Top 10 Social Innovation Breakthroughs of 2015

Girls in Uganda receiving a pack of sanitary pads.
Girls in Uganda receiving a pack of sanitary pads.

By Virgilia Kaur Pruthi and Cynthia Hellen

From New York City subways approving period advertisements to crowdsourced legislation, so far 2015 has been an incredible year for social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Here are our top picks based upon the following criteria: made a measurable impact in 2015; focused on solving a problem for a specific community; may be a product, organization or campaign. We’ve broken our top 10 breakthroughs into different categories ranging from education, technology, entrepreneurship and health to name a few.

Design

  • Designers Guild for Justice is a community of 1,500+ designers and creatives who volunteer their talents toward some of the most pressing justice issues of our times: civil rights, environment, human rights, government reform, peace and more.

Education

  • Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching coding to young people around the world and increases participation of women and underrepresented students of color. The nonprofit became the most successful Indiegogo crowdsourced campaign that even Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan decided to donate.

Entrepreneurship

  • Thinx is looking to disrupt the $15 billion feminine hygiene market. Started off as a Kickstarter campaign, Thinx has evolved to change the way which the world talks about periods. Led by serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal, Thinx underwear is made up of four ultra-thin micro-layers that all work together. The team developed the technology over three years before launching the product to ensure each and every pair is completely antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, leak-resistant and absorbent. If you haven’t done so already, check out their subway ads.

Environment

  • Greenwave supports a new generation of ocean farmers working to restore the ecosystem. They even have a farm startup where they provide hands on training for apprentices to learn everything they need from seed to harvest. Enabling them with the tools they need to start their own farms.

Finance

  • Inventure provides a solution that benefits both borrowers and lenders by creating standardized credit scores that increase efficiency, reduce costs, lower interest rates, and reduce risk thereby increasing the overall capital available. Their first product, InSight, is a SMS text-messaging based system that enables individuals to perform basic accounting, demonstrate their creditworthiness, and access financial services. Over 300 million people in India lack credit scores. The team is currently targeting the 66 million micro- and small businesses that currently lack access to growth capital.

Health

  • Possible is a nonprofit healthcare company that delivers high-quality, low-cost healthcare to the world’s poor in rural Nepal. They have treated over 276,000 patients since their inception with their volume doubling in the last two years.

Human Rights

  • Digital Democracy provides both technology and training to communities in humanitarian and ecological hot spots around the world. From enabling hard to reach communities with remote access capabilities to monitoring forest change, the organization serves communities who truly value and welcome the positive changes.

Policy

  • Glasshouse Policy is a nonprofit, non-partisan, think tank that produces citizen sourced policy recommendations informed via their crowdsourcing platform. Their first major campaign MobilityATX, was an open, transparent forum where all Austin residents submitted solutions around the city’s transportation problems. Within a span of three months, the think tank created an online and offline movement with a tangible deliverable of policy improvements to the city’s governance.

Technology

  • Refugees United is a nonprofit tech whose mission is to reconnect lost loved ones with their families by using a worldwide database and any SMS-capable mobile phone. The user friendly, online global database holds over 405,000 profiles, which users can search through for their missing loved ones. This technology has proven incredibly useful during a time where the migrant crisis remains rampant in the Middle East and North African regions.

Wellness

  • The Path teaches meditation techniques in a way that young professionals can understand. Co-founder Dina Kaplan, who previously started Blip.tv, says“Meditation literally makes you better at your job. If you meditate, you are learning mind control. So you are able to stay focused if you need to do a PowerPoint for your startup or write a chapter of your book.”

What were some of your favorite social breakthroughs of the year? Feel free to add it them to the comments section!

Image credit: Thinx

Virgilia Kaur Pruthi is an entrepreneur, community builder and writer. She is the Founder of the practice management tool Practice Well, organization dedicated to enabling personal development for millennial women called Network of Women, and author of the top selling book “An Immigrant’s Guide To Making It In America.” Virgilia has over 8 years of experience building and scaling technology products across the e-commerce, SaaS, health and government sectors.

Cynthia Hellen is the Founder and CEO of SMPLCT Lab, a global design firm that takes a human-centered, designed-based approach to help create sustainable products, services and experiences. She is a Technology Trainer at TechCamp Global, a program under the U.S. State Department’s Civil Society (CS) 2.0 initiative that connects civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe with new and emerging technology resources to solve real world challenges and build digital capacity. Hellen serves as Chapter Leader of New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE), a nonprofit promoting young women social entrepreneurs.

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