By Tania Ellis, The Social Business Company
When dealing with the societal and environmental challenges we face today, the most common approach is often the same. For example, putting our faith in some new technology that has been developed in a lab in Geneva or from a secret military base in the Nevada dessert.
However, the best way to face challenges is often to use existing resources and technologies in new ways. An excellent example of this is the social enterprise Apopo. Back in 1995, its founder, Baart Weetjens, analysed the landmine problem in Africa, and was surprised by the complexity and high technological levels of expensive mine-clearing solutions that were largely proposed by research institutions outside the continent.
By relying on locally available resources his solution has turned out to be cheaper, quicker and more scalable, yet efficient: Apopo trains the widely present African Giant Pouched Rat to detect landmines, which, at the same time as it saves lives, provides local jobs for the economically disadvantaged. The Apopo model has since been expanded and now operates in Mozambique, Thailand, Angola, and Cambodia as well, where the HeroRats so far have neutralized 3,244 mines. In addition, the rats have now also been trained to detect tuberculosis and have to date screened 198,610 samples in Mozambique and Tanzania.
Baart’s innovation not only creates jobs and saves lives as well as costs – it also represents a significant shift in the field from landmineaffected countries depending on foreign expertise to having the power to control the demining process, and the same goes for tuberculosis detection. The Apopo case is illustrative of how social entrepreneurs create value: they develop social innovations that meet needs that are either overserved because the existing solutions are more complex than required – or not served at all because of market or government failure.
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Tania Ellis is a Danish-British prize-winning author, speaker and business advisor, specialized in social business trends and strategies. Her internationally acclaimed book The New Pioneers has been listed on Cambridge’s Top 40 Sustainability Books.
More at www.taniaellis.com