The pandemic has failed to halt the social entrepreneurs. On the contrary, it has given more impetus to these entrepreneurs – half business owners / half heroes – who understand business not only as a way of earning a living, but also as a means of improving the lives of others. We present the winners of the fourth edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards.
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER IMAGES: ISTOCK, FROM THE PROJECTS
In this fourth edition of its Social Innovation Awards, Fundación MAPFRE once again wanted to recognize those innovation initiatives which are outstanding in terms of their social commitment and technological orientation. Digitization placed at the service of resolving people’s practical, reallife problems.
Already a benchmark institutional incentive for social entrepreneurship on the international stage, this year saw a total of 300 projects participating (28 percent more than last year), from three different continents, in the three categories: Health Improvement and Digital Technology (e-Health); Economics of Ageing (Ageingnomics); and Accident Prevention & Safe Sustainable Mobility. Of all these, 27 initiatives were selected for their transformative role to dispute the final phases, which opened the doors for them to benefit from the mentoring (for semi-finalists) and coaching (for finalists) programs run by IE University, our academic partner for these awards, to help them boost and promote their projects
Nine projects, three for each category, reached the grand final, which was streamed live from Madrid on May 12. Made up of prestigious professionals from the business world and renowned experts from the entrepreneurial, technological, innovation and social impact ecosystems at both the national and international level, the jury had the difficult task of choosing the three projects with the greatest impact on their field and the most likely to be taken forward in a practical fashion by their teams.
The three winning projects each receive a cash prize of 30,000 euros and free consultancy from EY specialists, offered by the EY Foundation, with the aim of helping them grow and be more efficient. In addition, all the finalists and semi-finalists from this edition go on to form part of the Innova Network, the community of social innovators in which these entrepreneurs receive support and share experiences and knowhow with participants from previous editions, so as to help them further develop their vital work.
The goal of these Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards is to give a real boost to projects that enhance living conditions within our society, responding to real-world problems with concrete solutions that enhance mobility and road safety, promote well-being and healthy lifestyle habits, and encourage active aging. Awards which, as Antonio Huertas, president of Fundación MAPFRE, succinctly put it during the presentation ceremony, are “all about inclusion, protection, integration and preparation for the future.”
Health Improvement and Digital Technology (e-Health)
Diabetes is a chronic disease that forces people with this condition to give themselves insulin injections around 1,000 times a year (three times a day) for life. A ‘life sentence’ dominated by needles, schedules and inconvenience that conditions their lives and makes it really difficult to remain disciplined. In fact, Medicsen reminds us that only one in three people manage to stick to the treatment.
Medicsen is a non-invasive artificial pancreas for diabetes based on an intelligent, needle-free, drug delivery patch and predictive software to anticipate user needs and risks. It was in 2014 that the idea came to their co-founder, Eduardo W. Jørgensen, a young Spanish doctor. A ten-year-old girl – who had come to the office to receive her insulin dose – dug her heels in and declared she did not want to continue with her jabs. “I was shocked. In the days that followed, I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl and how there had to be some technological solution that could improve the lives of people with diabetes.”
Medicsen’s proposed solution is a noninvasive treatment using software that obtains data from the patient and is then able to calculate and anticipate their insulin needs in line with their activities. “For example, it tells you how half an hour’s exercise or a Coca-Cola will affect you, and gives you advice about things you can do or eat in order to lower your glucose levels,” explains the company’s CEO and founder. The second part of the solution is a patch that administers the drugs without needles.
“The aim is to further develop the application so that it can finally deliver the insulin dose automatically on the basis of the data acquired from the patient,” Jørgensen adds.
The company, which expects to start shipping its device soon, has no doubt that not only is the social perspective fully compatible with the economic factor, but also that aligning the two is the surest path toward business viability. In addition to the fact that, as Eduardo Jørgensen recalls, “it’s much more rewarding to engage in activities that help make this world a better place, than others where the sole goal is simply to make money.”
Accident Prevention and Safe, Sustainable Mobility
Wheel The World (Chile)
The Chilean Alvaro Silberstein had always dreamed of visiting Patagonia, but, after suffering an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, he lost all hope of fulfilling this wish. That was until, in 2018, his best friend Camilo Navarro threw down a challenge to him. What about doing that trip together?
A special all-terrain wheelchair for hiking called ‘Joëlette’, abundant information on accommodation, transport and other details about the trip compiled in advance, and the desire to push themselves to their limits was all that these two future entrepreneurs needed. Because, while they were not yet aware of it at the time, they had just planted the seed for Wheel the World, the platform that enables travelers with disabilities to discover and book fully accessible travel experiences. “We were the first to complete the W trekking circuit in Patagonia in wheelchairs and, moreover, we shared it all through videos and photos with the aim of inspiring others to do it as well. The trip was incredible,” Camilo Navarro recalls.
The project offers solutions to the two main problems encountered by wheelchair users when planning a trip: the absence of accessibility information and the lack of experience shown by tourism professionals regarding users with accessibility needs. Wheel the World addresses both shortcomings through a technological platform. “Our clients create a profile there detailing all their accessibility needs and, using that information, our system generates the best matches, those offering accessible travel experiences that suit their particular needs (hotels and other types of lodgings, excursions and activities),” Navarro explains. An accessibility mapping system gives prospective visitors the chance to go online and obtain specific accessibility information on those hotels, excursions and activities remotely.
In this way, this project enables many people to fulfill their dream, when they believed the doors to adventure holidays were closed to them. Machu Picchu, Costa Rica, Torres del Paine, Maui, Rapa Nui, New York… Although its current destinations are mainly focused on the American continent, the company aspires to become the number one solution so that people with disabilities can travel anywhere around the globe. Camilo Navarro: “We want to compile accessibility information all over the world so that millions of people with disabilities can travel to thousands of destinations in the most straightforward way possible.”
Economics of Ageing (Ageingnomics)
Age-related labor discrimination is an endemic problem in production models worldwide. A series of prejudices and the absence of a truly diverse culture in a very high percentage of the business fabric are excluding highly valid people from the labor market far too early.
Labora is a platform that seeks to remove these hurdles and accelerate the growth of generational diversity within companies, ensuring successful inclusion for the interested parties.
“We don’t understand the invisibility experienced by senior workers. We believe in mature talent and the richness of heterogeneous groups. Because age means experience which enriches any organization and maturity is a vital, committed stage from which companies and professionals can all benefit,” its creators emphasize.
The platform places organizations in touch with senior workers so that they can hire this valuable, untapped source of talent. A system matches the company’s needs with the competencies and skills of these professionals, provides them with any training needed to better suit the firms and enhance their adaptability, both to the position and to the company itself. Once hired, Labora monitors their performance by means of a dashboard within their app.
Digitization plays a prominent role throughout this training process. The fact is that the alleged technology gap of senior workers is precisely one of the most widespread biases that hinders workers with these profiles being hired. “Technology is an essential aspect of the current labor market. And in that digital future we all believe in, age is not an obstacle, but rather a stimulus,” those running the platform declare.
The result is more diverse, heterogeneous companies that achieve better results and make a positive social impact, and senior workers who are satisfied because they can keep bringing to the table their valuable experience and desire to continue learning alongside their younger colleagues. Labora have no doubts: “Our mission is to ensure that professional merits prevail over date of birth when it comes to hiring.”