3 innovations making society more inclusive

3 innovations making society more inclusive

Innovation is the key to developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. 

Inclusive innovations are the solutions to the problems and pain points of those who are forgotten and excluded. 

These innovations, ranging from high-tech solutions to simple revisions to existing processes, work to ensure no one is left behind because of social barriers, discrimination, and exploitative systems.

More often than not, social entrepreneurs are the innovators that develop these inclusive solutions and build businesses around them. Social entrepreneurs often give more importance to the positive impact they provide to society than the revenue of their businesses. 

3 inclusive innovations in the Philippines

1. Virtualahan

Virtualahan is a social enterprise that equips individuals from socially excluded populations with the skills they need to access high-paying jobs in the global digital economy and become more competitive in the workforce.  

The social enterprise primarily works with persons with disabilities, but they also work with other socially excluded populations including out-of-school youth, former prisoners, and recovering drug addicts. 

Individuals within these communities often face discrimination in the workplace and are often overlooked by employers. The 2021 U.S. State Department report on human rights in the Philippines reported that only 10% of employable persons with disabilities are able to find jobs.

“There are multiple layers to the problem, and most of it needs systemic change. The two main root causes are their lack of skills and mindset to qualify for employment and the lack of confidence of businesses and institutions to hire, integrate, and retain talents with their backgrounds,” wrote Virtualahan on their website.

Virtualahan’s over 1000 graduates have been highly successful in the workforce, working in areas such as social media marketing, customer service, data analysis, accounting, bookkeeping, digital arts, project management, and more. 

According to the social enterprise, it had a 78% employment rate before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its unique and innovative payment model allows its students to participate in the program without any upfront costs, making their quality education more accessible to students from low-income backgrounds. 

“85% of our students come from poor and low-income backgrounds. They apply for scholarships so that they don’t need to pay anything upfront with the condition that they pay off their scholarship loan within ten months of getting a job,” wrote Virtualahan on their website.

These funds are used to sponsor future students and scholars.

2. Pic-A-Talk

Pic-A-Talk is an app that enables children with autism, learning disabilities, and speech delay to express themselves and communicate through pictures.

Children who have difficulties expressing themselves verbally can use the app to express their feelings, needs, wants, and more by clicking on images that best fit what they want to communicate, thereby facilitating effective communication. 

The app comes with a set of pictures of common items and activities which are categorized and presented in a simple and easy-to-understand interface, 

These pictures include daily activities, clothing, food, numbers, toiletries, and more. Parents can also add real-life images and additional objects to the app.

The augmentative & alternative communication solution started out as a school project. Pic-A-Talk Founder and CEO Uma Rosa was tasked to develop a tech solution to any pain points or struggles she noticed.

Rosa thought of the solution after her sister Lea, who struggled to express herself verbally because of autism and speech apraxia, communicated her wants and needs by showing her family members pictures on Google.

Before expressing herself through images, Rosa shared that Lea would get frustrated due to her difficulty communicating, which sometimes manifested in temper tantrums.

“This was very effective because it took out the delay in understanding her. We could immediately provide for her and over time, she eventually learned how to articulate these words that she’s been searching. Even when our internet got cut off, she started writing her requests on a piece of paper instead since she couldn’t use Google,” wrote Rosa on Pic-A-Talk’s website.

“In a way, fewer tantrums are dealt with and more communication takes place. It’s a step forward in dealing with important issues such as this, as kids with special needs require more attention, love, and care than most. This is my way of showing how much I want to help kids like this, and with Pic-A-Talk, they can now speak with pics,” she added.

3. Agro-Digital PH

Agro-Digital PH is a digital platform that connects farmer cooperatives and associations to customers and consumers. The agri-tech startup minimizes the layers of intermediaries that farmers have to go through just to sell their produce. 

The platform aggregates demand into one place. Institutional and retail customers place an order on their e-commerce platform which is then matched to farmers who have the capability to meet the demand. 

Because demand and production information are available in their system, even small farmers can fulfill large-volume orders as their individual production capacities are consolidated to fulfill a single large order. 

All payments are processed and fulfilled digitally. Agro-Digital PH charges a 1% fee for each transaction.

The startup also gives farmers access to production planning and demand forecasting tools which enable farmers associations and organizations to forecast expected yields in crop, egg, and meat production. This, in turn, helps farmers consolidate orders, minimize logistics costs, and more accurately plan delivery trips.

While the platform does not fully cut out middlemen, it helps farmers have more control over their businesses.

“If we want real change to happen, then we need to get our farmers really on board, to empower them. We can’t just keep them as producers so that some other people can take advantage of them,” said founder Henry James Sison in an Inquirer interview.

“For me, it’s (the) revenge of smallholders, so to speak, or at least trying to claim equal footing with other players in the ecosystem,” he added.

Innovation is the key to developing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

All innovative solutions start with a problem. Co-create innovative solutions with Embiggen Digital Ventures.

Embiggen Digital Ventures is Embiggen’s corporate venture building (CVB) arm. It co-creates new ventures with corporations worldwide, backed by our team of innovation experts and venture capital leaders. 

Typically, newly built ventures create new revenue streams for an organization while operating independently of the core business. These ventures also allow corporations to access untapped markets, cater to consumers’ unsolved problems, and diversify their offerings.

Learn more about the work Embiggen does here