Global Maker Challenge
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity (the Global Prosperity Initiative) launched the second cohort of its Global Maker Challenge in late 2019, in Abu Dhabi. The challenge is an innovation-based contest that brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to present ideas and solutions for promoting global prosperity and improving living standards.

Global Maker Challenge 2019 Themes

The Global Prosperity Initiative partnered with 10 U.N. agencies as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve, a marketplace for social impact initiatives, to select four themes that Global Maker Challenge submissions must follow. This cohort’s themes are (1) Sustainable and Healthy Food for All, (2) Climate Change, (3) Innovation for Inclusive Trade and (4) Innovation for Peace and Justice. Nearly 3,400 participants submitted cutting-edge ideas — including web and mobile applications, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions.

The Finalists

In the end, 20 finalists (five from each section) were chosen by a select group of experts from U.N. agencies, global organizations, digital innovation companies, NGOs and academia. The final projects selected stood out among the rest because they were both affordable and scalable — two characteristics that are critical when working with disadvantaged communities. Limited infrastructure and resources  are often some of the greatest challenges that must be overcome.

Category Objectives and Finalist List

  1. Sustainable and Healthy Food for All: Ideas submitted to this category aim to address issues regarding access to sustainable and nutritious food among growing urban populations, as well as reducing hunger and malnutrition. Finalists presented solutions for storing fresh produce and extending the shelf life of foods. Finalists accomplished this using temperature control hubs and sustainable packaging that reduces waste. Another finalist introduced an idea for a social enterprise that makes affordable and nutritious food more accessible to low-income communities.
  2. Climate Change: Contestants focused on promoting sustainability and efficient resource use to lower carbon emission and eliminate waste. Several finalists addressed the textile industry and how to make its materials more sustainable. Submissions included technologies to create biodegradable textiles from plant-based materials, upcycled plastic and ethical sourcing. Other projects addressed the issue of climate change in different ways, such as generating electricity from wastewater and creating a circulation system to convert compost into fertilizer.
  3. Innovation for Inclusive Trade: This category aims to increase the market inclusivity of rural populations to promote global, economic growth. Finalists introduced several digital platforms that provide access to financial literacy tools and empower small business owners. Ideas included an application providing financial tools and market information to emerging enterprises. Also, platforms for connecting rural farmers to international markets and mapping tools — which increase the visibility of small retailers.
  4. Innovation for Peace and Justice: Contestants provided solutions for displaced populations and refugees seeking essential services and resources. Several finalists focused on making education more accessible. Ideas included virtual reality classrooms for students in underserved communities. Also, technology training and legal services for residents of refugee camps and solar-powered learning hubs. Other finalists presented solutions for improving the quality of life of displaced populations, such as user-managed identification and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) learning technology and games.

Final Pitch

Finalists will present their solutions in a series of virtual pitches, starting in late August 2020 and commencing in early September of the same year — during the Global Maker Challenge Award Ceremony. Prizes include project funding and mentorship worth up to $1 million.

Seeing the Big Picture

The second cohort of the Global Maker Challenge comes at a critical time. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable groups lack humanitarian aid, social protection and stimulus packages. Unless action is taken, as many as 50 million people could fall into extreme poverty, as a result of the pandemic. Innovation and collaboration are powerful tools for developing solutions to unprecedented challenges. Today’s entrepreneurs and designers provide hope for overcoming setbacks caused by the pandemic and maintaining progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Water Services to the Poor
Water services to the poor are severely lacking around the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. Moreover, more than twice as many people lack safe sanitation. Consequently, 361,000 children less than the age of five die from diarrhea, every year. Of the people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not even have basic drinking water services. These conditions compel 263 million people to collect water from sources far from home — a process that takes over 30 minutes per trip. A further 159 million people still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes.

At the current pace, the world will fall short of meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (U.N. SDG) of universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Accelerating efforts to meet this goal will cost as much as $166 billion per year for capital expenditures alone. It seems that to achieve this U.N. SDG, something must change and soon.

A New Funding Approach

Private finance could play an important role in expanding access to improved, reliable water services to the poor. However, most providers that serve the poor are not privately financeable in their present state and will continue to require subsidies. Hence, development assistance and philanthropic funds are of utmost importance to protect the global poor.

A global funding model, known as a conceptual Global Water Access Fund (GWAF), has been established in other sectors to raise additional funds for targeted interventions. It pools resources in a way that provides incentives for access and utility performance for poor households.

This method is tried and tested. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, received $15 billion in pledges and yielded a net increase in funding. Unitaid, an organization that accelerates access to high-quality drugs and diagnostics in developing countries, generated more than $1 billion through a levy on airline tickets.

Investments in the poor are often perceived as having low or even negative returns. Therefore, pro-poor utilities face challenges entering financial markets. This also explains why profitable utilities are hesitant to expand their services to the global poor. GWAF changes this by bridging the funding gap and placing pro-poor utilities in stronger positions to attract capital for further service investments.

Making Individual Change

Though funding seems like a larger issue, there are ways for individuals to support clean water for all. Many nonprofits focus on bringing clean water services to the poor. Here are three organizations that are dedicated to the proliferation of clean water services to the world’s poor.

3 Nonprofits Tackling Global Water Services for the Poor

  1. Pure Water for the World works in Central American and Caribbean communities. The organization aims to provide children and families with the tools and education to develop sustainable water, hygiene and sanitation solutions. They directly connect fundraising dollars with impact, which immediately helps potential supporters see how their donation or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign will make a difference for the people they serve.
  2. Blood:Water is another nonprofit that works to bring clean water and HIV/AIDS support to over 1 million people. They partner with African grassroots organizations to make a change in 11 countries. Blood:Water works to provide technical, financial and organizational support to grassroots organizations. In this vein, they aim to help strengthen their effectiveness in their areas of operation.
  3. Drop in the Bucket’s mission is another organization that works towards water sanitation. They build wells and sanitation systems at schools throughout sub-Saharan Africa, enabling youth to fully harness the life-changing power of education. They teach the importance of clean water, hands and living spaces. Furthermore, the organization encourages girls to go to school, instead of spending hours fetching water.

Remaining on Track

Although sustainable development goals seem a difficult achievement to reach, innovative techniques such as GWAF and individual efforts through donations take steps in the right direction in ensuring water services to the poor. With nonprofit organizations such as the aforementioned as well as assistance from international organizations and governments like, there is still hope in reaching the U.N. SDGs.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Pixabay

Innovating Global Healthcare
Access to adequate healthcare remains a challenge for people around the globe living in poverty. Continuously increasing healthcare costs exacerbate this issue and the final result is that more people in need are suffering as a consequence. The term “catastrophic health spending” refers to a person who spends more than 10% of their income on “out-of-pocket,” healthcare expenses. According to a report from the World Health Organization, 926.6 million people dealt with catastrophic health spending of at least 10% of their income in 2015. Furthermore, 208.7 million people endured health costs that were more than 25% of their income. These figures may indicate a need for innovating global healthcare, going forward.

Medtronic Improving Global Health Conditions

As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the third goal focuses on improving health conditions. Specifically, section 3.8 aims to reduce cost barriers to life-saving treatments and medicine. Medtronic understands the value of this mission and is one company leading the way for innovations in global healthcare. As part of the company’s commitment to “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life,” Medtronic continues to combine technology and patient-centered care to improve access to health services and resources for vulnerable populations, worldwide.

Medtronic invests heavily in finding solutions for noncommunicable diseases (NCD), i.e. diseases that cannot spread from one individual to another. Often these are chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even hearing loss. In 2012, 68% of global deaths were caused by an NCD and while organizations are fighting to lower that number — approximately half of the global population are unable to access critical care.

3 Ways to Combat NCDs

An important part of Medtronic’s innovations in global healthcare stems from the idea of evolving medical practices. In the company’s efforts to combat NCDs, it concentrates on three areas: (1) capacity building, (2) community engagement and (3) sustaining programs. The capacity building portion of Medtronic’s commitment ensures that healthcare workers are well-equipped to understand their roles and responsibilities in the healthcare system. Moreover, it advocates for up-to-date training and professional feedback for workers. Medtronic’s community engagement aspect connects various organizations to broaden resources for populations in need of services. In this way, Medtronic scales back some of the barriers to care that many people face. Lastly, by gearing toward sustainable programming, Medtronic dedicates time to working with governments and policymakers to cultivate lasting change within the healthcare system itself.

Breaking Down Barriers with Programs & Patents

Medtronic has served more than 75 million people in more than 150 countries, since its start. It also has licenses to 47,800 patents — embracing the potential of new technologies to break down certain barriers. Patents for Humanity is a program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and celebrates companies that use inventions to address humanitarian issues. In 2018, the program recognized Medtronic for its progress in innovating global healthcare. The patent in question was for a “portable, low-water kidney dialysis machine” that can be used for those who normally would not have access to traditional dialysis treatments.

Medtronic has also launched programs that integrate its technologies, combined with compassionate business models. Empower Health is one such program — utilizing a mobile tablet, an automated blood pressure machine, a glucometer and a new software application. The program allows healthcare workers to remotely monitor diabetic patients located in Ghana and Kenya. Through the software, clinicians can keep current on their patients’ status and can even send messages and write prescriptions.

While many challenges still face vulnerable populations all over the world, Medtronic is fostering new and exciting developments in the realm of global health.

– Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Senegal
The Republic of Senegal, located just off the West African coast, has one of the most stable economies in the region, but there are surprisingly high unemployment and poverty rates. With a population of 15.85 million, 39% of Senegal’s citizens are living in poverty. Senegal is one of many nations that rely solely on rain seasons for resources and goods to sell – when the rain does not come, crops cannot be harvested, sold or traded. Lack of rain can also start brush fires that destroy crops and shock rural towns into food insecurity. All of these factors contribute to a system of poverty and hunger that must be addressed. Here are 6 facts about hunger in Senegal.

6 Facts About Hunger in Senegal

  1. In 2014, the Malabo Declaration was signed at the Summit of the African Union. It planned to end food insecurity in Senegal by the year 2025, with a focus on malnutrition among children. The World Food Program is also partnering with local organizations to monitor and analyze food and nutrition insecurity.
  2. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 was proposed at the same Summit of the African Union. Its goal is to eliminate hunger in all forms by 2030. This will be achieved by setting in place sustainable solutions such as high-quality farming equipment that allows farmers to sell goods for higher prices at markets. Prices often fluctuate due to the quality of the crops being sold, so better equipment allows for consistently better quality goods, bringing more income to rural towns.
  3. Special food distributions are being delivered to the elderly and disabled in all 14 regions of Senegal by the World Food Program. The program is also actively working toward expanding rural developments and safety net programs that cover all citizens considered food or income insecure. This will greatly benefit the fight against hunger in Senegal.
  4. Organization Action Against Hunger provided nearly 14,000 people in Senegal with access to clean water and nearly 23,000 people with food security and safety net livelihood programs following a significant drought in 2018. Action Against Hunger sent out emergency response teams to distribute as many resources to affected areas as possible. This will ultimately aid over 62,000 people in Senegal.
  5. As larger cities begin to urbanize, poverty-ridden rural towns are often left behind. The most particularly affected by this shift in modernization are women, children and elderly people living in these small rural towns. They are the most vulnerable to food insecurity and further complications.
  6. In Tambacounda, an app was developed for farmers by Senegal’s government and international partners. The app allows them to track the weather and prepare to protect crops from any incoming storms. Additionally, it provides insight into animal health and personal nutrition.

Hunger in Senegal has been an increasingly pressing issue over the last two decades. Currently, Senegal is one of seven African countries that have succeeded in reducing food insecurity and malnutrition; since the year 2000, malnutrition in the nation has been lowered by 56%. Reduction of hunger and malnutrition remains Senegal’s main priority; analysis has shown that the education of farmers in nutrition and efficient farming practices has contributed towards this goal. There is still much work to be done, but great strides have been made.

Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Gates Foundation ReportThe recently published Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report entitled ‘Goalkeepers: The Story Behind the Data’ seeks to highlight the progress made by public health workers and governments around the world in the fight against poverty and infectious diseases. The Foundation plans on publishing a Goalkeepers report every year until 2030. Their main objective is to demonstrate that investments in the fight against global poverty truly do have an impact, thus fighting skepticism of foreign aid. This year’s report puts the progress in this area in perspective; contrary to what seems to be a prevailing pessimism about the state of the world, the 2017 Goalkeepers report clearly demonstrates that the “world is better now than 25 years ago”.

The report uses 18 data points from the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, signed in 2015 by world leaders, that are particularly relevant to health and well-being, such as infant mortality and vaccination. Although improvement is stagnating, a majority of the indices show great improvement in the last two decades. Since 1990, more than 100 million lives of children five years or younger have been saved. The rate of infant mortality per 1,000 has dropped from 85 to 38. Maternal deaths have fallen from 275 per 100,000 live births to 179 in 2016.

The report shows that the world is better now than 25 years ago for a large portion of its most vulnerable members. Under the World Bank definition of poverty (living under $1.90 a day), the global poverty rate has decreased from 35 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2016.

In terms of health and the fight against infectious disease, the report also emphatically demonstrates how the world is better now than 25 years ago. HIV, for example, has had a remarkable decline in the past two decades, from 0.6 deaths per 1,000 people to 0.25 in 2016. Smoking rates have also significantly improved around the world. In 1990, 22 percent of people 10 years or older smoked; today, that number has dropped to 16 percent. The most impressive improvement is in widespread vaccination, which the report claims is “one of the most impressive public health stories in global health”. 89 percent of target populations have been covered by the eight major vaccines, compared to 73 percent in 1990.

The Sustainable Development Goals have a 2030 deadline, which is why the Gates Foundation report will be released every year until then. Although the numbers demonstrate that the world is better now than 25 years ago, Bill Gates has expressed some concern over a decline and stagnation in funds directed towards foreign aid and global health, especially in the fight against HIV. The remarkable feat of progress achieved so far by the international community at large should serve as an impetus for continued and increased funding, something the Gates Foundation intends to push for.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

U.N. SDGsThe United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusive to the realm of government policy. The business and science communities can help address climate change and fight poverty as well.

According to the 2016 U.N. Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, 87 percent of executives embrace the SDGs and are willing to reevaluate the way their companies do business.

The State of Responsible Business Report 2016, published by business intelligence company Ethical Corporation, found that the level of business engagement with U.N. SDGs is highest in the Asia-Pacific region at 54 percent.

This ranking was followed by 46 and 37 percent in Europe and North America, respectively. These results indicate that companies in or near the developing world are, in fact, the most eager to work toward achieving sustainable development.

On specific goals, Ethical Corporation determined that more than half of its customers are willing to engage on climate action, decent work and economic growth, as well as responsible consumption and production (these agendas rank 13, 8 and 12 out of the 17 U.e. SDGs).

By region, African companies are more focused on the goal of quality education, whereas businesses in the Asia-Pacific are more inclined to climate action.

Liam Dowd, the managing director of Ethical Corporation, pointed out that engagement on the goals of no poverty and zero hunger (one and two on the list of SDGs) is lower. Mr. Dowd said that engagement is likely because these targets are more general in scope and require cooperation with other sectors, not because companies are turning a blind eye to these issues.

Additionally, cooperation is precisely what the business and international communities are hoping to achieve. At the SDG Business Forum held in New York on July 19, 2016, the U.N. Global Compact and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) signed a memorandum of understanding on encouraging business participation in the U.N. 2030 agenda.

According to the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net), the U.N. SDGs also have the potential to involve more everyday citizens in scientific research and make initiatives more people-oriented.

Elizabeth Pollitzer, the managing director at Portia, a company that aims to help women across science disciplines, argued that the “SDGs can be a beacon for innovation in the way research programmes are designed to include the people who are meant to benefit.”

In turn, increasing citizen engagement is an initiative that governments, the scientific community and other NGOs can improve upon.

For the development community, the U.N. SDGs have become points of cooperation with the science and business communities. They have enormous potential to bring about more responsible research and corporate strategies.

Philip Katz

Photo: Pixabay

History of Global Goals for Sustainable DevelopmentThe history of global goals for sustainable development is relatively recent. Building on the original Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000, which the world planned on achieving by 2015, the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals have drastically affected the way nations evaluate poverty, climate change and inequality and injustice.

The Global Goals have a much broader sustainability agenda than the MDGs. They address the root causes of poverty directly, as well as recognize the need for development that is universal and may be applied to all nations. Using the history of global goals for sustainable development, governments can be more effective when adopting certain initiatives.

World leaders first adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on September 25, 2015.

The United Nation’s Development Program aims to carry out these Global Goals by providing support for governments, as well as ensuring transparency by the U.N. when it comes to the planning process.

The Untied States has begun the work to achieve these Global Goals through initiatives such as the Feed the Future Initiative. Established for several different nations, this initiative works to address the root causes of hunger by training farmers not only in sustainable farming and living, but also regarding their own healthcare. The 2015 report estimates that about 55 percent of the Feed the Future Initiative’s beneficiaries have been able to rise above the extreme poverty threshold of the US ($1.25 USD per day).

However, nations such as Brazil are taking the development of these Global Goals even further.

In 2015, Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, the first Head of State to address the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly, used her time to emphasize her nation’s improved economy after their 2008 economic crisis and its efforts to provide for the migrants of Europe.

She focused on Brazil’s measures to lower taxes, expand credit, strengthen investment and stimulate household consumption. She also focused on her nation’s efforts to reduce 43 percent of its greenhouse gas emission by 2030.

Brazil even co-sponsored with the UNDP the “Implementing the SDGs: Integrated Approaches” session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya in this year. The session focused on discussing universal tools to advance the 2030 agenda through holistic approaches to the environment, and in doing so, not just eradicate poverty, but also accelerate environmentally sustainable growth.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

stuntingThe first of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to end global poverty. The second is to end world hunger. Fighting the undernourishment of mothers and children is a huge component to ending world hunger.

According to the U.N., one in nine people or 795 million people are undernourished. Poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths in children under five.

One of the key indicators of child malnutrition is stunting, a condition in which children are much shorter for their age than they should be.

The following are five important facts about stunting:

1. One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth.

According to the U.N. World Food Programme, in developing countries the proportion can rise to as high as one in three. The World Health Organization indicates that stunting affects approximately 162 million children globally. The World Health Assembly, the decision making body of the WHO, drafted the resolution to reduce stunting in children under the age of five by 40 percent.

2. Stunting is caused by poor maternal health and nutrition.

The first 1,000 days from a mother’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are vitally important to a child’s overall health and development. It is during this period that good nutrition sets up a child for a healthy life.

Stunting in 20 percent of children occurs in the womb from women that are malnourished themselves. The WHO lists several maternal contributors to stunting that include short stature, short birth spacing, and adolescent pregnancy, breastfeeding complications, and severe infectious diseases.

3. Stunting has lasting effects for the child.

1000 Days is an organization that brings attention to the importance of nutrition in early child development. They note that the effects of stunting last a lifetime. Some include impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune system and greater risk of serious diseases like diabetes and cancer later in life. The problem becomes a vicious cycle in which girls that suffer from malnourishment grow up to be mothers that give birth to malnourished babies.

4. Stunting is a huge strain on economic growth and prosperity.

Good nutrition is a staple of any good economy. The World Bank finds that the investment in nutrition improving programs far outweigh their costs. Ignoring the nutritional development of a country’s human capital will lead to direct losses in productivity, from poor physical status and indirect losses, poor cognitive development and losses in schooling. In fact, economists find that stunting can result in a three percent drop in overall GDP.

Research shows a strong relationship between the height of a labor force and productivity. A 2005 paper in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that reduced adult height for childhood stunting is associated with a 1.4 percent loss in productivity for each one percent loss in adult height.

5. Stunting is irreversible but also preventable.

Once stunting occurs, it cannot be reversed. However, if adequate conditions exist for mothers during pregnancy to access proper nutrition, stunting can be prevented. Significant progress in reducing the number of stunted children has already been seen.

Progress has been seen in many countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and India. These countries have launched specific programs to tackle the effects of malnutrition such as the Rajmata Jijau Mother–Child Health and Nutrition Mission in India and CRECER – the National Strategy against Child Malnutrition in Peru.

Michael A. Clark

Sources: 1000 Days, NHRI, U.N., UNICEF, World Bank, World Food Programme, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr