Five big ideas for 2021


WORLD Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab recently wrote: “Today’s consumers do not want more and better goods and services for a reasonable price. Rather, they increasingly expect companies to contribute to social welfare and the common good.”

The envisioned outputs of this year’s most influential projects recognised by the international nonprofit Project Management Institute (PMI) exemplify such contributions. Indeed, these projects made it to PMI’s shortlist because they “lean into social impact”. Of the 259 projects cited by PMI, five grabbed my attention due to their relevance right now and their potential for adaptability in different countries. I’m sharing them here in the hopes that existing or developing collaborations between and among the government, business community, and civil society might find some use for them.

An app called uLesson: This project came about through a Nigerian education startup. Aside from empowering students in five African countries to learn at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, it offers an offline component that uses “memory cards – no Internet connection required”.

While there are colleges and universities that already provide portable learning packets today, these are mostly prepared on a case-to-case basis. However, uLesson’s “full content library” can be accessed through a flash card. Adopting this technology can help address unstable connectivity and the Philippines’ perennial vulnerability to typhoons and other calamities.

Anambra Teaching On Air: This Africa-based project provides “three hours of live lessons broadcast over radio and streamed on Facebook each weekday for the remainder of the school year”.

Ateneo de Manila University has a related initiative through its Arete magisterial lecture series on YouTube, albeit these are one-off short lectures by star professors of the university. Perhaps more colleges and universities can come together to hammer out a wider slate of prominent educators to conduct short masterclasses. The discussions and applications based on these classes can be taken care of by teachers on the ground.

SomeGoodNews (SGN): Hosted by American actor John Krasinski of Jack Ryan fame, this weekly show is a “makeshift news programme... dedicated entirely to good news”.

One episode was written for students who could not attend graduation ceremonies because of the pandemic. It featured appearances by Billie Eilish, Brad Pitt, and Nasa astronauts aboard the Inter-national Space Station. Another involved a virtual graduation where Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai and Steven Spielberg addressed the graduates.

Should we decide to iterate it for the Philippines, maybe we could bring in public figures and influencers whose credibility and authority would hold across the political divide. Strictly no toxic positivity and politicking from any side, please.

Facta: This Italian website flags and parses “viral hoaxes and coronavirus misinformation”. Recently, it invested in “a chatbot to field coronavirus queries”.

Drawing inspiration from Facta, we could design a Filipino app that can flag fake news not just about the coronavirus but also about any socio-ethico-political issue amplified in social media.

GiveDirectly Expansion: Championed by the African nonprofit GiveDirectly, this innovation taps “local organisations (to) identify beneficiaries within their existing networks, and then GiveDirectly uses data from national phone companies to provide cash transfers via mobiles”.

The government, business community, and civil society can collaborate on a data warehouse (DWH) to level up this programme. A DWH will serve as a “single source of truth” about who among our citizens need cash assistance, which then can be sent in real time. This could minimise systemic fraud while promoting physical distancing. Data privacy and red- tagging concerns must be considered, however.If you’d like to read more about these and other projects making a difference in today’s Vuca (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, head on to pmi.org. Who knows? One of these projects might capture your imagination and inspire the next big idea. In the words of the Filipino poet and musician Joey Ayala: “Ang mga dakilang gawa’y nagmumula sa guni-guni” (great works come from imagination). – Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Von Katindoy teaches at Ateneo de Manila University and is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI). His opinions do not represent the views of Ateneo, PMI or Sunday Star.

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