A health kit to put an end to cervical cancer; a collaborative application to make life easier for people with reduced mobility; and a property rental system designed for non-independent elderly people to enjoy care services are the winners of the third edition of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards
TEXT: CRISTINA BISBAL IMAGES: DE LOS PROYECTOS
Within its commitment to promote social innovation, each year – and this is the third – Fundación MAPFRE convenes this important event in an effort to raise awareness and promote projects that enhance people’s quality of life, in three categories: Improving Health & Digital Technology (e-Health); Insurance Innovation; and Sustainable Mobility & Road Safety. As in previous editions, it was a tough process to reach the final. Of the close to 240 projects submitted, 26 got through to the semifinal and, of those, nine reached the final. At the grand final, the excitement of the winners was on a par with previous editions, but circumstances obviously dictated events and so, on October 29, a digital gala was deemed the best option, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was attended by Antonio Huertas, president of Fundación MAPFRE, who commented that the tremendous times we are currently experiencing “teach us that a foundation such as ours, shielded by a company like MAPFRE, can really help build a better world and view people as the focal point of all activity. Moreover, we can see that, from a social point of view, what we do as businesses or as foundations simply has to be linked to enhancing people’s way of life and the environment, and to contributing value to the society in which we operate. The 239 projects submitted demonstrate the enormous interest aroused worldwide by this recognition of social ventures, projects and initiatives which seek to improve our quality of life, putting forward solutions to the real problems we have to address,” he declared.
Huertas also wished to underscore the importance of Red Innova, the community of social innovators formed by the semifinalists from all three editions of these awards. “This year, moreover, it was their idea to organize a series of special activities to collaborate in their local environments, helping tackle this health crisis we are currently facing,” our Foundation’s president pointed out.
Despite the physical distance that separated us from the winners, we were able to discover firsthand how they felt and what it meant for them to win this prestigious award – including the cash prize (30,000 euros) – but also looking beyond the mere recognition of their endeavors.
Insurance Innovation: Pensium
Miquel Perdiguer is the CEO of this company for which the most important thing about receiving the 2020 Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Award is “the confidence it will raise among potential customers.”
What exactly is Pensium?
Pensium is a new way for dependent senior citizens to be able to pay for the care they require. It is based on facilitating economic resources periodically to the elderly who possess their own home, so that they can dedicate them to paying for a private nursing home, or for receiving assistance in a relative’s home. And all this without resorting to mortgages or guarantees, or affecting ownership.
Pensium takes care of renting out the home and advances future rental income so that these families can access the money they need right now to pay for the care of the dependent senior, while maintaining ownership of their home.
How did the idea of renting to pay for old age come about?
There are ever more dependent elderly people in need of assistance services, and the pensions they receive are insufficient to cover the cost of continuous care. However, 90 percent of those over 65 years of age own their homes. So our goal was to find a way to obtain resources from the home without jeopardizing ownership. And we came up with renting as a solution. Pensium advances payments and guarantees up to twice the rental whenever the elderly person needs it. When no longer needed, Pensium continues collecting the rental payments until the amount advanced and any interest is recovered.
What made you think about the seniors in our country?
Spain is a country in which projections suggest that, by 2035 – in just 15 years – one in four of the population will be over 65 years of age. This is a very important population group with specific needs that need to be addressed.
How do the elderly benefit from this system?
The main benefit is gaining immediate access to assistance. In three or four weeks from the moment the family contacts us, they can start receiving the payments. Even if the home requires some refurbishment or takes a few months to be rented out, the family has the money to pay for the elderly person’s care. Pensium takes charge of any works required (the minimum to be able to rent it out, no more) and all the rental arrangements. This is all included in the program.
Who is Pensium?
Pensium was created by a team of professionals from the nursing home sector – economists, lawyers and social workers – who were seeking a solution for senior citizens who need financial resources to pay for their care. Moreover, we wanted to benefit society as a whole and, for this reason, we’ve always followed CSR and social impact criteria.
What other projects does the company have?
We have identified that families with a dependent elderly member have a great many doubts about how they should handle this situation: whether they can receive grants or should arrange powers of attorney, guardianships or incapacitation processes, such as transferring the dependent person to another autonomous region… And we’ve launched a new project to offer advice to all these families: Pensium te Guía.
Aside from the idea itself, I imagine that what sets you apart is how you treat those who need comprehension as well as money…
Indeed so. That’s why the team’s human touch is so important. The people dealing with these families tend to be social workers who understand perfectly well the situation the families are facing; they empathize with them and not only offer them an economic solution, but also emotional support in the whole process.
Sustainable Mobility & Road Safety: Guiaderodas
The Technology Director at Guiaderodas, João Marcos Barguil, states that this prize has made them “feel really happy and proud.”
What exactly is Guiaderodas?
We are a company developing a network of people and companies that work together for a more accessible, inclusive world. We do this through our collaborative accessibility map (available on both the App Store and Google Play as “Guiaderuedas” in Spanish, “Guiaderodas” in Portuguese or “Wheelguide” in other languages), which enables people with reduced mobility to search for and review any location in any country around the world. For companies, we offer a certification program that helps them achieve excellence in dealing with customers (and employees), including architectural assessment and specialized staff training.
How did the idea come about?
Bruno Mahfuz has been a wheelchair user since 2001 and has experienced firsthand the challenges faced by those suffering some disability and those with reduced mobility. The idea emerged in 2015, thinking it would be really good to have an accessibility guide. And, as there was no good one for Latin America, we created it.
It is a collaborative app. Why do you believe people are going to participate?
Our work on social media and our communication channels is primarily to spread the message that accessibility is good for everyone. People with disabilities, parents and those looking after infants and young children, those with injuries, the elderly… everyone benefits from accessibility.
Is Brazil pretty much insensitive to wheelchair issues?
Obviously, our cities were not built with accessibility in mind.
Does the company have more projects?
We are working on new features that offer greater value to our users, even during the pandemic, when it’s not safe to leave the house. We’re also working on a game and a web version, so that people can use the platform without having to download the application.
In what sense do you feel like social entrepreneurs?
Our business model is strictly related to generating value for our beneficiaries (people with disabilities and/or reduced mobility, their friends and their families). Therefore, the more we grow as a for-profit company, the more people we can reach.
Right now, in what parts of the world are you?
Our headquarters are in Brazil; and our team works remotely in three cities. But our users are distributed right around the world. They are on every continent.
What is the most satisfactory aspect of the project?
Feedback from our users, stories they tell us and how they engage with us on our social media channels. One example: some time ago we received an email from a lady wondering if our application worked on the Cayman Islands. We explained to her how it works and forgot all about it. About a month later we found around 100 reviews of ours about Grand Cayman (the largest of the Cayman Islands). We wrote to her to express our gratitude and she told us that her son is a wheelchair user who loves the application and has told everyone he knows about it. In this way, the Cayman Islands became the country with the highest number of reviews per inhabitant on our platform.
What does winning this award mean for your project?
It shows us how relevant and important the work we’ve been doing is, something we couldn’t even have dreamed possible when we started.
What projects do you have in mind for the prize money?
We will use it to produce more informative and educational contents for our social media and to support further development of the platform.
Health Improvement & Digital Technology (e-Health): Hope
Dr. Patricia J. García is a professor at the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima (Peru) and the visible head of Hope. For her, this award has provided “a ray of hope, proof that we are on the right path.”
What is Hope?
It is a molecular test to detect the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. In countries such as Peru, this still represents one of the leading causes of death in women. What we do is incorporate cutting-edge technology to make the diagnosis, a technology whose cost has fallen drastically, but which doesn’t always reach countries such as ours due to a series of interests. But it is good, stable, safe and doesn’t even need refrigeration. Once the test is analyzed, the women receive the result by email or cell phone.
What is the incidence of this pathology in Peru?
In our country, a woman dies every five hours from cervical cancer. Of every two women diagnosed, one dies. This mortality rate of 50 percent is not to be found even in countries with fewer resources.
Was there a problem detecting the virus prior to the arrival of Hope?
Before Hope came on the scene, no one spoke of molecular testing or screening for the human papillomavirus, because the existing systems are extremely expensive. In Peru they do not form part of the daily practice of medicine or prevention measures. Our idea with Hope is precisely to introduce the notion that molecular tests do not have to be so expensive, since they are not complex and can be performed with a self-sampling kit. An additional benefit is therefore that women can be empowered by screening themselves and helping others to do so. This is what we call Lady Hope, women who guide others through the test process.
But there is also a solidarity component, isn’t there?
That’s right. The social part consists in the fact that, for every test a woman acquires, we help another destitute woman to take the test too. This multiplies the prevention of cervical cancer and saves more lives. In a single social innovation project we are pushing for the elimination of a disease that we should not have; empowering women to take health into their own hands; pushing the technology, as we are introducing low-cost, high-sensitivity molecular tests; and doing solidarity work, because every purchase made by a woman enables another with fewer resources to be tested.
How reliable is this kit and how much does it cost?
This molecular test has a sensitivity of over 93 percent. In Peru we sell it for 150 soles; but for women with scant resources the kits are distributed free of charge – or at a subsidized price, given that, in some communities, something free is deemed not to be trusted. In addition, each Lady Hope receives one dollar and becomes a cervical cancer health agent.
Is it already available in Peru?
The kit is distributed in several areas of Peru. With regard to the social aspect, this is taking place in the outlying areas of Lima, and we are also expanding to some rural areas, although the pandemic has hit us hard. Despite this, we know that 7,000 women have already received the test. Among that number, 10 to 15 percent tested positive. And we are monitoring the process to ensure all of them receive treatment and can thus prevent the cancer.
Does that feeling of gratitude from the women you help reach you?
Yes, especially from the Lady Hope women. I remember one in particular who asked our permission to come with her daughter, who was just finishing compulsory education and still hadn’t decided on a career. After the experience she had with us, the girl told us she wanted to be a doctor, that we had inspired her.
What projects do you have in mind for the prize money?
The pandemic hit us hard and left us with barely any kits. This will enable us to get back on our feet and keep going.