Gregg A. Micinilio recently won the Challenge Communication Platform to Connect Vulnerable Communities with Climate Change Solutions. Previously, he was awarded for Design of a Solar Water Treatment System based on TiO2 Nanoparticles and Detecting and Indicating Signs of Discomfort (in partnership with Sean Lukan).
This was a Challenge completely out of the realm of my area of expertise as an Industrial Designer; however, I was so intrigued by the complexity and the global need of the project that I could not walk away from it. Putting my talents to use in a humanitarian cause is an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience and I was motivated by the fact that some of my ideas could possibly, in a small way, be put to use to help a world desperate for solutions.
The World Resources Institute (a global environmental think tank which works with governments, companies and civil society to build solutions to urgent environmental challenges) had initiated this Challenge to create a communication platform to connect vulnerable communities with climate change solutions. The requirements for solutions were not limited for use in just 1st world communities, but had to be broad enough to encompass ideas for 3rd world countries as well. A link was required between businesses, governments, and local communities, which would create an infrastructure game plan to attack climate change issues.
My solutions encompassed the use of inexpensive technologies such as cell phones and cell phone apps, and free social media to simplify and track the flow of information. I also created meaningful incentives for business and academia to offer solutions beyond just feel-good humanitarian charity, and introduced a more lucrative and enticing program where everyone would walk away having gained something real.
As a product designer I tend to think in pictures, and as this was a written proposal, I really struggled to get all of my ideas into a coherent format. I leveraged the strength of my day to day job of creating communication links between different disciplines, such as marketing and engineering, and applied that to the given Challenge. Approaching this problem as I would any other engineering or design project, I researched and gathered as much information as possible, identified the different groups of people involved, mapped a path to the most efficient/economical solutions; then I found technologies to link all the elements together. The final steps were to look beyond the obvious and to creatively expand solution directions, then figure out how I could reach desired results as inexpensively as possible, without losing value (”cost downs" in the product design field).
I have found that the more I branch out into areas outside of my career path, the more successful my solutions are in my own area of expertise. I truly appreciate the InnoCentive format of anonymous submission of proposals in which the Seeker looks at just the ideas and judges the work on its own merit--an innovative and fair idea that we often don’t see in the business world!
I would love to reach out to other Solvers in other disciplines to do a group project. If you have not entered a solution before, I urge you to do so. Even if you have just a tingle of an idea; pursue it, work it through, run it through a sieve and post it. I have lost more Challenges than I have won but I always come away intellectually expanded.