Over the past decade Bangladesh has been experiencing urbanisation at an unprecedented speed and scale. For Bangladesh, urbanisation has been identified as a leading engine of growth with the urban sector already contributing to more than 60 per cent of the GDP. On the downside, like in many other developing countries, this rapid urbanisation is also accompanied by increasing urban poverty and inequality.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental programme called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.”
During the summer and monsoon seasons, Bangladesh is prone to nor’westers, floods, tidal surges, cyclones, and tornados. These can be extremely destructive and therefore preparedness is crucial for risk reduction. Understanding this, BRAC has been addressing disaster preparedness in several ways within its programmes. Here’s how.
In the changing landscape of development, long standing boundaries between non-profit and for profit models are merging while social enterprises are emerging. Even the most generous aid models are not enough to provide basic services to the 1.2 billion poor people living in middle income countries. In this context, the third Frugal Innovation Forum hosted by the BRAC Social Innovation Lab explored how we can serve millions in a sustainable manner. Under the theme ‘pushing the boundaries of development’, several speakers from the development sector, multinational corporations and social enterprises expressed that we need frugal innovations that can create more impact with less resources and institutions that can scale sustainably.
Sutarkhali is located in Khulna, next to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans. Climate change in this southern region has seen cyclones with more damaging effects. The sea level is rising, and loss of land through erosion and saltwater intrusion makes it hard to find safe drinking water. There are 40 million people living in the coastal belt of Bangladesh who rely on natural water sources to sustain their livelihoods and daily needs.
What comes to your mind when you think about innovation? Most of us relate innovation to places like Silicon Valley. However, there are incredible social innovations happening in the global South; starting from Sudanese villages to Afghan classrooms and in many other not-so-known places, where you least expect anything related to innovation.
Mobile money is creating new ways to work with the poor and help them manage their money. Already in four countries, there are more mobile money accounts than bank accounts. Innovative development approaches are appearing around the world. Bangladesh is the fastest growing mobile money market in the world, and organisations like Oxfam, FHI 360, Chars Livelihood Programme and others are experimenting with it.
A week before the Frugal Innovation Forum, I came across the Ted Talk by Dan Palotta that criticized development for rewarding frugality (i.e. low rates of overhead) instead of ambition and big ideas. This is one reason why, in his opinion, progress has been slow to find solutions to address social issues.
As a child, I was fed a healthy supply of fairy tales and fables. One of my favorites was that of “stone soup.” In the version I know, it’s about a community facing extremely harsh times during a war. Food was in short supply, and hope even shorter. A hungry traveller came to town and in the village center, put a big pot with water and a stone on a fire. Curious villagers came and asked what he was doing. “Making a tasty stone soup!” he would explain.