Blog : Innovation

Innovation at the World Food Program – Yes, Please

Innovation at the World Food Program – Yes, Please

I’ve been tormented (internally) by the abundance of food and the portion size of servings in the U.S. for some time. And, of course, the global juxtaposition that people still go hungry. As a result, I’ve got my own thoughts for technology solutions to help feed the hungry without judgment of their predicament, and I’m constantly on hyper-alert for good ideas in the space, or for “unlikely innovation heroes” that can be adapted.

Today, on Reuters Foundation News, I read an article that was given presented alongside a Reuters pre-cursor:

“About Our Food Coverage: We explore the challenges of ending hunger and malnutrition as food production adjusts to a warming world”

The news, from Munich, was the the UN’s WFP wanted to “spur progress towards Zero Hunger by launching an Innovation Accelerator to identify and nurture new, bold responses to humanitarian and development challenges as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.”

While the world has preached innovation for a half-dozen years now, many of us who are focused on “true” impact have started to instead prefer to use the language of collaboration as the key for real progress. Hence, it was these phrases that got me excited about the WFP’s endeavor:

“Teams collaborate for three- to six-month periods on selected ideas that are either proposed by WFP innovators with first-hand field knowledge or crowd-sourced by engaging members of the general public.”

and

“WFP’s desire to collaborate like never before ensures that by working together we will transform how we serve, and the speed at which we deliver.”

The WFP has embraced crowd-sourcing, collaboration and openness in its pursuit of progress.

The world is changing. It is getting better at feeding its growing number of citizens. And the numbers of those who still go hungry continues to fall. However, the reality is also that there are still close to 800 million souls who do NOT receive enough food to live active lives. And new methods – of production, of transport, of technology utility – need to be implemented.

We’re on the cusp.

Now, let’s dive in.

 

You can follow progress at – @WFPInnovation and #ZeroHunger

main photo credit to Lyza Danger – use by Creative Commons license

A Conversation with “Father of 3D-Printing” Joseph Beaman

A Conversation with “Father of 3D-Printing” Joseph Beaman

In early 2015, I had the huge, and unexpected honor of sharing a stage with one of the “fathers” of 3D-printing, Professor Joseph Beaman, head of the School of Engineering at the University of Texas.

It was an hour of conversation I’ll not soon forget – Joe talking about how the New York Times ran a piece about his selective laser sintering initiatives back in 1986, and how they spoke of it as the future of manufacturing. Of course, times have changed and thirty years have passed and 3D-printing is now being toyed with by consumers, and by teams like the one we sent to Sudan with Not Impossible, thanks to Intel and Precipart.

Project Daniel was, of course, a career highlight, but the opportunities it brought to speak more broadly about innovation and social good on a level such as this, opposite such a generous and warm figure as Professor Beaman is another valuable reward that I’ll continue to value and appreciate. Many thanks to the Medical Innovation Labs for bringing us together. Check out the chat right here:

 

The Ideation Collective (Podcast)

The Ideation Collective (Podcast)

The Importance of Storytelling & Collaboration (Podcast)

The Importance of Storytelling & Collaboration (Podcast)

Thanks to Enso for including me in their “Value Added” podcast – here’s the blurb and the embed if you find yourself with time for a listen:

“Elliot Kotek has produced films like 140 and Queen Mimi, he is the co-founder of Not Impossible Labs, editor-and-chief of Beyond Cinema magazine, along with playing a part in many other awesome projects. Elliot talked about his journey getting to where he is now, the importance of storytelling, and the opportunities to work with brands to bring ideas to life.”

Elliot’s 5 Tips on Innovation

Elliot’s 5 Tips on Innovation

A couple of years ago, the kind and super-smart folk at ACM SIGGRAPH asked for some tips on innovation. I took a quick read of the piece (originally published HERE), and thought it might be nice to share the details:

1. The only obstruction to our innovation, is our will to innovate.
The physical tools of innovation used to be harbored in massive corporations and institutions. Given that most manufacturing and construction tools are now available online for purchase or rental by us mere individuals, we now have access to more tools than ever before. We can view YouTube videos on how to use those tools and join Facebook communities (or a raft of other community noticeboards or chat rooms) to help us with any questions around the use of those tools. No matter where we are, we are no longer alone, our interests align with the interests of others, and the only thing stopping us from innovating is our own will to innovate.

2. Crowd-Find.
Crowd-funding the technology and ideas that we have outside of industry has become the status quo, but it is the people we find who share our passion and our purpose who will enable us to make things truly happen, and will help those things find scale. Find your people — in person, or via the virtual, they exist.

3. What makes your life more convenient? Will that make someone else’s life more livable?
We have so many things at our disposal that make what we do faster, stronger, easier — if it can have that impact on US, what can it do for someone more vulnerable, who might not otherwise have immediate access to what we have?

4. Open-Source. Awesome Sauce.
Sometimes mass impact must happen commercially, but if you’ve an idea that can benefit others immediately, and can get even an early version of it up online somewhere, so that someone else might happen upon it and improve upon it for more immediate impact, then there’s no greater gift.

5. Help One. Help Many.
We can all help thousands of people, but that is an overwhelming prospect. Let’s each target on helping one person — that one solution for one person’s problems are usually adaptable to helping others, too. By telling people about what we’re doing, they can identify whether your solution fits their needs, too. So, help just one person, then communicate that help to empower or inspire others to do the same. It’s a much easier and more meaningful starting point.

See you somewhere cool, sometime soon.
Elliot.

Back-to-Back SxSW Innovation Awards

Back-to-Back SxSW Innovation Awards

With 6 or 7 successive South-By-Southwests under my belt, you’d think it’d just be a case of back on the bike for another round of fast-pedaling, fast-talking and slow-food.

But after last year’s yellow brick road – a featured talk to a 1200-seat room, dozens of interviews punctuated with conversations for USA Today, The Street, Innovation Crush, SxSW Live and Fox Business, and the SxSW Innovation Award for Project Daniel, I thought this year would be more like warming up fridge-burned pizza in a microwave – a real mix of hot and cold.

KOTEK-2 copy.jpgI couldn’t have been more wrong. Though the pundits prefer to proclaim each year THAT year when the festival jumped the shark, over-run by bands, brands and brisket – in SxSW’s 30th year, the SxSprawl to 73 sub-fests perfectly suits my split professional personality.

Between SxSW Film, SxSW Interactive (& SxCreate), SxGood, SxSW Comedy, SxSW Health & MedTech Expo and SouthBites, I got a direct-to-vein, deep-dive dose into the world/s I choose to inhabit.

To fit that expression, SxSW 2016 gave me way more than it took. I:

KOTEK-4 copy.jpg– Distributed our print film magazine at SxSW Film and the Austin Convention Center;
– Delivered a presentation to hackers, makers, parents & kids on the subject of teens who are bettering the world (and making beaucoup bucks) with innovations made from accessible technologies;
– Sat on and moderated a “How to Social Good” panel with founders of 5 for-profit companies (including Dell, Bombas and CharityCharge) which impact lives;
– Attended a private dinner with the Mayor of Austin, folks from Paul Allen’s Vulcan, from Reaction Housing and others from Austin’s start-up and VC communities;
– Co-Hosted another dinner with TEDx reps, Singularity University’s CSO, legendary designer Mark Rolston, 2x Sundance winner Ondi Timoner, Oscar winner Barbara Kopple, A.I. wizards and other heroes of mental acuity;
– watched panels that celebrated girls in technology and bands that build apps to give voice to the disenfranchised during times of crisis;
– Lunched with PR people I love;
– Researched the latest in the medtech space for a start-up I’ve joined;
– Experienced IBM’s Watson in ways that made me want to trick it, take it home and cook it breakfast; and
– Devoured Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken more times than any nutritionist would recommend be consumed by anyone other than the inimitable Elvis Presley.

And then there were the meetings. And the meet-ups. And the kilos of coffee with honey to soothe a voice I must’ve left somewhere in the overhead luggage lockers over the Pacific Ocean.

KOTEK-8 copy.jpgBy the time the SxSW Interactive Innovation Awards rolled around, I thought sitting up back with Sx’s kick-ass staff was the best plan for an enjoyable low-key night ahead of my plane ride back to California. And as the opening comedians cracked gags about the night Ed Sheeran crashed on their couch, I was lulled me into a false sense of security.

When the 2nd category came up, “Awarded for the best new way to connect and communicate with others,” and my team’s project announced the winner, my reaction to winning back-to-back innovation awards morphed from a burst of the usual Aussie expletives to the exhausting realization that I’d now have to run the full length of the function hall to reach the stage in time to deliver a 140-character acceptance speech. I mumbled something about “collaboration being the key to meaningful innovation,” something about “pursuing our passions and identifying others who’ll help us pursue our purpose” then snaked my way to the airport, and onto a plane just as Big Boi, St, Lucia and Biz Markie got to the Sx-stage for the official closing night send-off.

If last year paved the road, and this year saw it gilded, I only hope I can live up to the hype in 2017 and deliver something that might again be worthy. Because, when it comes down to it, it’s always fun when you do work that matters.

I originally wrote this article for Campaign Brief – to see the original, click here: http://www.campaignbrief.com/2016/03/back-to-back-to-back-to-back–.html