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Crowd-Solving Achieves the Mythical “Win-Win-Win”

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

I have been writing about the process of crowd-solving over the past year as SeaFreight Labs has served as Project Advisor to World Vision for their recent open innovation efforts. Today I have great satisfaction in announcing that the process delivered 3 winners to a very difficult problem – affordable sanitation for poor families[see footnote i below]. Costs to run the challenge were low and the entire crowd-solving process took significantly less than one year.

The speed and effort to run a crowd-solving project is so impressive because organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have invested large sums of money into water, sanitation & hygiene and have made it a focus area. The Gates Foundation has funded a ten-year effort called “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” that has developed new sanitation technology with global partners but the solutions are not suitable for the poorest of the poor.

Enter World Vision. Aside from properly dealing with human waste, the World Vision challenge requested solutions that would cost less than US$45 to implement for a rural family. This low price point would provide the opportunity for even the poorest family to implement the solution, thereby dramatically improving the health and safety of their family while extending sanitation broadly throughout entire communities.

Before the challenge was launched, there was no guarantee that anyone would be able to propose such an inexpensive solution. If well-funded global organizations like the Gates Foundation were not designing inexpensive solutions, perhaps such solutions would not exist. However, the ‘Global Crowd’ that is accessed via crowd-solving tapped into expertise around the world and delivered numerous innovative ideas at the desired price point. After a global judging process, World Vision selected three of the best for a monetary prize and for field testing during their fiscal 2022, which begins in October 2021.

The process of crowd-solving on this vitally important, but very difficult, problem led to the elusive ‘win-win-win’ that all projects aspire to. World Vision, the winning solvers, and the eventual recipients of improved sanitation are all winners, as explained below.

  • World Vision. World Vision has a focus on WASH (WAter, Sanitation & Hygiene) services for low- and middle-income countries. There is an inverse relationship between the cost of providing a service and the number of people that can be helped. Finding a reliable technology for sanitation at a price of US$45 could dramatically increase the reach of World Vision’s work and make World Vision a winner from their crowd-solving program.

  • Winning Solvers. The three winning solvers each won a monetary prize (US$5,000). They also have the opportunity to work with World Vision to further develop their ideas and potentially see them have a positive impact on millions of people.

  • People Without Proper Sanitation. There are hundreds of millions of people without proper sanitation. If one or more of the winning solutions are successfully field tested and become available at the target price of US$45, countless families will avoid illness and untimely death because they were able to afford a sanitation solution. If this comes to pass, it will be the biggest win of all!

Additional open-innovation challenges for World Vision are soliciting proposals or in the judging phase now. Visit the World Vision Pavilion for more information.

[i] The challenge titled “Affordable Rural Single-Family Sanitation Solutions launched to the public on 14 October 2020 and closed for submissions on 12 January 2021. The challenge attracted 525 registered solvers from 82 countries. There were 126 submissions. On 26 June 2021, World Vision announced three winners of the challenge who each won US$5,000.

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