The 2015 Global Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado this summer welcomes 15 entrepreneurs stubbornly committed to confronting the world’s most gnawing problems. Their refusal to bow to tired tradition in favor of around-the-clock schedules bent on forging new avenues unities them in a global mission: to address poverty, pollution, education, healthcare and safe drinking water.
“We’re not about ideology,” explains Teju Ravilochan, co-founder of Unreasonable Institute, “but about supporting ideas that actually work.”
We’re not about ideology, but about supporting ideas that actually work. Tweet This Quote
Here’s a glance at the 15 start-ups coming into the accelerator this July 11.
Based in Karachi, Pakistan, doctHers corners a solution offering topnotch healthcare to previously marginalized women due to their rural geographies and socio-cultural restraints. The solution is telemedicine, a virtual video-consultation system run by community leaders and on-site paramedics connects hundreds of patients per region to expert doctors.
A trial in Karachi, Pakistan yielded these conclusions: 1) the technological feasibility was established; 2) cultural factors need to be considered to appropriately implement the telemedicine; 3) maternal and child health issues are paramount in marginalized communities, though other specialties can be integrated. More pilot projects will be conducted in ten clinics in different rural, peri-urban and urban populations to establish proof-of-concept of the reach and financial sustainability of this approach.
2. Online RTI
Online RTI—right to information—believes that every citizen has the right to know how the government is functioning without subjection to harassment or delay. The online service based in Bangalore, India works through established legal channels to act as a liaison between citizens and the government entities they seek information from by leveraging the Right to Information Act sanctioned by the Parliament of India (PIO).
Online RTI functions by submitting requests with adherence to established rules (which can be difficult to parse) and correct PIO addresses before using speed post to ensure a timely response. The service promotes transparency and accountability in the public authority space and accesses vital information on behalf of citizens who may be intimated by the process or consequences.
Ignitia delivers forecasts to West Africa from their headquarters in Sweden to take the guess work out of everyday weather-dependent business operations. The company provides regional weather data sets including early warning alerts for severe fluctuations; production companies can then streamline sensitive operations and adapt priorities. This solution meets the specific challenges of West Africa, which lacks the infrastructure and maintenance required for traditional weather data collection, by creating products based on remote-sensing techniques. For tougher forecasts, the team offers near real-time decision support.
4. Lucky Iron Fish
One Lucky Fish is decreasing iron deficiency, which affects nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide, one pot at a time. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, the One Lucky Iron Fish product when plopped into boiling water before cooking, provides 75 percent of the daily recommended iron intake—in Cambodia, nearly half the population doesn’t meet this recommended standard. When used as an integral part of life, it curbs preventable conditions like anemia and compromised physical developed in children and increases overall well being. Supporters abroad can buy fish then distributed by NGOs or buy goods for themselves through One Lucky Fish that then pays for a fish for families.
5. Reap Benefit
ReapBenefit’s driving objective is to equip India’s youth with the fundamental know-how, hands-on skills and peer support required to solve tomorrow’s key environmental and civic challenges. This is done by becoming instrumental in schools by developing problem-solving learning modules leveraging technologies to solve community problems.
By 2025, they aim to expand out of Bangalore to engage with 1000 motivated young leaders (21-28 years of age) and one million children (11-17 years of age) from 20,000 public and private schools, amounting to 10 million hours of environmental and civic problem-solving in waste-water-sanitation-energy.
In East Africa, women are often subjugated to consistent rights abuses while shouldering an overwhelming amount of responsibilities. The Resonate in Kigali, Rwanda complements existing programs geared towards educating women in leadership positions to define their values and articulate their missions. Building confidence and public speaking and team management skills can be the key to implementing community-based solutions. The training modules are the groundwork for the overarching mission to encourage female leaders and build communities where all people are respected and valued.
7. Shift Women
The statistics are staggering: women earn less than 10% of the world’s income and make up 70% of the people living in extreme poverty. Shift Women is a women-for-women company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois connecting women in poverty to direct cash payments. The cash transfer is a temporary boost in capital in the form of cash that goes directly in the hands of individuals living off less than one dollar a day. Shift believes when the right tools enter the hands of women that they can achieve roles in society reflective of their worth and ambitions.
Rachel Faller loves fashion, but felt conflicted starting out in the traditional industry parameters. She sees lack of transparency as one of the industry’s greatest problems—and notices a disconnect between the people making the clothing and those wearing them. She traveled to Cambodia on a Fulbright scholarship to research the garment industry and to understand what was working and what wasn’t.
Her mission now after founding Tonlé in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is to further develop her business practice of operating a sustainable and ethical fashion brand honoring the people designing the garments. Each piece is unique and part of a zero-waste fashion strategy: creative pattern making that uses 100% of a given material, and generating garments from remnant materials.
Every year, 1.3 million students drop out of high school in the United States. More than half are students of color and most are low-income. Of those students who do graduate and make it to college, fewer than half receive a college degree. True School—a New Orleans startup—takes a bottom-up approach to addressing this disparity instead of waiting for top-down reforms. They believe the quality of the teachers, more than any other factor, directly impacts student achievement.
TrueSchool works with schools, districts, and organizations to engage frontline educators to co-create educational technologies. Over 500 educators, impacting 20,000 students, have participated in TrueSchool programs.
In Africa alone, 358 million people live without access to safe drinking water and more than 840,000 die each year due to water related diseases. Susteq offers a bridge between demand and supply of reliable access to water. Based out of Enschede, Netherlands, they support water service providers with implementation of a water payment and monitoring system by facilitating micro payments between end users and providers. Hundreds of people in Kenya use the system because of the financial stability it provides. They are looking to expand to other countries.
Seventy percent of Myanmar’s 53-million population lives in rural communities and, in those rural communities, around 56,000 children under the age of five every year in Myanmar, which is directly attributed to the lack of healthcare information and facilities. Mobile health (mHealth) is urgent on an industry level—cutting costs and raising quality—and a development level as it delivers information to patients in rural areas, specifically mothers.
KoeKoe is a mobile development shop that creates information systems—websites and mobile applications—for the Maynmar healthcare sector. They created the first mobile health app in Myanmar that sends messages to users’ phones with information about maternal and child health and looking to expand operations across South-East Asia’s mHealth sector.
In Lesotho, Africa one in three students who start a primary education end up finishing their lower secondary education. Students out number teachers and educators struggle to keep up with providing enough homework for learners to practice and retain their lessons.
Sterio.me found a hack. Nearly 83 percent of Africans have mobile phones capable of receiving quizzes to reinforce the daily lesson. A learner sends a code for their class and the program sends a lesson to the student and the results back to the teacher. It’s delivered via SMS and voice calls and available to third parties such as NGOs, corporates and governments for their own services.
13. Bodhi Health Education
Bodhi Health Education—or in English, “enlightenment”—provides medical education to healthcare professionals by supplementing teachers with tablets loaded with in-depth medical training modules. The pictorial content and regional languages in the modules enable teachers to provide medical students with flexible, but complex, lessons.
A pilot program for the staff and students at a nursing and paramedical school in Uttar Pradesh proved effective in meeting the education needs in a timely, cost efficient and easy to understand approach. Forbes India cites medical devices as one of the fastest growing sectors in the country with government spending at about four percent of its national GDP towards healthcare goods and services (compared to eighteen percent in the U.S.). This leaves companies like Bodhi Health Education working hard to quickly grow the most vital part of the infrastructure: well trained professionals.
CoSchool challenges the status quo that schools should operate as exam factories, instead, they support the development of students’ character and resilience. The BBC reported on a study released by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility (link) states that other measures of success must exist beyond solely academic markers such as exams.
Henry May and Carlos Echeverry, both teachers, founded CoSchool after completing Teacher Leadership Development Programs in the UK and Columbia, plus running two pilot schools in Bogotá.They provide enriching extra-curricular exchanges and leadership development opportunities for children and students, linking schools in the same community.
Amader Daktar, literally translated as “Our Doctor,” is an integrated information-communication technology (ICT) based healthcare solution for underserved rural communities in Bangladesh. The technology, delivered on a tablet, acts as liaison between health intermediaries and MD doctors to rural patients. Often hospitals are inaccessible due to the cost of travel and rural areas are left underserved. Instead, patients can receive medical advice, prescriptions and printed out follow up instructions without leaving their community.