We’re pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards. World Changing Ideas, now in its second year, celebrates businesses, policies, and nonprofits that are poised help shift society to a more sustainable and more equitable future.
Below, you can see the winners in 12 different categories. Each category was judged by a jury of prominent social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, thinkers, and designers, plus a Fast Company editor.
The winners were picked from a list of 240 finalists, which were chosen from a pool of nearly 1,400 total entries. All the entries deeply impressed us with their creativity, boldness, and potential for real impact–especially poignant in a year where any progress has seemed, at times, impossible. You can see the full list of finalists and judges here.
Empatico, Kind Foundation
As a Mexican immigrant and the son of a Holocaust survivor, KIND Healthy Snacks founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky has always considered diversity, inclusion, and empathy to be vitally important character traits. His solution, which launched in October 2017, is a free video-conferencing and digital learning platform, with interactive lesson plans designed to connect students around the globe, to build empathy between different people and different cultures.
The setup is basic: Teachers just need a computer with a camera and internet connection. The goal is for educators in different parts of the globe to log on, and complete the same activities at the same time. There are group exercises designed around learning more about your local weather or geography through some basic mapping, and how culture influences the way people interact with their environments. Each group of students can then connect with another classroom somewhere else, so that kids learn from other kids firsthand about what’s the same or different.
The Humanium Metal Initiative, Great Works
What if every time the police confiscated guns, those weapons were melted down and remade into something that benefited the people and communities who had been hurt by gun violence? That’s the premise of The Humanium Metal Initiative, a pro bono campaign from Stockholm creative agencies Great Works and Akestam Holst, which devised a business development strategy to brand the melted down guns as a new precious metal, which could be sold to artists to use, with the proceeds going organizations battling poverty and violence in the areas where the weapons came from.
GreyMatters, GreyMatters Care
GreyMatters is an iPad app that arranges significant music, photos, and stories from throughout someone’s life in a user-friendly storybook format. In the app, a family member can upload photos, music, and memories specific to a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and also lets them access pre-loaded pop culture content from past decades–like Duke Ellington music or Katharine Hepburn film clips–to situate them in a familiar context. The goal is to help people with dementia access memories, but it also provides caregivers with a way to structure their interactions that alleviates some of the stress of not knowing what to do or what to say in the moment.
HelpUsGreen, Kanpur Flowercycling
Ankit Agarwal and Karan Rastogi collect millions of tons of flowers left at temples and mosques, then turn the waste into products like incense sticks, soaps, and eco-packaging. In the process, they stop pesticide-infused roses and marigolds from polluting the dirty River Ganges and provide jobs for lower-income women who previously didn’t have them. The founders saw that flowers left at religious sites are a unique waste challenge. For sacred reasons, they can’t simply be thrown into landfills, so they end up in the river. Instead, Agarwal and Rastogi looked for second-uses that are respectful to the flowers’ original purpose, like incense sticks that can be used for worship. And in the process, they create jobs for lower-income women.
DEVELOPING WORLD TECHNOLOGY
DigiFarm is a mobile agricultural platform that is text-based and aimed at users with unsophisticated feature phones. It not only contains valuable information on livestock farming, horticulture, and growing crops. Farmers can also access micro-loans and discounted “inputs” like seeds and fertilizer. That way, they can boost the yields of their properties, which are typically only five acres or less. It was launched last March by Safaricom, the phone network that pioneered the M-Pesa mobile money service. Within 45 days, 90,000 farmers had registered. Now there are more than 800,000 farmers on the platform.
ET-One, Thor Trucks
While you might picture 18-wheeler trucks making cross-country trips, most of the heavy-duty truck market is far more local. For truck drivers delivering local freight, or grocery distribution, or for garbage trucks or cement trucks, a vehicle with a shorter range isn’t an issue: That’s the market Thor Truck’s all-electric ET-One semi is trying to meet. It can haul 80,000 pounds of cargo, and travels 300 miles on a single charge. When the workday is over, it can charge in just 90 minutes.
Joyn Bio, Gingko Bioworks and Bayer
The biggest issue for industrial agriculture is that growing the massive amounts of food we currently need also involves using amounts of energy and creating massive amounts of pollution. Much of those negative outputs come in the form of nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizers, which are created by converting nitrogen from the air into a spreadable material through a process that’s inefficient and creates greenhouse gases. Field run-off from heavy applications then contaminates waterways.
To fix that, Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks, a biological engineering company, have joined forces on a $100 million joint venture to create a line of microbes that will live in harmony with some plants while producing nitrogen to feed their roots naturally. Some plants, like soybeans, peas, and other legumes, do this already. The goal is to update staple crops like corn, wheat, and rice to do it, as well.
Lia, Lia Diagnostics
Lia is the world’s first flushable pregnancy test. The device uses the same amount of material as six squares of three-ply toilet paper and contains no glue. Its protein, plant, and mineral-based fibers biodegrade whether flushed or composted, which means that in addition to their environmental benefits, they offer a revolutionary new measure of privacy. The device is thin enough to go into an envelope and can be placed in a back pocket.
Chasing Coral, Exposure Labs
In one of the hypnotic opening scenes in the documentary Chasing Coral, a diver swims through a coral reef filled with life: sea turtles, bright blue and yellow fish, and coral covered in shades of pale yellow, olive green, and muted blues and browns. A little later, the diver joins a researcher on a dive in Florida, where warming water has caused mass bleaching. When they go underwater, all that is left to see are coral skeletons. The movie shows, vividly, some of the early effects of climate change. Extreme bleaching, which happens when corals overheat, once occurred every 25 or 30 years. Now, these bleaching events happen every five or six years, and because corals need about a decade to recover, they’re dying.
Warm Wall, Lauren E. Lee
Warm Wall is a heated, gently curved wall mount that could be installed in public restrooms to give women on their periods a place both to alleviate pain (warmth helps with cramps) and to build community. Designer Lauren Lee envisions women gathering at the heated section to commiserate over a shared experience and to start conversations around it to counteract the societal silence around a very common thing that regularly affects 50% of the population.
Alice Commuter, Eviation
In five years, if you want to take a trip from San Francisco to San Diego, it may be possible to do it on a small electric plane–and with a ticket that costs less than driving or taking the train. The Israel-based startup Eviation, which is building a new all-electric, nine-seat airplane, called the Alice Commuter expects to begin making its first commercial flights in 2021 and scale up to hundreds of routes across the U.S. over the next few years.
Los Angeles ADU Project, Los Angeles Innovation Team
As rents keep rising in Los Angeles–since 2011, the cost of an average one-bedroom has increased more than 60%–the city has been pushing for a new solution: making it easier to build backyard homes. In a backyard in the L.A. neighborhood of Highland Park, the city’s Innovation Team has spent the last two years working with one family to understand in detail what it takes to build an “accessory dwelling unit,” (ADU) and how that could change.
The team designed a sample house and a process to help people build their house. It also worked to create a new financing mechanism to help people get loans, and MayorEric Garcetti also lobbied for a state bill that removed large fees to connect backyard homes to utilities and also removed parking requirements in neighborhoods near public transit. Interest in ADUs is now quickly growing: there were 120 permits issued for the units in 2016, which skyrocketed to 2,342 in 2017. The plan is for 10,000 total units by 2021.