World Changing Ideas from this Year’s Social Innovation Awards

Nhlanhla Ndlovu hustlenomics
Nhlanhla Ndlovu, founder of Hustlenomics, an affordable housing provider that gives low income families, who have informal backyard shacks, the opportunity to build more durable structures.

The Social Innovation Awards are aimed at innovators, entrepreneurs and institutions with prototypes or early-stage businesses that solve a social problem and bring attention to ideas with great potential, as well as help them expand their reach and serve as inspiration for others to use their talents to create products and businesses.

Last week, the SAB Foundation recognised some of South Africa’s leaders in social innovation and disability empowerment, distributing over R12.5 million to support these innovators in the development and delivery of their revolutionary products and services.

Find out what could be South Africa’s next big idea: 

Social Innovation Award winners

Hustlenomics, Gauteng (First place, R1.3m) : An affordable housing solution that gives low income families, who have informal backyard shacks, the opportunity to build durable structures in their place.

Using alternative building technology, including interlocking bricks made from recycled materials, the new structures are built at no cost to the owners. They are financed using an innovative shared-home financing model, where income generated from the completed structure is used to buy back portions of the structure until full ownership is achieved.

Farmru, Limpopo (Second place, R900 000): A tech solution for smart farming that monitors the environment and executes tasks using a low-cost micro controller.

The controller is connected to soil moisture, humidity and light sensors that monitor the environment and trigger automatic irrigation only when it is required, to save water and maintain optimal soil quality. The system also collects data over time which can be used to determine the ideal conditions for a variety of crops.

Spaza Credit by Invoiceworx, Gauteng (Third place, R750 000 ): A microfinance provider for retailers in the informal sector, such as spaza shop owners, who are often unbanked and have limited access to finance. Invoiceworx operate a distribution centre and work on establishing a credit history for shop owners they service on a cash basis over six months. Capital management techniques, shop foot traffic and purchase history with other suppliers are also considered in credit rating.

ejoobi, Gauteng (Development Award, R500 000) : A tech platform that allows job seekers in rural areas, without internet access, to send their CVs to recruiters via SMS or USSD. Job seekers also receive cloud storage, alerts and job adverts via the platform.

The system further enables employers to access and connect with off-line candidates, publish jobs via SMS and USSD, conduct surveys, gain market insights and create job seeker databases.

Solar Lab in a Bag, Eastern Cape (Development Award, R400 000) : A portable, solar computer lab in a bag that provides rural and peri-urban communities and youth from under resourced schools with computer access and training.

Communities are provided with laptops and tablets as well as a portable solar charging station for those without access to electricity. As well as equipment, the business provides IT training, empowering learners to do school work, work on their CVs and access opportunities such as jobs or bursaries.

Fix Forward, Western Cape (Development Award, R400 000): Tech-enabled platform that connects high quality, vetted building contractors with customers interested in renovating or building on their properties, at competitive prices.

Through their non-profit organisation, Fix Forward also provides a 12-month entrepreneur development programme to contractors, who all come from low-income communities. The company plays an active role in the delivery of services and guarantees the quality of workmanship provided by their contractors.

African ECD Classroom on Wheels, Western Cape (Seed Grant, R200 000): A modular, mobile classroom that provides practical teaching aids and resources to assist educators in teaching the CAPS curriculum to pre-school, foundation phase or intermediate learners.

Each classroom unit is fitted with a solar panel and a solar powered computer from which learning materials can be accessed. It also provides a compact and secure teaching space from which learners can receive instruction in numeracy, literacy and life skills., Gauteng (Seed Grant, R200 000): An online crowdfunding platform that enables philanthropists and alumni to contribute towards the university fees of a student of their choice.

Donations, from as little as R100, are used to pay for students’ tuition fees, accommodation costs and resources such as text books. This is also a platform from which students can raise their own money by tutoring matric learners via an online video conferencing application.

Full Autonomous Crop Spraying Drone, Gauteng (Seed Grant, R200 000): A tech platform that provides a cheap, efficient and reliable crop-spraying process, utilising an autonomic drone. The platform is fully autonomous and requires minimal input from the operator, while optimising the crop spraying process.

It comes with a data acquisition package that collects information to inform robust and adaptive farming methods. This effective crop spraying method is instrumental in the creation of better yields and can help to increase food security in South Africa.

Presto Academy, Western Cape (Seed Grant, R200 000): An educational company that empowers the top performing students in the country to create content for their peers, which is delivered through books and an online learning platform.

As well as maths, accounting, science, and economics content, Presto Academy offers a life coaching programme for students and employees. This teaches life skills such as stress management, study skills and creating a growth mind-set.

Mimi BizBox, Gauteng (Seed Grant, R200 000): Consisting of sanitary pads, marketing materials and promotional t-shirts, the business-in-a box enables women with little to no formal education to sell sanitary pads within their communities, acquiring valuable business skills and experience along the way. Mimi BizBox also provides sanitary pad vending machines in a number of public spaces in order to increase women’s access to affordable, high quality sanitary wear.

Mintor Entry-Level Recruitment, Western Cape (Seed Grant, R200 000): A web and mobile chat-based job application and screening platform that improves entry level recruitment. The system enables youth to prove their skills and credibility to businesses, allowing recruiters to make an informed employment decision at a fraction of the time and cost. This is achieved through the use of innovations like recruitbot tech, voice note questions and referee skills endorsements. The app brings credibility and opportunities to empower youth from disadvantaged and rural communities with the purpose of empowering millions with economic inclusion in South Africa and beyond.

School in a Box, Western Cape (Seed Grant, R200 000): An educational tool consisting of a portable trunk with 10 to 30 tablets that is provided to under-resourced schools. These tablets allow learners to access high quality, interactive lessons in key subjects from grades 1 to 12, completely offline. They also provide a tech platform from which learners can access and download other learning applications and tools, at a fraction of the cost required for a normal computer laboratory.

ZiBiPen, Western Cape (Seed Grant, R200 000): A reloadable adrenaline auto-injector used by patients that are at risk of going into anaphylactic shock.

Auto-injectors usually cost much more than the adrenaline that they contain and owning one can be expensive considering that current alternatives require for the entire device to be replaced when the adrenaline expires each year. Because the ZiBiPen is reloadable, it provides a much more affordable alternative that is accessible to lower income patients.

Disability Empowerment Award winners

Clothes to Good, Gauteng (First place R1.2m): A social enterprise that provides sustainable jobs and micro-business opportunities for people with disabilities and their families through a clothing recycling programme.

Clothing is sourced from school and staff donations, then sorted, washed, repaired and sold in bundles to beneficiaries. These can be resold at a substantial profit, to enhance the seller’s financial freedom, while reducing the wastage of an average 24 000 tonnes of clothing that gets thrown away each year.

Steps Clubfoot Care, Western Cape (Second place, R800 000): A non-profit organisation that seeks to improve the lives of children born with clubfoot, a common birth defect that affects around 2 000 children in South Africa each year.

The organisation uses an outcome-based model focused on revolutionising clubfoot treatment, building capacity for excellent care and maximising impact. Their “Theory of Change” impact model consists of four pillars including training for medical professionals, clinic support, advocacy and the provision of clubfoot braces.

VoQoL, Western Cape (Third place, R600 000): A voice-activated tech device that gives quadriplegic and paraplegic people the freedom to control their home environments using verbal commands.

This includes controlling household devices like lights, televisions, radios and air conditioners as well as accessing information online such as weather forecasts and news. The innovation seeks to improve quality of life by enhancing operator’s ability to be self-sufficient and control their surroundings.

Hamba Nathi, Western Cape (Development Award, R300 000): An affordable ride sharing service that allows people with disabilities to access inclusive transport from within their own communities.

Transport providers are registered, vetted and trained on how to serve people with disabilities, and their vehicles are adapted to be wheelchair friendly. When transport providers have spare time, or space, they log their availability via an app, which then connects them with local users that are in need of a ride.

Pathfinder Smartcane, Gauteng (Development Award, R300 000): An artificial intelligence driven hand-held device that gives the visually impaired a greater degree of navigational freedom and contextual awareness.

The device is equipped with a sensor that picks up information, such as traffic signals and the presence of obstacles or safety hazards, and communicates these to users via a wireless Bluetooth earpiece. This enhances operators’ awareness of their environment, improving their ability to be self-sufficient and safely negotiate their surroundings.

Walking with Brandon Foundation, Western Cape (Development Award, R300 000): An organisation established to fulfil the need for advanced neurological rehabilitation programmes in South Africa.

The foundation provides access to effective neurological rehabilitation for individuals with all forms of physical disabilities, including spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injuries and nerve disorders. The provision of affordable care allows patients from low income communities to access cutting edge rehabilitation treatments to promote their recovery