOBAL CHALLENGE! Our work this year wouldn’t have been possible without our enthusiastic volunteers. If you’re interested in helping us plan and run events, reviewing proposals, and more, email globalchallenge (at) mit.edu.

CONTACT AND ABOUT
We are part of the MIT Public Service Center.  Meet this year’s teams: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams. We blog at: http://mitpsc.mit.edu/globalchallenge. We share events and deadlines, at MIT and beyond at: bit.ly/tzkMJm. We tweet through @mitchallenge. Email us globalchallenge (at) mit.edu

END

Teams looking for teammates / Ideas pitched at the Generator Dinner

Twice a year we have a Generator Dinner to create a space and gathering where teams can form, people can meet and hear more about the IDEAS Global Challenge. This year more than 30 people signed up to pitch their ideas to recruit team members.
Here’s the list of ideas pitched this year and a link to the presentation. If we can help you connect, let us know at globalchallenge(at)mit(dot)edu. Next steps:

To simplify the sorting process, we categorized the topics by subject/sector. Below you’ll find:
  1. Water and Sanitation
  2. Education
  3. Food and Agriculture
  4. Community/Civic
  5. Health/Medical
  6. Business/Entrepreneurship/Finance
  7. Energy and Waste

- – - – - – -

1. WATER AND SANITATION

Jonathan Abbott
“Inside the Box”
In Mexico, promote awareness and education using the inside of vending boxes targeted at Mexico’s children, women, and young adults on the streets.

Visit: http://web.mit.edu/jabbott/www/mexico.html.

Recruiting needs:
- Partners who understand the context of Mexican Street Vendors
- Partners with business experience.
- Team members interested in participating in the project.

- – - – - – -
Jason Gonzales
AquaVida
I’m developing a pay-per-use water purification and dispensing station for use in high density urban areas (subways, shopping districts, transportation centers) that will disrupt the bottled water industry and provide purified and mineral enhanced water to people in cities around the world.

Looking for: I need a team of MEs and EEs to help me build our first prototype and deploy it here in Cambridge/Boston.

- – - – - – - -
Clara Liu
Showergy
Team Showergy! Bringing showers and cleanliness to slums in Kenya. We have a team of enthusiastic and motivated production and marketing team in Kenya.

Looking for:business people interested in applying their skills to benefit the people in the developing country.

- – - – -
Ahmed El Mahi
WaterATM
I am working on developing an ultra-affordable mobile enabled water dispension unit that will improve access to clean water in communities not served by the water grid.Need people with a passion for increasing water access.

- – - – - – -

 

2. EDUCATION

Sergio Marrero
Caminos
1 million HS graduates CHOOSE not to go to college every year, because they don’t have the funds or see the value. Caminos aspires to give every student access to low cost quality education through a mobile platform.

Looking for: We are looking for designers and developers. Caminos. Pathways to excel.

- – - – - – - -
Benjamin Wildrick
CHILDREN IN THE WILDERNESS
Deliver teacher training in rural schools in Zimbabwe.  CITW, a non-profit with offices in 7 southern African countries, is developing an Eco Club model to promote stewardship and environmental awareness among students and teachers.  Zimbabwean and Zambian school teachers will need to be trained in the delivery of this new curriculum.

- – - -
Alice Huang
MentorLinked
Connects Chinese students pursuing an American education to current students at top universities in the US. We seek to develop an online tool for students to organize their college application materials with their Mentor’s guidance. These relationships can blossom into a global network for the future generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders.

Looking for: We are actively seeking a Lead Technological Coordinator to be part of the founding team to develop and lead a team to create the online tool. I’m full of energy especially when working on a project I care about. I have a lot of experience in developing curriculum and working with schools for various education services. I’m also interested in product design especially for the developing world. I have strong communication skills, including fluency in Chinese, and love understanding and connecting with the people the product is designed for.

- – - – - – - -
Sohail Ali
Saath Saath- Labors and Small Businesses United
Small business enterprises (SBEs) are major employers in developing countries. In Pakistan, SBEs employ 78% of the non-agriculture labor force. These semi-skilled workers are generally employed at minimum wage and have poor access to health, education, and other services. Our aim is to facilitate a mutually beneficial relation between SBEs and their employees which will provide an opportunity for upward social mobility for these low income families and develop a socially responsible community.

- – - – - – -
Madeeha Ansari
Want to look at incentives to increase retention for children in nonformal schools in urban slum areas in Pakistan. Know a network of eight schools, catering to working/ street children. Need people who can process data, like kids and enjoy creative adventures!

I enjoy writing. Actively enjoy it. Looking for innovative education sector interventions.

- – - – - – -


3. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

 Greg Grinberg
ActualFood
A distribution platform dedicated to making healthy eating convenient, accessible, and affordable everywhere — by finally taking online grocery shopping to the mainstream.

Our shopping app serves not only as a buying tool but also a virtual nutrition coach, to help consumers make the best food decisions based on their current health status. Our logistical approach reduces carbon emissions from food-related personal transportation by about 90%, brings a full selection of fresh produce to food deserts, and enables direct-sourcing from small/midsize farms at a price that is fair to both grower and consumer.

Looking for: We’re technical founders, and we want to build a team of highly capable and committed programmers.  The kind of team that shares a singular focus on building the best possible product, and who instinctively knows what needs to be done to build it.
- – - – - – - -

OLORUNNISOLA OLUSEYI SHADRACH
Catfish and poultry farming
The fastest growing business in Nigeria is catfish and poultry farming  because of is  emerging industry that has not reached its peak or full potential, so all you need to do s look for a region with a growing demand that haven t been covered by a major player and situate your business there, a team would need my service because of the quality will be added to their establishment, I am created to develop a career that will  enable  me to subdue more challenges opportunities, to  be the best of whom  am created to be, a solution to the world’s problem and  blessing to my country via profession, also i want to work in a  milieu where the  ultimate utlization of my acqured knowledge and potential will be realized.

- – - – - – -

Kwami Williams
MoringaConnect
MoringaConnect is about enabling subsistence farmers growing Moringa to capture more of the value they produce by equipping them with affordable processing technologies that allow them to extract and sell the high value oil contained in Moringa seeds.

Recruiting Needs: We need people who:

  1. Like writing (blogging, grant proposals, etc)
  2. Like to design and refine technologies
  3. Like exploring business & market elements of a project

- – - – - – -

 

4. COMMUNITY/CIVIC

Ali Kamil
CRIMEO
Many crimes in the developing world go unreported to become anecdotal. At CRIMEO, we’re working alongside the MIT Media Lab to create a self-reporting application for incidents, empowering constituents and creating a geographic heat map for incidents.

We aim to solve the problem of unreported incidents by empowering people to report crime. A built in notification system alert others within a local vicinity to avoid precarious areas upon input. Crime reporting at a grassroots level has not been dealt with in this manner.

- – - – - – - -
Amy Robinson
TEDxMIT
I am organizing TEDxMIT and would love to recruit a team to help make this happen!

- – - – - – - -
Araya Santisan
“Pink HHH”
My team name is “Pink HHH”  coming from the words; Happiness Happen Here in pink color.  I would like to make a community art starting from MIT community. It is a new pink art sculpture in the garden or on the wall- a place people could interact to, enjoy with, and be themselves. A man standing in the art will turn a blank space into a production for others to see.

- – - – - – -
David Kuguru
Sustainable Community Africa Partners (SCAP)
Kenya’s 1950’s mindset on architectural design, construction technology, and building material perpetuates a 150,000 homes shortfall per year. Sustainable Community Africa Partners (SCAP), a not-for-profit social enterprise, will catalyze strategic global and project partners’ expertise and resources for sustainable housing integral to healthy communities and future vitality of Africa’s cities.
12+ years experience in entrepreneurship, social impact advisory, social enterprise management.

Worked with Government of Kenya in collaboration with US and European Investors on an international tender to develop 1,000 homes for civil servants. Launched and managed social enterprise in Kenya creating 1,000 jobs through innovative micro-retailer distribution channel.

- – - – - – - -
Bryan Mezue
Roundtable (http://roundtableapp.com)
A web app that allows you to find partners for student projects in Art & Design, Film & Photography, Technology and other areas.

- – - – - – -
Jean Marechal
The Whistle Journal Project
Distributing journals, implements (and whistles & enrollment in self defense classes) to homeless women for them to write/sketch about their experiences, with the aim of a later art exhibit of the results (with some of the work out-printed or adapted further for viewing accessibility).

Recruitment needs: grant/corporate sponsorship proposal research/development; outreach to homeless community for sign up & distribution of materials and access to classes; possible site procurement for corresponding creative time sessions; coordination/production of art exhibition w/ printing, marketing, mailing & art adaption facilitation.

- – - – - – - -
Eugene Feldman
Rallyt
Rallyt is a new startup out of the MIT Beehive Accelerator Program that is redefining the way people seek and achieve social and political change. It is an innovative social media platform that allows organizations, grassroots campaigns, and individuals to mobilize and engage supporters through collective actions, collaborative social tools, and learning mechanisms.

- – - – -
Esther Jang
IDEiA- Internet for Development, Education, and Information Access
To develop a sustainable economic model for delivering and maintaining Internet access for rural educational institutions in developing nations. The cost-effective technology has been developed and deployed in one location; now we must devise ways for the institution to pay for continued service, cut input costs, and add value to the community.

Needs: Someone with knowledge of economics, someone with experience with mobile/wireless/radio technology, someone with experience with solar technology, someone with experience working with rural communities in developing countries (especially schools), someone with experience fabricating parts (preferably in developing countries)

- – - -  -

5. HEALTH/MEDICAL

Dmitri Boulanov
euMetrica (Mozilla Ignite project)
The holy grail health IT app — taking in diverse sensor data, analyzing it in real-time using cloud resources, and providing real-time decision support to people and their health care providers.

Looking for: venture partners (technical co-founder(s)). Looking for coding skills – Android, Java, machine learning who have spare time. [http://project.eumetrica.com]

- – - – - – -
Edward Comeau
Designing better smoke alarms

Fires kill a disproportionate number of elderly, young, poor and African American. Smoke alarms are disabled or missing in 66% of fatal fires.  We need to have a better smoke alarm design that people will use, cannot be tampered with, and will work when it is needed to save lives.

- – - -
Daisy Chang
Manual hematocrit centrifuge
Anemia affects 1.62 billion people worldwide, more than 1.2 billion of whom reside in developing nations. In developing countries, about 20-40% of maternal deaths during pregnancy may be attributed to anemia-related causes.  Unavailability of appropriate diagnostic equipment is a primary factor underlying delayed treatment and misdiagnosis.

We have developed a low-cost portable manual centrifuge to address this need using power and manual drill parts. Our team is looking for a wide range of skill sets, but particularly people who are more business minded.

- – - – - – -
Laura Stilwell
GlobeMed at MIT
We are recruiting to create a mobile technology for community health workers in Northern Togo to improve the efficiency of their systems.

Looking for: We are looking for computer programmers and those familiar with mobile technology.  We are also looking into other projects to improve the technological capacity of their health care clinics.

- – - – - – -

6. BUSINESS/ENTREPRENEURSHIP/FINANCE

Philip Obi
Flenjo is an online ticketing platform and mobile payment system. We are seeking anyone with expertise in mobile payment industry

- – - – - – - -
Kristin Kagetsu
Inspired by Nature
Inspired by Nature aims to work with organizations around the world that make natural dyes and pigments and use them for various crafts whether it’s producing textiles or candles or other products.  The goal is to work with them to develop new natural products using base ingredients that are found locally.

- – - – - – -
Layla Shaikley -  MIT Graduate
Kevin Hu — MIT Undergraduate | Physics
Dwelly
Project: Our goal is to create a visually stimulating online platform for a user to buy and sell items within his or her own local neighborhood. We aim to establish a garage sale on demand, elongating the lifespan of stuff. Users can search by price range or aesthetic.

Looking for: We are looking for people with a background in front end web developing and business/marketing.

- – - – - – -
Sampriti Bhattacharyya
Lab-X foundation: make, break, innovate.
Inspire research, innovation and entrepreneurship in developing countries through innovation based challenges, competitions and internships.

- – - – - – -
Laura Hogikyan
Spaces
My idea, “Spaces,” is an on-line resource that helps businesses share space in beneficial ways (live/work, work/work, etc.), thus lowering barrier to market entry and mutually profiting.

Looking for: I am looking for a programmer to code who is interested in this idea too!

- – - – - – - -

Enrique Bay
Micro+
Project: what I want to do is to partner with SME merchants in different cities, and offer their products local to low-income consumers. I will offer these consumers an easy to follow goal savings plan, and give them incentives to keep saving (cash, movie tickets, etc)

Need: tech co-founder for platform development

- – - – - – - -

Ezekiel Odiogo
Developing business and technology parks across Africa to help entrepreneurs

The cost of starting/running a business in Africa is astronomically high and challenging due to lack of Infrastructure and support services to leverage entrepreneur/SMEs growth. SMEs face stiff challenges to scale, innovate, and link to market. Proposed project would develop/operate viable Business/Technology Parks across Africa. Pilot country – Nigeria/Ghana.

- – - – - – - -
Fashion

Joanna Zhou
Lallitara – Creating Value from Waste through upcycling and reselling discarded sari fabrics and mill scraps. Developing upcycled second-hand Indian saris into chic apparel and accessories.

Looking for people with web development savvy! Link: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams/view/334

- – - – -
Mercy Wakweika
Envy
My name is Mercy and I am co-founder at Envy. Envy caters to the middle class Ugandan by supplying trendy and affordable ready to wear clothes. To address the unusual retail cycles, we have come up with a new retail model. In this model, we will maintain a retail store and an export center that will supply inventory to other retailers also unable to source inventory in manageable quantities.

Looking for: We are looking for people to brainstorm with.

- – - – - – - – -

Jag Gill
Sustainable luxury fashion
Sustainable luxury fashion sourced in india; innovative technology interface and profit share with local artisan communities

- – - – - – - -

7. ENERGY/WASTE

Yuchen Feng
MIT Lenana Project – “Pass the Gas”
We will implement a sustainable waste-management solution for Lenana using easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain technology with easy-to-observe benefits. In January, we will implement composting and a small-scale biodigester. From January to May, Lenanans can learn the mechanics and benefits of both technologies. In June, we will implement a larger biodigester.

- – - – - – -
Daniel Heyman
PowerSalone
Summary: household level solar distribution company for West Africa, starting in Sierra Leone.

Method: we will bring existing technologies that couple solar with mobile technology to remote control electricity flow from East Africa to West Africa. This creates an enforcement mechanism for asset financing.

Recruitment: anyone interested! Electric engineers!
- – - – - – - -
Caroline Howe
Team Name: NewCycle

Project Summary: Creating low-cost equipment to turn non-recyclable waste into building materials for low income communities in the global south

Recruiting Needs: MechE and Building Technology students, business students, and those working on development

- – - – - – -
### END ####

Changing attitudes about recycling in Lagos

In August, after months of market research, partnership development, fundraising, and planning, the Wecyclers team left Cambridge for Lagos, Nigeria. We want to improve urban environments in low-income areas by empowering communities to tackle the problem of unmanaged waste. Our solution is to offer convenient recycling services paired with a rewards program. We knew that seeing our program in action in Lagos would be a true test. We were ready to send collection bikes out into the community to collect materials and reward redeemable points. But we wondered, exactly how would households react to us. Would the excitement that we heard in early customer interviews translate into practice?

Our first collection bike in action.

Our first day of collection was August 24th, 2012.  To prepare for this day, we held a community recycling awareness day in partnership with the city government’s waste management agency, we did outreach in the neighborhoods, and we held mini-workshops to describe exactly how the collection program would work. We had signed up 107 interested households who agreed to start separating their recyclables for us. Still, on that first day, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We ended up collecting 32 kgs of plastic and aluminum from 16 different houses and the excitement we had hoped to find was clearly there. After all the talk, people were delighted to see that our collection bikes actually existed. And not only that, people were amazed to find that they did receive SMS texts with their rewards points within 24 hours after their recycling pick-up. We were starting to gain traction.

And our momentum has only grown since that first day. Everyday we sign-up new households and we’re collecting more material each week. Our average collection is now over 100kgs per day. We’ve hired three local staff members and we’re building trusted relationships in the communities where we work.

Wecyclers subscribers showing their recyclable materials.

The most rewarding aspect of this work though, is seeing the true change in people’s perspectives and behavior around waste, especially among the youth. Parents have told us about how their kids are vigilant about separating out their recycling at home. One 12-year old boy always has his eye-out for recyclable materials, even in unlikely situations. One day, his family held a graduation party for him and after the formalities were finished, instead of dancing or chatting with his friends, he went around from table to table to collect the empty plastic bottles so that he could recycle them with Wecyclers. Another 8-year old girl has led her family to be one of the highest Wecyclers points earners in our network. Seeing that level of engagement motivates us to keep expanding our fleet of bikes so that we can continue to expand the households we serve.

 

By Alex Fallon with Wecyclers.

Lemelson-MIT Award For Global Innovation

Masters Class Taught By UC Berkeley Professor, Ashok Gadgil: June 21st 2012

“Technology Innovations for the poorest 2 Billion On The Planet”

Professor Gadgil spoke in front of a mixed audience in the Ray and Maria Stata Center this morning. Gadgil, a world-renowned inventor, professor, and scientist received the 2012 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation. This $100,000 award recognizes individuals whose technological innovations improve the lives of impoverished people in the developing world.

Gadgil has been involved with numerous projects and inventions throughout his career, but he chose to focus on his most recent: Electro-Chemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR). Which is a technology designed to reduce the Arsenic levels of groundwater in undeveloped countries, by removing Arsenic at the molecular level through a chemical reaction that attaches the Arsenic particles to particles of Iron and then filtering them out as a compound.

Arsenic poisoning has been called “the largest mass poisoning in the history of mankind” by the World Health Organization, and is a serious problem throughout the globe, but especially in the developing world.

Gadgil used Bangladesh as his primary example for Arsenic poisoning. Estimates cited in Gadgil’s presentation pegged the number of people with some form of Arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh at somewhere around 70 million! Today, around 20% of the adult population in Bangladesh now dies from some sort of Arsenic-related cause.

As Professor Gadgil said earlier today, “ECAR is a high performance system that reliably and affordably removes Arsenic” The barriers to solving the Arsenic problem were both socio-economic, and technological. Gadgil and his team of interdisciplinary partners developed a sustainable and scalable solution for the vast complications that prevented systems like ECAR from taking hold in the past.

When asked to elaborate on some of the lessons he has learned from past failures, Gadgil offered three pieces of advice. First, never cut off the research component of new technological innovations. Second, real-world problems are complex; working with people who are great at what they do will give you greater chances for success (no one ever succeeds on their own). And lastly, always be extremely persistent, while making sure to learn from your past failures. As professor Gadgil put it; “fail smartly”.

 

By: Nathan Birnbaum: MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Intern

Place your three votes! The 2012 Community Choice Vote is open

37 teams entered the final round of the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge. Teams developing new diagnostics, ways of tackling waste, and new business models and systems. Come meet the teams this year! http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams

Here’s how to vote.

Trash Into Art

This week, the Trash Into Art installation is on display in the MIT Stata Center, first floor.

The goal of Trash Into Art is to raise awareness around the value of waste materials such as cardboard, Styrofoam, plastics, metals, and other objects found in a garbage can. A crucial focus is the impact of waste on marginalized people and communities.

This exhibition features student artists who were challenged to collect pieces of waste for a week, and to create a thought-provoking project from materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

The installation is one component of the larger “Waste: Put it to Use” Yunus Challenge, presented by the MIT International Development Initiative in collaboration with MIT D-Lab and the IDEAS Global Challenge.

For more photos, click here.

‎2 DAYS until the next Initial Scope deadline!

All teams entering the IDEAS Global Challenge must submit at least one Initial Scope Statement.

This is the last chance to submit and get feedback from volunteers: March 2 by 11:59PM; details online at http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/competition/how-to-enter

 

Embrace and Me: A Follow-Up to ‘Notes “Product Development for the Other 90%”’

By guest author: Hamsika Chandrasekar

I read Bina’s Notes on “Product Development for the Other 90%” and felt a spark of interest when I came across her description of Embrace, a social enterprise that has developed an innovative, low-cost infant warmer to help keep low-birth-weight and premature infants warm. Thanks to the combined support of the MIT Public Service Center, Baker Foundation, and Kelly-Douglas Fund, I was able to spend the last month in India, working to launch Embrace’s infant warmer at the Shamlaji Tribal Hospital in Gujarat.

This hospital is located in the small village of Shamlaji, about two hours outside Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. It is managed by a husband and wife doctor team, Drs. Haren Joshi and Pratima Tolat, who ensure that the free treatment provided at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital is of high quality. Working with Embrace, I selected Shamlaji Tribal Hospital for my service project due to its focus on rural healthcare and its high numbers of low birth weight infants. When I arrived at the hospital, I found two packages, both marked ‘most urgent,’ waiting for me in the hospital office. I opened one quickly and happily held up its contents: the Embrace infant warmer. Looking back now, I still remember that sense of excitement and purpose I felt when I unwrapped the device. I couldn’t believe that after all the emails, the training sessions, the conference calls, and the planning, I was finally at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, working with an organization I had heard about through a TedTalk and immediately loved.

My first day, unwrapping an Embrace infant warmer

I spent nearly three weeks in Gujarat, conversing with the doctors and nurses and showing them how to operate the infant warmer.

During my time there, nine infants benefited from the Embrace product, absorbing the warmer’s heat and gaining weight during their hospital stay. Together, the nurses and I monitored these babies and collected data on each infant. I was happy to see that the nurses quickly became comfortable with the Embrace product, taking it out whenever a newborn weighed between 1.5 kg and 2.5 kg, the recommended weight range for product use.

A (2.5 kg) infant sleeping peacefully in the Embrace infant warmer

The biggest challenge for me was the language barrier: I spoke no Gujarati and very little Hindi, the two most prominent languages in the region. I worked with the hospital staff via an interpreter, pausing at the end of each sentence and allowing her to translate what I had said. With her help, I also explored some of the other healthcare needs in the area, meeting with the head of Shamlaji Village and traveling out to the Himmatnagar Civil Hospital, to which many patients from Shamlaji Tribal Hospital are referred.

For me, this project served not only as an opportunity to perform hands-on service work but also as a reminder of the realities in impoverished regions and the challenges involved in the improvement of rural healthcare. For every baby born in Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, many more are born at home, never receiving proper care and often dying due to preventable reasons. Parents, desperate to have kids that survive past infancy, pay little attention to established family planning methods. Poor education makes it difficult for villagers to comprehend the dangers associated with at-home deliveries and improper antenatal care. Throughout my time in Gujarat, I was reminded of how much more I – and for that matter, anyone in the world – could do to help.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is currently a junior at MIT and a previous PSC expedition grant recipient. She is double majoring in Computational Biology (Course 6-7) and Neuroscience (Course 9), hopes to enroll in medical school following her undergraduate years, and ultimately wants to pursue a career in global health. 

Tackling the Global Education Crisis, One Innovation at a Time

Whether it’s helping Mexican university students bridge the gap between industry and academia, or providing Ugandan children with basic health education programs, many teams this year have chosen to tackle the difficult problems facing the global education sector.

In recent years, social innovators have joined the ranks of talented teachers and school administrators in rethinking traditional school models, finding creative ways to improve educational quality and access.

A new policy paper by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation might be of interest to those pursuing projects related to educational reform.

How Social Entrepreneurship is Helping to Improve Education Worldwide (available online) highlights the distinct contributions of social innovators in helping to improve early childhood education in low-income communities, creating alternate channels for funding, and providing basic skills to at-risk populations across the globe.

Author Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of the Foundation for International Community Assistance, draws from several interesting case studies that illustrate the potential for social enterprise to solve issues ranging from poor educational access to the growing achievement gap. The key to the success of these enterprises, Scofield writes, lies in their ability to effectively utilize business practices emphasizing sustainability and scalability – two important attributes of any winning IDEAS Challenge project! Here are a few examples:

In the Bronx, the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) not only runs multiple afterschool programs and summer camps, but has also created hundreds of revenue-generating businesses within the community, helping to ensure the continued success and long-term sustainability of its programs.

In India, where harsh inequities prevail and 90 million women remain illiterate, the Mann Deshi Foundation provides vocational training and financial literacy to women in impoverished communities. It also runs the Mann Deshi Business School, which delivers microbusiness courses in mobile classrooms, and the Mann Deshi Mahlia Bank, which provides loans for its business school graduates to start microenterprises.

DonorsChoose.org is a charitable marketplace where teachers can make simple classroom requests, from pencils to microscope slides, for their students. As of August 2011, the website has generated $85 million benefitting more than 5 million schoolchildren in the U.S. The website notably allows individual donors to contribute to its overhead costs (with 76% choosing to do so), and has established diverse funding streams that include multiple corporate sponsors.

We hope that these examples of powerful — and sustainable — social innovations offer a bit of inspiration for those joining the education cause!