Ending poverty through innovation: translating ideas into actions and challenges into opportunities

There are numerous initiatives and programs that target underprivileged communities. A wide variety of academic studies, economic analyses and policy briefs that list out recommendations to break the cycle of poverty have been written. And many governments around the world, such as those in Latin American countries, have federal agencies specifically dedicated to design and implement social policy for poverty reduction. Efforts come from the developed and the developing world, from different levels of government, from large international organizations to local NGOs and grass-roots associations.

And yet, despite the amount of effort and resources, the process to achieve the main goal – ending poverty - seems to be moving slowly, and there is an urgent need to accelerate it. We often hear about cooperation but it hardly materializes into concrete actions. We need to land those initiatives and translate ideas and good will into action. This requires changing the paradigm through which we have envisioned the end of poverty and making the shift away from the traditional models.

In recent years, we have witnessed the expansion of a phenomenon called “urbanization of poverty”. As cities continue to grow, the number of pressing needs increases in all fields, from health to public infrastructure and utilities, transport, education and employment. At the same time, citizens have changed from being passive service recipients, to key actors that get actively involved and demand transparency and results to their governments. How can cities improve the services they deliver to their communities in a faster way? In the era of knowledge and information, we have the very powerful tool of technology to deliver change.

As Sascha Haselmayer, CEO and co-founder of Citymart.com, acknowledges “there is great technology out there and it is in everyone’s hands; these technologies are scalable and can transform societies”. These words were pronounced at the 8th Forum of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) that took place in Dublin earlier this year, to introduce the Program “Cities Pilot >>> End Poverty”.

Cities Pilot to End Poverty

This two-year Program is designed by Citymart.com and Dublin City Council to find the most innovative technologies to end poverty and implement them in real life. The World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) endorse the Program.

The process starts by finding the 30 most committed WACAP member cities that share the values of innovation, collaboration, openness and transparency. Selected cities will join forces to call for the most innovative solutions to empower our communities.

Citymart.com gives cities the tools they need to get inspired by worldwide social and urban innovators to find solutions to their most pressing challenges. In order to achieve this, our team’s expertise provides cities guidance to identify a specific problem and frame it as an opportunity. Together we define the city challenge in a way that attracts global response from social and urban innovators, and which is published as a global call for solutions on our virtual platform.

Once the call is open for submissions, our dedicated research team starts a proactive outreach campaign to discover worldwide solutions that have the potential to address the city challenge. Each submission to the call is a commitment by a provider to co-invest in a community to implement a high-impact pilot, if selected as the most promising solution. Research findings are documented and shared with cities in real-time, so that their officials, representatives, stakeholders, and citizens can participate. Cities are also encouraged to communicate this opportunity to their local community of social and urban innovators.

In order to select the solution that best meets the city’s needs, we help cities to coordinate a Jury composed of a minimum of five members and at least one international representative. All submissions will be evaluated, five of them will get nominated, and the most promising one will get selected. Citymart.com sets up the technological tools to assure an accessible, transparent and straightforward evaluation process.

The campaign results are announced at the Dublin Summit in February 2014, where cities and providers get together to express their commitment to implementing the selected solution on the ground, while they share how innovation turned a local challenge into a global opportunity. This is a unique experience for both, cities and providers, to network and kick-start new collaborations in their communities.

Most importantly, the ideas get translated into actions, as the selected providers actually demonstrate their innovative solutions in participating cities. A pilot is a cost-effective way to test the chosen solution, which allows cities to make better-informed decisions and smarter investments. In two years from now, cities will meet again at the WACAP Forum in 2015 to collaborate and exchange results.

In this win-win scheme, cities accelerate problem solving through innovation and technology, and social and urban innovators have the chance to implement their solutions to an unresolved need. All participants exchange results as part of a global collaborative community, and facilitate the sharing of high-impact solutions across cities. Together we deliver real change and the outcome is community empowerment and a better quality of life for our citizens.