As I am getting ready to leave Singapore after spending 5 days at the World Entrepreneurship Forum, it’s time to look back and ask myself the question “What did I witness?”.
In a constantly changing world, where communications between people are easier than ever, are frequent and often overwhelming or lacking a true meaning, it has been refreshing to sit in a room with 150 world entrepreneurs, top leading educators and politics.
Sometimes it only take one word, one meeting, to may be change the way millions are living.
On this subject I want to relate one of the great commitment of the Forum. Few of you may know but 40% of the world population (over 3b people…) live without sanitation. This is a problem with multiple ripple effects on health, education, and obviously human dignity. Let’s be clear, speaking of toilet is not sexy… But here it’s not about PR, being sexy or shining in city conversations.
One admirable man I met at the WEF is Jack Sim, founder of the NGO World Toilet Organization (WTO). The goal of WTO is to give sanitation to those 40% of us that do not have access to it. It’s a big issue, at very large-scale, and part of the Millennium Developement Goals.
One of Jack’s ideas is that we need to make toilets cheap and affordable. One entrepreneur here found a way to make toilets for $30. But that is still way to expensive for the 3 billion people I mentioned. What we need is a $3 toilet… Hard or impossible to achieve?
It reminds me a conversation I had with Hans Reitz, CEO of Grameen Creative Lab. Adidas was approached by Professor Yunus, Nobel peace prize and dear friend of mine, to solve a health issue. Kids in poor countries walk barefoot and get contaminated by a very bad disease in the form of a worm that lives in their intestine and consumes the already very limited calorie and vitamin intake. But same problem here, you have ripple effects as those kids cannot even study properly as their brain and memory are weakened by the indirect effect of the worm… So Yunus went to see Adidas and asked them to create a $1 pair of shoes (!). First engineers said it would be impossible. But after many major internal long working sessions the Adidas team and CEO became convinced they could do it. And guess what, it’s coming on the market soon.
Let’s come back to our toilets. We had in the room Jack, our entrepreneur, and someone who runs a business of plastic injection. They met at the WEF and found a way to produce this $3 toilet.
The World has Problems, many, that often seems impossible to resolve when they are at such large scales. But guess what, this is why we are here, to
SOLVE those problems and make the world a better place for all, not just for the “I” we call “us”.
We are all connected, bonded together, not through the “Become A Friend” on Facebook, but through a deeper and much more real level. Some call it Love.
Let’s call it our Human Dignity. That’s what I witnessed.
Singapore, Nov 6th 2011