Issue 5, 2017. October-November

   

NEW AWARDS PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE INNOVATION

Impact Hub at Fabrika is hosting the international Social Impact Awards, a competition for students in Tbilisi and Telavi. The awards aim to encourage innovation and social entrepreneurship in Georgia. Story by Inge SNip, Photos by George Surguladze and Social impact awards.ge

Inspiring Students to Action

"We decided that we wanted to contribute to the development of social entrepreneurship in our country," Elene Jvania, one of the organizers, tells Investor.ge.

"Through the Social Impact Awards, we are trying to build a community of students that transform intentions into action," she explains.

Photo by George Surguladze and Social Impact Awards.ge


Social entrepreneurship is when a company is created to solve social, cultural, or environmental issues. It differs from an NGO in that it does not rely on grants by donor organizations, but instead develops a self-sustaining business plan, either B2C (business to consumer), or B2B (business to business), or a combination of both.

The awards in Tbilisi attracted over 200 workshop participants, which eventually sorted into 48 teams of about 180 students. "This means 48 new social business ideas were created!" Jvania says enthusiastically. On September 28, an independent jury selected two winning teams, while a third winning team was chosen through online community voting.

Bridging a Communication Divide

Among these teams is Sign and Sound, gloves for deaf people that translate sign language into spoken words. The team, consisting of Free University students George Bestavashvili, Davit Targamadze, and Beka Banunashvili, decided to develop the glove to enable deaf people to speak with hearing people.

"We live close to the only deaf school in Tbilisi, on Nutsubidze," Bestavashvili explains to Investor.ge. "Growing up and seeing them talking to each other vividly in sign language, we realized that [deaf students] can easily communicate with each other, but really face problems when communicating with others [who are hearing]."

The team worked closely with the deaf community to understand their needs. For example, Banunashvili notes that the team "created a Bluetooth connection, instead of an app, as they told us that most deaf people do not have the financial resources for a smart phone."

Marrying Art and Commerce

Another team is trying to give urban areas more color by giving street artists the possibility to portray their art on gray building blocks built during Soviet times, while giving advertisers the possibility to contribute as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programs.


Spectrum, the name of their project, consists of Liza Kartvelishvili, Tornike Petriashvili, Kristine Nachkebia and Tsotne Davlianidze. They decided to create their potential social enterprise in response to urban decline.

"Your environment has a direct influence on your health, and depressing surroundings have a negative impact on your mental health," Petriashvili explains to Investor.ge.

Other teams who have made it to the top seven in the finals are Braille Reader, an eBook reader for the blind; Ecoland, a self-sorting garbage can; IKids, a playful platform helping children with learning disabilities through games; and Make Up and Make Alive, a magic pencil with gardening seeds to promote playing in nature.

Encouraging Connections

Strategy and social change consultant Maggie Osdoby Katz, who works from Tbilisi, tells Investor.ge that the awards are a great way to expose Georgia to new ways of doing business and to connect students and entrepreneurs to a global community.

"It's not just about learning how to develop a business plan-the process is about building a culture of innovation, collaboration and mentoring, all of which are still (rapidly) developing here," Katz explains.

The awards will be organized next year on a larger scale throughout Georgia in cities, towns and villages, Impact Hub co-founder Jvania tells Investor.ge. Impact Hub had hoped to scale up the awards throughout the whole country this year, but could only organize them in Tbilisi and Telavi due its limited capacity.

Katz believes expanding the competition to other cities and towns in the country will have a real impact.

"Helping students throughout the country explore this idea of doing well while doing good-and being part of a global community committed to it-could plant a powerful seed," Katz says.

Social Impact Awards: Innovations for Society

The winner of the social impact award was announced on September 28. Here is a list and brief description of all the finalist projects. The information was taken from the website www.socialimpactaward.ge.

Book AR - A mobile application, based on augmented reality, which helps students to understand and visualize information from textbooks. The project includes a website that allows designers, freelancers and developers to create content for our application and earn additional revenue.

Braille Reader - A special eBook reader for blind people, which, by changing the shape of its screen's surface depicts Braille letters in any language. The, goal of the project is to equip schools with desks, which have Braille Reader technology built in. This will let anyone to learn Braille much easier.

Ecoland - A garbage bin with several chambers that can automatically sort waste. As a motivation to use this particular garbage bin, Ecoland created a score system. Collected points can be bartered for different kind of products and services, such as free minutes for mobile phones, cinema or theater tickets, etc.


IKids - A free website that enables children with atypical development to gain necessary skills and adapt to the irenvironments. All of this will happen with games and video lessons. It will be fun, colorful and most importantly it will be available for everyone.

Make Up and Make Alive - "Magic" pencils with special capsules that dissolve in water. In each capsule there is soil and seeds of plants, which are really easy to sprout. This project aims to give a chance to the "digital" generation to interact with the environment.

Sign and Sound - Innovative gloves that translate sign language into voice. The project is a new opportunity for people with hearing impairments. With these gloves they will be able to effectively communicate in society.

Spectrum - Gray walls, blocks from Soviet times, black-and-white environment - these are an essential part of our everyday routine. The project aims to color gray buildings in the city by involving private companies and talented artists. New generations will grow up in a better environment and artists will have a chance to express themselves about any topic they care about. Let's make Tbilisi more colorful.

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