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Digital-social trends: “Rwanda, Estonia and India are very advanced”

In the course of the “Trendradar”, the betterplace lab collects digital-social innovations worldwide. For this purpose betterplace lab - in cooperation with the Alumniportal Deutschland - is now searching for so called Trendscouts. We asked Moritz Eckert, co-founder of betterplace.org, what’s behind all this.

Mr. Eckert, you work for betterplace lab in Berlin. What exactly is it that you do there?

Moritz Eckert: betterplace lab conducts research and experiments at the interface between innovation and public welfare. We are the non-profit research branch of betterplace.org, Germany’s biggest donation platform, and we distribute knowledge, inspire through the stories which we tell and fight for a positive use of digitisation.

What is Trendradar and what do you want to achieve with it? What are your hopes for the participation of the alumni who are active on the Alumniportal Deutschland?

Moritz Eckert: Trendradar is a globally unique database of nearly 1,000 innovative examples (or “cases”) of how people are using digital technology to make the world a better place. By collecting these cases, we are able to identify more and more trends at this interface of digital and social phenomena. Examples include “Edoctor”, “Empowering farmers” or “Drones for Good”. By providing analyses, we also give recommendations on how various target groups could handle the progressing process of digitisation. From now on, all Germany-Alumni can help to enrich the Trendradar’s database with even more cases!

Immersing themselves in the local digital scene for a few weeks

Have you noticed differences between countries and continents with regards to digital-innovative trends?

Moritz Eckert: We find our cases by conducting desk research from our office in Berlin, through our annual field research trip “lab around the world” – and hopefully soon with the help of our Alumniportal-Trendscouts! In our “lab around the world”, individual members of our small team travel to a country for two or three weeks, equipped with laptops and sleeping-bags, to immerse themselves in the local digital-social scene and find out as much as possible about the conditions there. We talk to foundations, NGOs, government representatives, IT-businesses, social entrepreneurs and many others. It has become evident that some countries have a very active digital-social dynamic and in others it is less evolved. Ruanda, Estonia and India, for example, are very advanced in this respect, not least because their governments actively support digitisation.

Which trends or cases were you particularly impressed by – and why?

Moritz Eckert: It is always exciting to watch young people developing products, services or campaigns that aren’t primarily geared towards making a profit, but that also aim to achieve an added value for society as a whole. (By the way, many innovations achieve both these goals: They create an added value for society and they generate a decent living for the founders and their team – all in keeping with the idea of social business). Often, this gives the social sector an impulse for innovation which eventually benefits everyone. One current trend, for instance, is “Drohnen fürs Gute” – which has led to an unheard of level of efficiency in the field of medical logistics in Nigeria. Or 3-D printing. One example is the three-dimensional printing of famous paintings like the Mona Lisa, so that blind people can also get “in touch” with these works of art. There are two slightly older cases which we have seen to scale really well: Firstly, there is “Ushaidi”, a crowdsourcing mapping service from Kenya, which today is used on a global scale to improve the coordination of aid measures in cases of disasters. The second is “Tarimsol Pazarlama”, a platform that has entirely transformed the added value chain for Turkish farmers. It has developed services ranging from an online market place to special credit cards for small farmers, and brought these services to millions of farmers.

Trendscouts wanted!

Have you as a Germany-Alumni come across any “digital social innovations” in your country (by that we mean digital products or services that make for better or fairer living conditions)? In this case you should embark on a digital search together with Alumniportal and the betterplace lab and volunteer as a trend scout! Please find all information on our Trendscouts page!

July 2016

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