Social Innovation Camp Moldova 2012 comes to a conclusion

Aug 7, 2012
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How to run an innovation event? Ask Moldovans.

Mix the right and motivated people who know very well what is troubling their country, have a strong and friendly team of organizers, close them in for 48 hours in a nice place outside the city and wait for results…

Social Innovation Camp Moldova 2012 took place the last weekend of July 2012. SIcamp is a meet-up where teams compete to develop web-based solutions to social problems. I was lucky to participate both as a mentor and as a member of the jury. Since it was not my first experience of this kind, let me share what I learned this time.

This SIcamp definitely wasn’t the biggest SIcamp ever: 25 participants working on 5 ideas. I was worried that we had too many ideas and too few people. Usually the problem is that you simply don’t have enough people with particular skills – developers, web designers, and the occasional geeks. And if you do have some, they all tend to join the team that is working on the most challenging app (which doesn’t have to be necessarily the one that addresses the most urgent need or the one that has the biggest potential to become sustainable).

The fact that SIcamp was very local made the work more efficient and straightforward. Since many participants knew each other from before, organizers had a good overview about their recent activities; there was an agreement on the social needs, which is instead the tricky part if you have an international camp. The organizer managed to run pre-camp meetings with the final candidates, encouraging them to discuss ideas and set up teams in advance.

Thanks to all these factors, the teams were ready to start working already on Friday evening and they jumped into all night work immediately. I often heard stories of how people work hard during nights on SIcamps, but I actually didn’t see it happening very often, until Moldova.

By the end of the weekend, the teams developed working prototypes as well as appealing visual designs. Too often we just see suggestions of technical solutions. In this occasion, we had one working iPhone app and three web applications almost close to completion in a short amount of time.

I think prestige played a role in motivating this degree of productivity. Besides the simple fact that the participants identified clearly the needs that bother them on a daily basis, they also wanted to prove themselves in Moldova, since the community is not big and launching a successful startup is an impressive accomplishment.

SIcamp 2012 was not the first event of this kind in Moldova. Quite a few innovation weekends and hackatons had been organized in the past, but, so far, the ideas did not become popular enough to be sustainable. This is actually the challenge for the post SIcamp period– the teams have to prove they have the commitment and the energy to move ideas and concepts forward. During the weekend, the following five teams proved that they made a huge step already.

Open the door

This project was founded on a strong social need: There is no single go-to place for people to learn about adoption in Moldova – legal procedures, success stories, qualified advice. The team suggested web solution, which can finally fill this information gap.

Chisinau compass

This was an ambitious project to provide a user-friendly practical app that can assist Chisinau citizens and visitors to easily find their way through the messy system of public transportation.

100 places to visit in Moldova

This team provided a very clear idea for a platform encouraging both locals and foreigners to explore attractive, but forgotten places in Moldova. This project also has the potential to provide more business and work opportunities in rural areas. The team suggested appropriate technical solution and it looks extremely keen to keep this project moving forward.

Meet and Play
This team clearly showed that the lack of opportunities for youth and active people in Moldova to do sport together is a big issue. The team also managed to collect strong support via social media during the weekend. We see a bright future for this community.

And the winner is…

Parkanoid

This team provided a clear problem definition, appropriate technical solutions, a marketing plan and much enthusiasm. The key to success, however, will rely on the team’s ability to keep the project running. They proved that a community of active users who used any available means to deal with the issue of parking already exists. Also, they raised awareness on the need to first teach Moldovans how to use to use mobile apps to request accountability from the authorities. Reporting simple issues with parking can be the first step on that road.

Many thanks go to organizer, the Media Point. Everything went smoothly.


About the Author

Jaroslav Valuch

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