Armenia’s first Social Innovation Camp

Jan 3, 2012
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The following is a guest post from Glen Mehn, managing director of Social Innovation Camp, about a recent camp in Armenia. My fault, with a crazy December, in not getting this up earlier. From Glen:

Social Innovation Camp, in coordination with UNDP Armenia, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Internews Armenia, and USAID, has helped run a Social Innovation Camp in Armenia.

UNDP, Eurasia, and Internews used their partner organisations to run a series of innovation workshops to help generate ideas over a period of four weeks, and ended up with nearly 70 ideas. Two weeks later, they’d decided on the six ideas and gathered experts on technology, industry, the public sector, and local NGOs to build those ideas between 18th and 20th November in Tsagkadzor, Armenia.

The local team called their Social Innovation Camp “Mardamej”, a word that refers to the centre of a town or village where the community comes together – whether to solve problems, run the market, or discuss issues of the day.


After two tough days, uncountable cups of coffee, tea, and fortifying Armenian food, the winners for Social Innovation Camp Armenia were: are the winners – they have built a text- and web-based framework to help people navigate the labyrinthian means of intercity travel inArmenia. The team plan to start with intercity transport – via bus, minibus, or taxi, and eventually scale to city transport as well. The add-on? They’re integrating ridesharing to fill in empty slots in cars, using Facebook connect to let people look at their potential partner’s profile.

The team received certificates, and will receive $4,000 to make their idea a reality (almost exactly their budget), as well as two years of hosting and internet from U!COM as well as support from the sponsors.

Audience choice award: iLike

iLike started out life as 1001 things – they managed a massive team of over a dozen people to build a working prototype to allow people to suggest and rate local businesses and promote friendly and serviceable plumbers, artisans, restaurants, hairdressers, or anything else.

The rest

This was the 15th Social Innovation Camp that has run around the world – we’ve run five in theUK and others as far afield asSarajevo,Sydney,Lagos, andSeoul. Every Social Innovation Camp is a little different as each team makes their own.

Because Social Innovation Camps spend time reaching out to people – people who experience and understand social problems and people who understand technology and want to solve them – we can look at the ideas submitted and developed as a way to find insight into what people see are their needs in their own countries – aging and disability are big concerns in the UK, while media and transport feature heavily in Central and Eastern Europe.

A challenge for us is to advise and help teams out particularly in their local context – I was advising MyTransport and realised that they’d have to build some of their own databases of information in order to solve some of the problems –meaning it’s all the more critical. We do find, however, that our fundamental process and methodologies seem to work, and not only for technology projects, but as a fundamental approach.

The other four ideas developed at the weekend included Election Promise Monitoring – a system to crowdsource monitoring of Election Promises – including a “Pinnochio” award for the politician that’s broken the most promises each year.

One team wanted to enable Hyper Local Media citizen reporting by creating hyper-local news media outlets where anything – from the local school news to environmental issues – could be reported.

One team took on the challenge of Polyclinic Monitoring – government-run healthcare clinics. Everyone reported this as a problem – people are bumped up in queues if they can pay and reports included lack of respect and proper treatments.

The final idea to be supported was iWish, who matched individuals who need something with those who have something to give. This idea generated one of the largest teams – who’s never had something to give or something they needed?

Some support to continue

Any teams wishing to continue will have support from the sponsors as well as six months of web hosting. Some of the teams will be invited to apply for grants from UNDP, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, USAID, and Internews as well.

Congratulations to the entire exhausted Social Innovation CampArmenia team and thanks to the sponsors for an excellent, inspiring, and tired-making weekend. We look forward to the next one.

Global Social Innovation Camps run with the support of the Social Innovation Camp team who are based in London– it’s a tough job but very rewarding for sponsors, places, and participants. Find out more about running one in your country here.

Photos courtesy Mardamej Facebook page.

About the Author

Jeremy Druker

Jeremy is the executive director and editor in chief of Transitions Online. Email:
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