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Social impact start-ups from around the world

The ecosystem that supports, encourages, and nourishes social impact tech is healthier and more vibrant than ever, in all corners of the globe

The ecosystem that supports, encourages, and nourishes social impact tech is healthier and more vibrant than ever, in all corners of the globe. The “Tech For Good” movement has sparked a range of start-ups that are utilising, leveraging, and harnessing technology to tackle a range of global issues – from farming to food waste, from facilitating political engagement to reducing sexual harassment. Here’s our round up of some of the best social impact tech initiatives from around the world:


Encouraging understanding and action in US politics

Unless your head has been blissfully mired in some utopian sand, you no doubt know that it’s been a – to put it politely – head-spinning year for US politics. Thankfully, a range of start-ups is putting in the hard graft for time-starved citizens who want to engage with the political and legislative process. Countable is a website and app that “makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering” and then streamlines the process of contacting the appropriate representative to make views heard. “Tinder, but for Unsexy Congressional Bills” wrote GQ. 


Harnessing a unique natural resource in Ghana

Ghanaian native Kwami Williams was on the road to becoming an MIT-educated rocket scientist when a trip home highlighted a vast, under-utilised local resource: the moringa tree. Known as “the miracle tree”, moringa leaves have “more vitamin A than carrots, more protein than eggs, more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach,” and is rich in anti-oxidants and moisturizing agents.

Williams gave up his studies to patent the moringa extraction technology that underpins MoringaConnect, a series of beauty, food, and drink products. Those who farm moringa trees – whether existing or burgeoning – are supported by a dedicated agricultural extension officer, training, seeds, fertiliser and financing. Moringa seeds and leaves are processed in-country, creating local jobs. “Since becoming operational in Q42013, we’ve engaged over 2300 farming families and planted over 300,000 trees,” says its website.


Reducing food waste in Sweden

Swedish startup Karma is living its name: what goes around comes around. Its app enables built restaurants, grocers and cafés to reduce food waste by selling their surplus to consumers at reduced prices. 

Food waste is a renowned global problem, both in terms of waste and carbon impact. Karma aims to affect both. How it works: users download the app, and its GPS-powered algorithm will alert users what food is available near them. Food is purchased and receipts are generated through the app. Karma is now available in more than twenty cities, including Gothenburg, Malmö, Uppsala, Umeå, Linköping, and more.

Startups solving the food waste problem are popping up elsewhere as well. In Finland, two such companies are Lunchie and ResQ Club.


UK technology for gravity-powered lights in Kenya

Over 1.2 billion people around the world don’t have access to electricity, relying instead on kerosene – a dangerous, expensive and polluting energy source.

Enter GravityLight, the brainchild of two UK-based inventors. “Combining kinetic and potential energy, GravityLight works by connecting an elevated weight – filled with rocks or sand – to a pulley system that slowly powers a generator as the weight falls to the ground,” says its website. It takes a few seconds to lift the weight, which then provides 20 minutes of light as it descends.

The organisation is currently piloting a sale-and-distribution model in Kenya, after which time they are planning to roll out the product internationally. 


Eradicating a sexual harassment epidemic in Egypt

HarassMap shouldn’t be needed in the 21st century, but sadly, it is. Founded by a woman “overwhelmed by the awful sexual harassment she and her co-workers encountered on a daily basis,” she started a campaign to address the ubiquity of sexual harassment in Egypt. This journey led her to Frontline SMS and Ushahidi: free software that can be linked together to make an anonymous reporting and mapping system for harassment.

The website crowdsources SMS and online reports of sexual harassment and assault and marks them on an online map. These then generate reports of where harassment takes place and how often. “We use these reports to show people the scale of the problem and to dispel myths about, and excuses for, sexual harassment – like for example that ‘how women dress’ or ‘sexual frustration’ are reasons and excuses for sexual harassment,” says its website.


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Tagged: Points of view

Gayle O’Brien

Written by Gayle O’Brien

Gayle O’Brien started her writing career during Web 1.0 and still appears to be standing. After multiple stints in-house and agency side, her writing now focuses on start-ups, technology, and innovation. A dual citizen of the US and UK, Gayle divides her time between Massachusetts and south-east England.