After graduation, Kuldeep Dantewadia began collecting trash. For one year, he made the rounds to over 150 households. It wasn’t exactly the job his parents had in mind for their son. But he was sick of seeing trash in his community; once called the Garden City, it’s now called the Garbage City. He picked one thing he could do and began. Then, he saw the opportunity to motivate others to do their part too.

Today’s problems will be solved by tomorrow’s leaders. Tweet This Quote

Dantewadia found inspiration from his teachers who inculcated in him that he was part of the solution. “I took that belief very seriously in life,” he says. “Today’s problems will be solved by tomorrow’s leaders.”

Along with Surabh Saraf, he co-founded Reap Benefit, the first gamified problem-solving app in India designed to educate, empower and reward students for work in their communities.

Across India, many environmental and civic problems persist: excess garbage, poor air quality, potholes, poor sanitation, lack of water and lack of energy. Soon, 65 percent of the population will be young adults, and Dantewadia believes it’s the youth who will bring change.

We felt we needed to change the mindset of youngsters where green actions become permanent actions. Tweet This Quote

“Who’s going to solve these problems,” Dantewadia asks. “The government? No. We’ve waited too long.”

“The idea for our startup Reap Benefit came about when we saw the gap in the current educational institutions,” Dantewadia says. “Students know about going green but do not implement actions in their day to day life. We felt we needed to change the mindset of youngsters where green actions become permanent actions, and they take it forward in all walks of life.”

Take the problem of sanitation. There are 1.5 million schools in India that don’t have bathrooms. Using the Reap Benefit app, one student designed his own toilet system—a waterless urinal based on a diagram.

1.5 million schools in India don’t have bathrooms. Using the Reap Benefit app, one student designed his own toilet system. Tweet This Quote

“It looks similar to a project you might find on Pinterest,” Dantewadia says. “The design spread to more schools, and this student now has a grant for $10,000 to improve sanitation. It’s a matter of education.”

Here’s how the app works: First, youth identify and understand local issues in order to collect data. Second, the app provides do-it-yourself tools and kits for youth to access. Third, the platform hosts a community of problem solvers who work together on local issues.

Reap Benefit rewards students for taking everyday green actions through partnerships with municipalities, haulers, NGOs and corporates. It empowers students to make a collective impact on the environment by increasing recycling, reducing energy consumption, waste generation and water usage, and assisting institutions to act sustainably.

We believe that solving big local problems is going to be child’s play. Tweet This Quote

“So far,” Dantewadia explains, “we have worked with over 15,000 young people who have saved 15,000,000 liters of water, 63,000 kWh of energy, and have diverted 200 tons of waste from landfills through their innovations. These innovations include low cost, waterless urinals made from discarded plastic, an organic enzyme to convert food waste into compost, and a sanitation system for girls.”

In three years, Reap Benefit wants to reach 1 million young people. “We believe that solving big local problems is going to be child’s play,” says Dantewadia.

About the author

Cayte Bosler

Cayte Bosler

Cayte is an Unreasonable correspondent. She collects stories and lessons from and for entrepreneurs dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems. She writes on a variety of subjects including science, technology, international development, the environment and travel.

  • Maria Paula Diaz

    It seems that the future solutions of the world worst problem are at our fingertips.
    As Dantewadia notes, I aslo think that children are easier to educate and capable to generate innovative solutions to environmental issues. They have a fresh set of ideas.
    It still amazes me that children do not have sanitary facilites at schools, but they have phones with internet access.

  • Ben Jackson

    I agree the youth of each nation will be forced to figure out some of the answers to problems the adults have saddled them with. But could the adults also lend a hand by not consistently mucking up things in the first place? Boy if you could only find another way of expressing your love and devotion for the youth of your nation, they may not need to spend so much of their future life correcting your mistakes.
    I could never understand how if you could not care for 400 million residents with the basic needed living conditions, Why the adults thought tripling the population was a great idea? just saying there was only so much food and water and shelter at 400 million! So adding 800 million more residents to the mix and hope an app can resolve the problem is a rather questionable assumption to make. But I guess that’s how the problem got so out of proportion in the first place: questionable assumption being made by the so called adults in the room!

  • ximena vivanco

    I do believe the youth have the determination to create change. Through such project the youth are being empowered and at the same time building a new perspective of things. It’s not really about putting a band aid on things but instead building a new ideology and educating new generations. Lets not rely on older generations, isn’t it hard already to make them understand what we’re really thinking?

  • For more on Reap Benefit, check out Kuldeep’s TED-style talk at the 2015 Unreasonable Institute Launchpad!