Back in June of this year, we shared news of how two Fellows were selected to participate in the final one thousand at UNLEASH 2017. One of them, Jon Kornik, led the team that won the water solutions' challenge. UNLEASH sets up global innovation labs and gathers some of the top minds of a generation in a kind of open source solution based approach to subject themes such as water, food, sustainable consumption and others.
Water issues present real challenges in both the developed and developing world. Already more than 70% of the world’s urban population lives under conditions of water stress, with this expected to worsen due to climate change. The problem is most acute in Africa, which is home to half of the world’s 663 million people who lack access to safe water, and which is expected to suffer the most severe increases in water stress until 2030. However, access is not the only challenge. Insufficient hygienic practices can lead to the contamination of safe water after it leaves the water point, leading to various water-related illnesses
With this context, Kornik's team idea was called UNLEAK. The solution it developed targeted the problem of leaks inside homes, which result in the loss of enough water to serve 600 million people each day. In water stressed cities, their solution was to offer free leak detection and cheap repairs to all. By using a method to check for leaks from outside homes, UNLEAK can audit entire neighborhoods at once. Regarding repairs, Unleak coordinates bulk discounts from plumbers and offers heavily-discounted repairs to households with leaks. Plumbers pay a referral fee for driving business to them. UNLEAK expects each 100 houses to cost $13 to audit and generate $30 in revenue. In this way, their solution could profitably and scalably reduce water consumption in water-stressed cities.
UNLEASH Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) participants came from more than 129 countries and comprise academics, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and technical experts aged mainly between 20-35 years old. UNLEASH partners with companies, research institutions, foundations and others to accelerate disruptive ideas and find new business models to ignite change. UNLEASH helps to connect the best solutions to capital, corporate partners and networks for implementation.
Amanda Gicharu's team tackled a different challenge, that of unemployment. Their solution addresses both the unemployment issue and the skill transfer issue. Globally, 300 million working-age youth are unemployed. In sub-Saharan Africa, part of the problem is the job market: there are more youth entering the job market than jobs available. Another part of the problem is education: the rote-based school system does not cultivate essential workplace skills for employment. With the rapid rise in telecommuting and outsourcing, trends show that the future of work is digital. The freelance economy in the US alone had 55M jobs in 2016, with an annual growth rate of over 25% globally. While many of the unemployed youth have basic foundational skills, they do not have the professional experience that would enable them to access these digital careers. To take advantage of these employment opportunities, Amanda's team developed a solution that provides these youth with digital workplace skills while matching trainees with real paying clients and at the same time, using an Artificial Intelligence-based approach to match freelancers in such a way that skills transfer could occur within a project team. Data collection will assist with skills tracking and better project matching for ongoing training in coworking teams. play a huge role in this project. By collecting data on the users, we can assess their skills and rate their experience, then use this data to match them into coworking teams.
The Tutu Fellowship was engaged with UNLEASH in other ways beyond participation. 2013 Fellow Juliana Rotich was the keynote speaker on Day Two of the two week event; 2009 Fellow Madji Sock was a judge on the Dragon's Den panel; and 2009 Fellow James Mwangi - who is Executive Director of the Dalberg Group - was there in his capacity as an UNLEASH partner.
Caption: On outer edges (left) Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of UNLEASH and (right) Gaurav Gupta, MC for the event. Between them is the UNLEAK Team (Team 16): Priyank Hirani, Jon Kornik (team leader), Yael Zvulunov, Meseret Dawit Teweldebrihan, Emmanuel Marfo, and Yajun Wang.
Caption: From right to left - Jon Kornik and Amanda Gicharu (The other Tutu Fellow selected for UNLEASH 2017.)