On June 25, 2014 Envisioning Labs in collaboration with the City of Vancouver led an innovation workshop that aimed to identify solutions to urban poverty through technology and innovation. This event was put forth to assist the city in achieving one of the goals of Vancouver's "Healthy City for All" Strategy: Reduce poverty by 75% by 2025.
Participants ranged from top technology companies, research and educational organizations, financial institutions and poverty alleviation NGOs.
Vancouver's Healthy City Strategy currently in development will be a long-term, integrated plan for healthier people, healthier places, and a healthier planet.
The strategy will be aligned with other key priorities of the City, and is based on our framework that identifies the building blocks of a healthy city for all.
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With a total of 60 people in attendance we were able to form 9 groups making sure teams were as diverse as possible. We got interns working side by side with CEOs and bankers, artists exchanging ideas with government officials and software developers.
Teams were led in a design thinking exercise where a multidisciplinary exchange of ideas helped uncover innovation opportunities.
Some of the ideas that were presented in the workshop are now under further evaluation by Envisioning Labs and the City of Vancouver. A problem as complex as poverty inherently involves addressing structural issues if solutions are to be sustainable. Nonetheless, through this trans-disciplinary exercise and having technology and innovation as the main lens, interesting proposals were discussed. Below you will find a summary of the scenarios that participants created.
A scenario was discussed were government subsidies are in place for low-income families to engage in entrepreneurship. Digital infrastructure like access to broadband Internet and telecommunications services are sponsored through corporate CSR programs.
This vision centres around strengthening the sense of community through online tools and offline engagement activities. There was a discussion around creating a unified services portal where users are presented with profiles that describe them best and are offered personalized services and community resources.
The Big Data Approach
Assumes the creation of an online portal to offer personalized services. The approach is similar to "Shared Community" and builds on it by adding elements of user data collection, gamification and P2P local services.
This scenario focuses in proactively reaching out to low-income families at strategic touch points (daycare mentioned) and assign them mentors. These mentors are individuals that underwent similar life paths and are trained to offer personalized assistance on a one to one basis
Digital Currency for Poverty Alleviation
A proposal that comprises of providing a stipend to qualified individuals with a digital currency. This currency is redeemable for services and could be potentially traded in markets.
This scenario attempts to address the social stigma of poverty by providing food stamps and subsidies in credit cards; the usage of these credit cards will capture purchasing behaviour and patterns that can later be used to offer personalized offers on living healthy and on a budget.
Digitization of poverty indices so as to feed public dashboards and services. One idea that was mentioned was the possibility to shed a light on the Living Wage Campaign by means of an interactive map of Vancouver visualizing wages by employers.
Smart phones for Smart Help
This scenario assumed smartphones as tools of empowerment. Phones would be provided free or at a reduced costs to families living under the poverty line. These phones will have customized apps that would provide access to services targeted to this demographic
Local Online Services
A series of digital and offline ideas (and a combination of both) including: low-cost housing with shared living facilities, social media to boost offline community interaction, entrepreneur grant program (12-month grant for living expenses), food growing/sharing (akin to www.RipeNear.Me)
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