Let's look at a sector today that functions differently - but not so differently - than the free economy: non-profit. And specifically Welthungerhilfe. Numerous projects, start-ups and even established companies strive every day to do nothing less than stop hunger in the world.
Why am I telling you this? I've been a mentor for the Google Launchpad for several years, helping start-ups that want to develop new digital products and services.
The Google Launchpad is an accelerator program from Google. It works like this: Start-ups apply for the programme and then spend a week in an intensive mentoring programme on product, technology, UX and marketing. During this process, their idea is put through its paces, the product is newly developed or enhanced, and finally the appropriate marketing strategy is developed.
Google cooperates with the UN and specifically promotes start-ups in the World Food Programme. In other words, all these start-ups want to fight hunger in the world with their digital products or services.
But how does digitisation contribute to this? Digital innovation in this sector is often disruptive, which means they want to fundamentally change the industry.
A concrete example: small farmers in remote regions are often affected by famine. They cultivate a few fields, and then depend on a travelling trader to come by at harvest time to buy their grain or vegetables from them. If nobody comes, the survival of the whole family is in danger. Now aid organisations often try to locate the poorest of the poor - like exactly these farmers - to provide them with the most necessary food, but also medicine etc. More and more digital innovations are now supposed to improve the situation. For example, I worked with a start-up company that gives small farmers access to a digital marketplace via app. This enables farmers, traders and direct buyers (e.g. schools) to see how much grain is available where and when. Ebay for farmers in Africa.
There are some insights from this that we can certainly copy for conventional industries in the free economy:
All in all, it is not only exciting to see how digitization can be used to tackle the essential problems in a completely new way. These start-ups also provide valuable insights for the Western view of companies. I personally learn something new with every start-up.
You can find more information about the projects and support opportunities on the WFP Innovation Accelerator website.