Filed under: Development 2.0 Social inclusion Social innovation

Mardamej Reload - second social innovation camp in Armenia - room with people sitting in rows, everyone with a laptop

Mardamej Reload – second social innovation camp in Armenia

Much like last year’s Social Innovation Camp, I returned home on Sunday night both shattered and elated by the experience.

The event saw all six teams compete furiously for two awards… one picked by the jury, the other by the participants.

It was a very close run contest.  The jury had a difficult choice…

Creative chaos (almost)

The event commenced with each of the idea owners pitching their projects to the assembled audience.  Participants were then told to vote with their feet and work on whichever project interested them the most.

small group discussion, someone holds up a red piece of paper - voting for a specific project

6 projects competing for 2 spots

Over the next 48 hours the teams had to elaborate upon the project concept, build a prototype, draft a business plan and pitch their idea to the assembled masses on Sunday evening.

Smiling girl and others behind glass window

Competitive – but fun – atmosphere

On Saturday evening, the projects faced a mock board meeting in order to test their mettle at an early stage.  The Board meetings were also an opportunity to receive advice from a seasoned social entrepreneur, Glen Mehn.

By Sunday evening, public officials, journalists, donors, civil society representatives and tech entrepreneurs were packed into the conference hall for the presentations.

The participants were given seven minutes to pitch their idea and a further five minutes to answer questions from the audience.  Some teams struggled with the time limit.

Guy sitting behind computer monitor with light over his head

Pitching ideas in 7 minutes

Based on lessons from last year’s event, we were determined to include public officials in developing the projects.  Across the weekend, the projects benefited from the active participation of the Ministries of Health and Finance.

As the Virtual Blood Bank team’s Q&A session closed, the delegate from the Ministry of Health, Christina Mnatsakanyan, stood up to commend the project and state that the Ministry would be implementing it in partnership with the team.  N.B. Christina had been working with the team for the entire weekend and may have developed a healthy bias…

Back to the winners

The 11 jury members, drawn from tech companies and development agencies, were torn between two projects: Kindergarten Monitoring and the Virtual Blood Bank…

Following heated debate Kindergarten Monitoring triumphed.  The Virtual Blood Bank came a close second, and in the process picked up the participants’ award.

Participant awards

Participant awards

The Kindergarten Monitoring team was responding to the fact that many pre-school institutions are of low quality.  Issues including corruption, hygiene, food safety, neglect and even violence have been reported in the past.  The team articulated a clear need and prototyped a platform to give parents a place to share their experiences and to inform future choices.

The platform gave the Kindergartens an opportunity to respond to the comments… and the team committed to sharing the data with the Ministry of Education and Science in order to inform policy development…

The runner-up and participants’ choice was a platform to automate the national blood donor database.  The current paper-based system is highly inefficient and often results in a patient’s relatives paying extortionate “fees” for blood in an emergency.  The team proposed to automate the system, bringing the 22 blood banks across the country under one centralised database.

The Virtual Blood Bank will not have a public interface, but I’ll keep you updated on its development over the coming months.

Little girl sits on top of her dad's shoulders at the social innovation camp

Social innovation – a family affair

  • Marija Novkovic

    George, awesome work as ever! Glad to have you as a colleague and co-conspirator.

  • Jayne Cravens

    So, almost two years on – are any of these tech tools actually being used?

    • Yep, the blood donor database is still running – here’s an update from Anna last year: She has since married and moved to Kazakhstan, but I met with her replacement early in the summer. The tool is working within Yerevan Haematology Centre, and the Ministry of Health is raising funds for a national roll-out. Concerning the kindergarten monitoring tool, alas, it turned out to be a damp squib as Yerevan Municipality wouldn’t work with the team.

      • Jayne Cravens

        THANK YOU for the update!

        “as Yerevan Municipality wouldn’t work with the team” – indeed, that seems to be the chronic problem: the local government either not having the capacity to use the tool, or don’t have the understanding. In fact, this and other stories inspired a blog: