creativity, innovation and poverty
Mainstream thinking revolves around the idea that emerging nations need the industrialized world to bring innovation to them, since they lack the resources to innovate themselves. Silicon Valley and their cohort have proven themselves to be masters of advancing and solving first-world issues, but they do little to solve the very real problems that exist in the developing world. Their hearts lie in the right place, but, having grown up in a different world with a vastly different life, they tend to lack the knowledge to fully understand what will and won’t work.

The true innovators of our time are those who live within the borders of developing countries, as they are the ones who truly comprehend the complex relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty.

Creativity and Poverty

In an interview with Innovations Online, a technology and entrepreneurial digital magazine, Marcelo Giugale, a senior economic advisor at the World Bank, stated that “innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation is the actual application of an invention.”

According to Ken Burns, an Ashoka fellow in a similar interview with Innovations, the minds in first world countries often innovate for the sake of innovating. When people live in dire situations and are consistently faced with constrained resources, they may be driven to solve problems and create in ways that can fundamentally change their daily lives.

The creativity that comes from the people who live in extreme poverty has the potential to instate meaningful and large-scale change that can improve the lives of millions, and not just those in the middle and upper middle class seen in developed countries. The link between creativity, innovation and poverty is being acted upon within the minds of several talented individuals living in emerging countries.

Map Kibera and Insiders4Good

In 2009, young Kiberans of the Kibera division in Nairobi, Kenya, created Map Kibera, the first open and free digital map of their own community. Until then, it was just a blank spot on the map. The primary goal of Map Kibera was “to find a new solution to an old problem: the lack of participatory democracy in Kibera.” The platform aims to address the omission of Nairobi’s citizens from policy decisions, mass communications and city representation.

The site utilizes the digital age to allow the region’s inhabitants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of data and information. They no longer must rely on the common methodologies of NGOs to learn the facts about HIV, gender, malaria, sanitation and other important health facts in their own community – they can now research the information themselves. Map Kibera has recently grown into a full interactive community project and has expanded to Mathare and Mukura.

Insiders4Good East Africa Fellowship is a training program that, in 2017, brought together 20 young entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who had innovative business ideas that have the potential to improve their communities. The program consists of six months of technical and strategic mentorship from international and local leaders.

Mensa Healthcare and

Many of these young entrepreneurs utilized the cross-section between creativity, innovation and poverty to address and solve many critical local problems. Using artificial intelligence, Peter Aketch’s Mensa Healthcare provides actionable data to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and governmental agencies.

The necessity for such an innovation is vital due to the healthcare system’s lack of comprehensive and efficient digital record keeping. This innovation will decrease the possibility of misdiagnosis and allow for a more robust collection of public health data.

Eighty percent of graduates in Tanzania struggle to find jobs. This has led to an increase in crime, extremism, drug abuse, and violence. Edgar Mwampinge’s aims to help these youths by making it easier for start-ups and freelancers to succeed.

His goal is to make shared office space available by connecting these youths with business and office owners who wish to share their workspaces.

IV Drip Alert and Lyon Analytics

In Rwanda, Ange Uwambajimana’s IV Drip Alert enables nurses to more easily manage intravenous fluids through its wireless system. This creative innovation was in response to problems such as embolism which can occur if the medical observer forgets to change the IV at the right time.

And Kenya’s John Mugendi developed a breast cancer prediction system. He proposes that his Lyon Analytics will track the progression from onset to late stages.

2015 Website

2015 is a site that launched in the Middle East. It invites users to submit their own creations that help bring awareness to social issues such as poverty in the Arab region. The relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty is front and center on the site as it showcases images and videos of hunger, the vulnerable and of poverty.

This “movement,” as some have come to call it, was born out of a reaction to the promise made by the nearly 200 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. They pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015; however, as of 2012, the number of people still living in extreme poverty checked in at 3 billion.

The creative mind brings wonderous elements to the world — whether that be in new technological advances in the medical field, social satire, digital communications or a site dedicated to awareness. As long as ambition and goodwill prevail, there will always be a relationship that exists between creativity, innovation and poverty. The 2015 slogan reads, “Art changes perceptions, perceptions change people, people change the world,” and its mantra could not be more right.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

Creativity for Social Change
Creativity for social change includes non-linear thought processes when rigidity is not conducive to resolution, change or positivity. Creativity also broadens one’s audience and allows one’s message to further spread across time, space and culture.

There has long been a connection to creativity and social change, for artists and creative thinkers have employed countless songs, paintings and other visual arts in the name of activism in order to raise awareness of oppression, inequalities and injustice. Technology has furthered the prominence of creativity in social activism, through video installations, movies, short video clips and the infinite possibility to share links.

Creativity allows for a proliferation of education. Audiences affected by poverty, narcotics and violence are able to be accessed through creative avenues. Engaging the youth in the arts can both transform individual lives while creating a new generation who may go on to produce important works that raise awareness of the issues they feel passionate about. Art is able to act as a tool for therapy, for reconciliation is vital for social change, conflict prevention and fomenting a positive future. Creativity encourages communication and self-expression, and these factors are invaluable in an attempt to foster social change.

Creativity acts as a natural conduit to create interest, and creative thinkers and artists have power in organizing civic engagement and activists for a common cause. Creative leaders are able to inspire the people, particularly the youth, and are able to mobilize communities. Creative leaders are necessary for social change, for they are able to challenge the status quo while engaged in productive dialogue. Creative leaders articulate clear ideas, take courageous risks, focus on a positive future, generate alternative solutions and most importantly, are adaptable to changing environments.

Organizations, such as ArtCorp, believe that every person has the capacity for creativity. It adheres to the idea that a message is much more effective if the audience is involved; it believes in the power of human beings to overcome problems through communication and collaboration; that art is a crucial leverage tool for creative thinking, critical analysis and generative solutions; and that art and culture affect change by accessing all of the senses and speaking to multiple types of intelligence.

The act of art and creativity ultimately inspires action and reaction. The Art of Dismantling offers, “Visual art forms can transcend all barriers and stimulate a lasting emotional response. As long as oppression, inequalities and injustice exist in the world, art and artists will have a role, even a responsibility, to make a positive change to people’s lives; whether on a global or individual level.”

Neti Gupta

Sources: ArtCorp, Creative Social Change, The Heart of Dismantling
Photo: Flickr


Americans are used to standardized education programs. The biggest U.S. federal education initiative of the last two decades, No Child Left Behind, utilized universal testing measurements to assess school performance. However, applying the broad pedagogical values of American-style education to educational programs in developing countries does not appear to be a viable solution.

In a recent op-ed in the Huffington Post, World of Children Award co-founder and board chair Harry Leibowitz wrote that the most effective global education programs are those which take local needs into account.

“Our experience is that standardized programs ignore the background of various socio-economic groups, special needs children and the vicissitudes they face in early childhood and on a day-to-day basis,” Leibowitz wrote.

Leibowitz cited the case of a World of Children Award Honoree in Nepal to demonstrate the value of adaptive educational programs. According to Leibowitz, the Honoree surveys the local job market every two years, in order to determine what jobs will be available in the near future. He then builds his educational programs to train students in skills specific to those jobs.

The results speak for themselves. According to Leibowitz, 95 percent of students attain gainful employment and remain employed after five years. This ensures self-sufficiency, productivity, a healthier lifestyle and, for women, the postponement of marriage and childbirth.

Until now, the World of Children Award has given three awards annually: the Youth Award, the Health Award and the Humanitarian Award. In 2015 however, the World of Children Award is introducing the Education Award for “extraordinary contributions to the education of children.”

With the World of Children Education Award, which will carry a stipend of at least $75,000, Leibowitz hopes to encourage the use of creativity in adapting education to the specific needs of students in different geographical and cultural environments.

– Parker Carroll

Sources: Foreign Affairs Huffington Post World of Children
Photo: Flickr