Innovation in Sanitation: The Man Who Wore A Sanitary Napkin

Arunachalam Muruganatham at his desk working away on his award-winning sanitary napkin machine.

Lack of toilets and water during a menstrual cycle can mean huge drawbacks for women and girls. They can’t travel or get their work done on a regular basis; families that rely on a woman’s income will often starve during those days when she probably needs it most. Young girls often drop out of school because they can’t use the bathroom when they need, and this has lasting repercussions. Sanitary Napkins have traditionally been out of reach and too expensive for the poor.

Bring in Arunachalam Muruganantham, a poor handyman from a village in India and a high school dropout who was brave enough to take on the project to address the issues his wife was dealing with. It nearly cost him his marriage and made him the laughing stock of his community, but he stuck to his principles. Today, he has pioneered cheap and effective sanitary napkins for the poor in India and potentially the world. Watch his amazing story in his own words here:

Innovation in Sanitation: “She Toilets”

New “She Toilets” are causing quite an uproar in South India

In India, a country with one of the worst sanitation crises, the Hindu (the most respected newspaper in India), reports on a new initiative started by one of the small towns in South India to address the issue for women (women suffer the most with lack of access to toilets).

The “She Toilets”

The smart toilets will clean and sterilise their environments automatically. They have coin-operated sanitary-napkin-vending machines and an incinerator to burn used napkins. The toilets have baby stations to help mothers change the diapers of their children and Indian-style commodes.

Electronic display boards will tell users if the toilet is occupied or not. The toilet operation is remotely controlled. The smart toilets will send automatic SMS alerts to its controllers if the septic tank fills up or water supply is exhausted.

 

There are also security features to ensure the safety of the users. The agency has put up the “she-toilets” as most public toilets lack hygiene and pose health and safety problems to women users. The “she-toilets” have been designed keeping in mind the welfare of women commuters. They will be able to find the location of the nearest public e-toilet by searching on their mobile phones.

 

Sensor systems inside the toilet trigger its cleaning systems. The toilets will have washbasins, mirrors and health faucets. They will have FM radios and provisions to stop intruders.

 

Like everything else in India that is a public entity, I worry about the operation and maintenance, and long term use of this wonderful pilot project.

Sanitation: The Largest Infrastructure Problem in the World

This week is dedicated to sanitation. Around the world over 2.6 Billion people  (that’s almost 40% of the world population today!) lack access to sanitation. The results are catastrophic – high rates of diarrheal disease, typhoid, and other primary water-borne diseases; with numbers of secondary infections (such as HIV and TB) happily taking their toll.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.6 Million people die every year from diarrheal diseases alone, with 90% of these being children under the age of 5.

The worst part is its preventable. Want to learn more?

Here’s a great video to give you some perspective…

Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

For those interested in presenting, Unite for Sight’s conference at Yale is currently accepting social enterprise pitch abstracts for presentation at the conference.  The registration rate increases after December.

Global Health & Innovation Conference 2013
Presented by Unite For Sight, 10th Annual Conference
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14, 2013

http://www.uniteforsight.org/conference

According to the organizers, The Global Health & Innovation Conference is “the world’s largest global health conference and social entrepreneurship conference.  This must-attend, thought-leading conference annually convenes 2,200 leaders, changemakers, students, and professionals from all fields of global health, international development, and social entrepreneurship.”  Register here.

Interested in presenting at the conference? Submit a social enterprise pitch abstract for consideration.

They have a great lineup of speakers, including a lot of stalwarts. Check out their lineup here.

Voronoi Bookshelf, Rocking Chair, and Bug Hotel: A combination of design, engineering and technology

I’m always fascinated by innovative design that is useful, beautiful, and blends science/tech with art in a very unique way.

Recently, I came across a series of projects inspired by the Voronoi algorithm.

This fascinating project started by Stanford Neurobiologist and artist, Alan Rorie, is now on Kickstarter and looks like a winner to me. Building upon the science algorithm, the founder tries beautifully blend science and art to design unique bookcases for customers. Check it out below or here:

 

I figured the algorithm could be used to design more than just bookshelves, and found this rocking chair by graduate student/designer, David Phillips:

Beautiful rocking chair designed by David Phillips (source: davidphillips.us)

But that’s not enough. I also found a Voronoi bug hotel…in response to a competition to build a 5-star hotel for bugs (!!). The story behind that is here:

The five-star bug hotel from Arup Associates. (source: Good.is)

 

GE’s Innovation Challenge: $600k to make flying and hospitals more efficient

Have an idea to make flying or hospitals more efficient?? Well, submit your idea to GE for almost $600k in prizes.

“The Industrial Internet. The Internet of Things. What does it all mean?

 

In a nutshell, it’s internet-connected devices collecting data and communicating to make industries smarter. This data is then used to anticipate and avoid problems, instead of fixing things after the fact.

 

As we continue to look for different ways to analyze data we need, we’re looking for people who know how to analyze and interpret data. Like finding an algorithm that can reduce air travel delays, or a solution to streamline a patient’s experience in the hospital.

 

To get started, choose your quest. Or, to learn more, watch the intro videos for the Flight Quest and the Hospital Quest.

GE’s Fascinating Innovation Barometer

What are the most important factors to improve innovation in a country??

GE has come up with a fascinating metric. They surveyed executives around the world regarding their views on innovation, and mapped out the data in a way that allows the viewer to study the relationships between different data topics, over geography and time. You can also compare the data they got from 2011 and 2012.

Check it out here:

 

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Rounding up the week on Education: Sweden’s Newest School with Classroom

 

Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like this??

No doubt you’ve heard about this already, if you have been trawling the internet. If not, read on…

 

From Architizer:

The young—and the young at heart—have a seemingly infinite capacity to project fantasies unto ordinary spaces. It is this kernel of wide-eyed creativity that carries on into adulthood, fighting to stay alive and to push us to keep imagining new and better worlds. Swedish educators seem to have had this in mind when they commissioned the architects at Rosan Bosch to build a wholly original kind of schoolhouse. The Swedish Free School Organization Vittra has been pioneering a new kind of pedagogical space, specifically one without walls. Gone are the classrooms and their rigid alignment of desks, and in their place emerges a colorful, seamless landscape of abstractly themed learning environments.

Also read about the following alternative schools:

John Hardy’s Green School

African Leadership Academy

 

 

Struggling to Startup Your Own Social Enterprise?? Here’s a great resource…

Need a blueprint for starting a social enterprise?? Look no further!

Starting a social enterprise is not easy; some might argue that because the field is so “new”, fewer resources mean that its harder than a regular startup.

So if you are wondering how to do it and are struggling, there is a resource that might be perfect for you…

Echoing Green Alumnus, TED Senior Fellow, MIT graduate, inventor, tinkerer, and founder of Social Tech Enterprise AIDG, Peter Haas is putting together a great webinar on “How to Set Up your Own Social Enterprise“. The workshop is aimed at teaching novices tools to be successful in the field of social enterprise.

“Are you frustrated trying to start your social enterprise. Struggling with sustainability, financial planning, impact reporting? This webinar is an overview of running a social enterprise. It takes from the experiences of some of the lead social entrepreneurs of our day to give you guidance on lessons learned and practical tools to help you overcome your obstacles. It will save you hours of work and research. Don’t reinvent the wheel, leverage some of the best practices of some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world today.”

 

To register, go here.

 

AWESOME FREE class from STAR Development Economists: 14.73x The Challenges of Global Poverty

Star Development Economists Banerjee and Duflo to jointly teach a free class on Global Poverty

MIT’s EdX is offering an awesome MUST-register class by JPAL geniuses, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo to teach an intro class on Global Poverty.

Duflo and Banerjee are the founders of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL), behind the most interesting and fascinating new research on poverty issues in the Developing World, and are having a significant impact on international aid and development interventions.

Their courses are generally hard to get into (I can personally attest to this), and expensive. But now you can get it for free. Definitely check it out!

Further reading: Tworque/JPAL