Small things make for a long term

A couple of months ago, I posted about the Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF), an animal charity based in Leatherhead, UK, who at the time were closing in on a fundraising target to help build a new housing unit for the care of wild animals in the UK. Since then, I’ve been following WAF and starting this year, they have launched an awesome initiative that has resonated with FutureSphere – it’s called iDot.

What is iDot?

It stands for I Do One Thing. The concept is simple: find out about the nature around you, then do one small action, each day, to benefit the natural world. If enough individuals do their one thing, the combination of your actions will add up to something very powerful.

Wildlife Aid Foundation

Just as described, how very simple this concept is. In truth, this ideology already exists in the minds of many people today – the idea that if we all made little changes in all of our lives, collectively, we could make a big difference, mo matter what subject field.

WAF have been caring for British wildlife for decades now and have established themselves as pioneers in driving sustainable development in the UK, specifically SDG 15 Life on Land. The relatibility to the wider public is what makes this initiative so effective There isn’t a specific thing that they are asking people to do. Rather, they are giving the public an opportunity to reflect on their own lives and identify the ways in which they can individuallymake an impact.

Going beyond the typical “please donate £X” campaign, WAF have innovatively inspired a community through the actions of its individuals. The result? A community that is growing and refining its focus to create a bigger positive impact on the planet. This principle, of sharing positive impact with effect of generating more positive impact in return, is one that FutureSphere can really get behind and support fully through our own, similar principles.

Some simple iDots suggested on WAF’s website:

  • Say no to plastic straws
  • Pick up litter
  • Tell your friends about iDot

What’s great is that WAF have also launched this campaign with an added focus of inspiring school children with iDot initiative material that are tailored for schools.

Addressing the sustainability crisis with a simple yet powerful initiative, WAF are driving this through the right channels, like schools, where the collective small actions can visibly add up to tangible positive impact for the surrounding environment. In so doing, they have once again proven why they should continue to be recognised for their efforts in progressing sustainable development, in particular SDG 15 Life on Land. A huge thank you to WAF for their continued efforts in creating a more sustainable FutureSphere for us and for those yet to come. Excited to see more and more iDots becoming posted on their site and seeing the impact this has!

Please check out the iDot initiative, share it with those that you know and get involved to make even the smallest difference! My iDot is to pick up litter in my local park but also to share the iDot initiative with as many people as possible! You may be inspired by other people’s iDots on the WAF website too – take a look!

Latest iDots from the WAF Website

Links:

WAF iDot Webpage

Taking Refuge in the Code

Migrants wait to be rescued by the Aquarius rescue ship run by non-governmental organisations (NGO) “SOS Mediterranee” and “Medecins Sans Frontieres” (Doctors Without Borders) in the Mediterranean Sea, 30 nautic miles from the Libyan coast, on August 2, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Angelos Tzortzinis Source: Bloomberg.com

By the end of 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees and migrants treacherously reached European shores, leaving their war-torn countries rife with prosecution and misfortune. That number, 4 years on, is still rising and there’s no indication of it stopping and that’s due to the plethera of ongoing crises that continue to inundate many developing countries.

This migrant crisis is not a new one. It’s not something you haven’t heard of before. It’s become something that we have accepted, even in its excessive form. The growth of this excessive form is undoubtedly going to start affecting our lives more and more. At the moment, however, for the majority in developed countries, the impact of such high numbers of migrants doesn’t affect day to day lives directly. At some point it will and I’m certain it’s then, only then, at the brink of collapse, will the crisis be given the attention it truly deserves. Though, it isn’t the responsibility of public individuals to manage the migrant crisis, it’s the duty of our governments. It’s still not hard to see why public individuals do nonetheless want to get involved in resolving this growing crisis; the government are limited in what they can do for migrants when they arrive, either by cruel choice or brutal necessity; take your pick. So knowing there is an influx of people on the way with a potential lack of warmth by the home crowd, what do you start to think about? How do you flip this into a good situation? Here’s one way.

PowerCoders is a coding academy specifically for refugees, who take part in a 13 week coding bootcamp, followed by a 12 month internship. Founded in Switzerland, PowerCoders is a not-for-profit organisation dependent on volunteers to drive their mission, along with the support of the Swiss government, foundations, companies and people. With a second centre in Italy, along with the flagship Swiss centre, the PowerCoders community continues to grow in its support by volunteers and respectively in its impact of training refugees and getting them into IT based roles.

Mission
Giving people their independence back, reducing social welfare costs and addressing the shortage of talent in the IT-industry.

Goal
The permanent placement of trained refugees in IT-companies and IT-departments.

PowerCoders
Source: PowerCoders

PowerCoders are actively addressing the growing influx of refugees and migrants by giving them an opportunity to learn and develop a skill set which will then land them a decent job and positively impact the economy. The understated benefit of such a concept is the genuine happiness that the refugees will feel after previously facing such turmoil where they came from and to then be given an opportunity to create a real and sustainable future for themselves.

PowerCoders embody the approach needed to progress SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth – finding opportunity in crises. Unlike many critical opinions of the migrant crisis, PowerCoders stands out as a pioneer, reshaping the economic and employment landscape by giving unique opporunities to refugees, all of which pays its due in happiness, employability and inevitable economic return. Bundles of respect and admiration to PowerCoders for such an inspiring and purposeful business concept – one that helps those who truly need it most, in ways that nobody else currently can!

Poverty doesn’t discriminate, nor does its fighters.

Last week I posted about The Trussell Trust, calling out their undeniably powerful efforts to feed those in the UK who are not so fortunate and it got me thinking about the nature of the charity. The Trussell Trust are a Christian charity but do not discriminate those of other religions. How inspiring it is not to see such a divide, which almost certainly would be there just a few decades ago. Given that Christianity is the main faith of the UK, it almost makes sense for The Trussell Trust to be so far reaching and effective in fighting hunger in the UK.

This week, I learnt about another charitable organisation. One that has similar values in tackling not just hunger, but also homelessness and those affected by alcohol and substance abuse. However, this charity isn’t a Christian charity – it is Sikh and it’s called Nishkam SWAT.

Based in West London, Nishkam SWAT has been around in the UK since 2008 and were initially involved in a massive homelessness project, feeding and supporting hundreds of people they found to be sleeping rough. Since then, they have run a number of projects and continue to do so, such as their Elderly Care project, regularly spending time with the Elderly community, particularly those who have no loved ones to care for them, or their Healthcare project, buying a fully functional ambulance through fundraising, allowing them to give basic medical needs to the homeless. There are many more of these inspiring projects which you can learn about on their site, and there are some also planned for 2020 – a chance for you to get involved! They also rely solely on the work of volunteers to carry out their projects, with support from numerous partners and sponsors.

Impact of Nishkam SWAT’s work. Source: Nishkam SWAT

Now, I don’t like focusing on the detrimental impacts religious divides as this isn’t what FutureSphere is truly about, but it’s important to note that these divides do very much still exist. Why I am so inspired and excited by Nishkam SWAT is that they are Sikh charity who throw any perceptions of religious divide to the wolves – and how important is that in the 21st century? Very.

Sikhism itself teaches, amongst many other things, that one should be selfless and help anyone who needs it, irrelevant of their race, religion or creed and if you were to go to a Gurudwara, the place of worship for Sikhs, you would be well fed and given a space to be you in a spiritual home, regardless of your beliefs – with no expectation of paying them back. Beyond that, those who volunteer at Nishkam SWAT, are also of many different faiths and beliefs showing a true defiance of religious divide. With respect to sustainable development, the charity is a pioneer on multiple fronts, including the challenging of social and religious divide simply through their existence, but also through their primary function…

…to unite and transform financially disadvantaged communities by focusing on projects which make a difference to people’s lives in the short term and improve their prospects in the long term.

Nishkam SWAT

Some may say that you shouldn’t call them out for just being a Sikh charity, and I’d agree, but I’m calling them out for being a Sikh charity that has persistently, without hesitation, looked to help disadvantaged communities and importantly, establish themselves as a fighter for the unfortunate, no matter who they are or what tribulations may arise for themselves or for those they help. Their impactful work ties in directly with SDG 1 No Poverty and SDG 2 Zero Hunger and I also believe that we can attribute SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, for their charitable work independent of discrimination as an ethnic minority. Massive amounts of gratitude and respect to Nishkam SWAT for all the work that they do, contributing to a better state of humanity!

Links:

Nishkam SWAT Website

Are you feeling hangry?

Who actually gets to be hangry? Being hangry is a fairly new phrase and quite aptly describes the feeling you get when you are both hungry and angry – hangry. If you do find yourself feeling hangry, you would typically tuck into a juicy burger, a spicy pizza or whatever tickles your fancy. This phrase, though, is usually said by those who have access to such relief of this anger instilling hunger. Those who don’t have access to hanger relief so readily, which is over 21% in the UK (yep, that’s right – 14.3 million of 66.4 million people), often endure feelings far worse than anger as their hunger develops.

Source: The Daily Beast

The UK is considered a first world country but when over one 5th of your population is in poverty, it is difficult to think of it as such. It does, however, reflect a daunting image of the global hunger crisis and the unprecedented scale of poverty on our planet today.

Primary reasons for referral to food banks in the Trussell Trust network in April to September 2019.
Source: The Trusselll Trust

Finding ways to tackle hunger are riddled with economic risks. “How can I afford to feed the poor when I can’t even afford a car?” Ah, what privilege does to our perspective! Those who tackle hunger independent of the apparent economic risks, certainly in the opinion of future generations, are heroes.

Source: Facebook

One such class of hero is The Trussell Trust. The British Christian charity has set up a network of foodbanks around the country and they continue to provide emergency food and support for those who need it most, campaigning to ultimately end the need for foodbanks in the UK. This campaign to end the need for foodbanks stems from the 5 week wait time for universal credit in the UK, which means there’s a 5 week period during which a person may not be able to provide for themselves – 5 weeks!

Our vision:
To end hunger and poverty in the UK.

Our mission:
Bringing communities together to end hunger and poverty in the UK by providing compassionate, practical help with dignity whilst challenging injustice.

The Trussell Trust
Source: The Trussell Trust

Tying in directly with SDG 2 Zero Hunger, The Trussell Trust epitomises the large scale action needed to tangibly help drive the hunger crisis. A huge thank you to The Trussell Trust for all the lives that they impact with their work. It’s easy to forget the support that exists for those who are not as lucky as most – here’s to calling them out!

Links:

The Trussell Trust

Sure we don’t need soil to grow our crops anymore, but is this scalable?

Maybe you haven’t heard about hydroponics before. It has been used centuries ago, in the Floating Gardens of China and Hanging Gardens of Babylon but its only recently, in the last 100 years or so, begun to get the close attention it deserves. Its impact could last lifetimes. Hydroponics is the growing of crops, not with the traditional methods of using soil, but through nutrient and mineral filled solutions in a water solvent. To begin with, this field of study likely grew in a small lab, with trial batches being produced to determine whether it is even possible to grow plants without soil in a traditional crop farm. It is possible. We know this now and what a step forward that is. Taking this science and applying it on an industrial scale, however, is a whole different step with whole new set of challenges – but thanks to some pioneers in the field, we are on the right track.

Soil vs Hydroponics, Growing Produce

Before we look at the efforts to take the industrial application step, let’s be clear on some of the undeniable benefits of hydroponics:

  • Not bound by location or availability of large amounts of space, so need for mass deforestation
  • No longer bound by the seasons and can be carried out all year round
  • Requires 20 times less water than traditional soil-based farms
  • The sterile environment of a hydroponic farm doesn’t need fertilisers
  • Conservation of water becomes far more integral to the farming cycle, with water being re-used throughout the farm
  • Modern technology enables constant monitoring of crop growth and farming
  • No soil required means less testing and management of large volumes of soil, including no weeding, no soil improvement, fertilising
  • Harvesting is more accessible through better organised crops

Of course, as with most things, there are disadvantages such as more technology resource being required, close and constant attention to crop cycles needed and the risk of waterborne disease infiltrating and affecting crops rapidly. However, if means can be found to address these disadvantages, the full potential of hydroponics can be realised and maintained at global scales.

One company taking on the big step is Phytoponics, based in Wales, UK. They have created patent pending technology, a Deep Water Culture that houses the crops and automatically provides all the necessary nutrients to the crops. This all enables rapid deployability and a huge return on investment through reduced installation costs, increased productivity and longer productive lives of the crops. Importantly, this solution also tackles the need for deforestation, which is destroying our planet at alarming speeds.

Phytoponics was founded to bring new advanced crop growing technology to the food chain by innovating new technology that is highly productive, efficient and resilient to climate change. We want to strengthen and secure the fresh produce food step by step, product by product to crop by crop until we achieve our mission.

Our Story, Phytoponics

By finding a practical alternative to traditional soil based farming, a key contributor to the larger climate crisis, and transforming this hydroponic science into a scalable solution, Phytoponics presents itself as the epitome of change needed to lessen the burden on our planet. Tying in with SDG 15 Life on Land, Phytoponics is taking a huge step to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of land as per the goal targets.

Much respect and admiration for these pioneers transforming a science into an industrial scale solution. It is hard to look to the future and not envisage what a world would look like if we had more alternate, sustainable solutions to the costly traditional methods we have today. These alternate sustainable solutions, like that of Phytoponics, will do nothing but good for tackling other related problems like world hunger and living through an increasingly harsh environment – so we should celebrate them.

Tackling African malnutrion with not just more food – but with better food.

Sanku Fortification – Introduction

Malnutrition is yet another inconceivably big problem on our planet today, affecting over 2 billion people – that’s over a quarter of the global population! In countries, like many African countries, where malnutrition is so widespread, governments have stepped in to address this issue with National Fortification Standards which, through central processing plants, add the vital nutrients to staple foods, predominantly maize flour – a staple diet of many African countries. These additional nutrients make the same food healthier for those who eat it every day.

However, those living in rural areas, which is the majority, often don’t receive the centrally processed flour and are left eating flour lacking the nutrients that we all need to stay healthy and happy. Sanku is a not-for-profit organisation that has developed a technology, a Dosifier, that can be easily used in rural communities to add vital nutrients to the flour, by precisely measuring out and adding the amounts needed to the flour during the continuous milling cycle that is carried out in such farms. The technology can be easily added to existing milling plants in rural farming communities. Having partnered with scientists at Standford University, Sanku has effectively reached over 2 million people with their technology producing fortified flour!

This solution has made it possible for those living in rural and less developed communities to have access to affordable, healthy food reducing their chances of falling into the vicious hands of malnourishment. Having partnered with Vodafone, Sanku’s Dosifiers are now also smart technologies, enabling cellular management of the small scale fortification tools. Sanku also partners with Ashoka, Mulago, Give Well and many more, all of whom support and help drive the ever-increasingly important mission.

Tying in directly with SDG 2 Zero Hunger, Sanku’s sustainable technology continues to grow its reach beyond the 5 countries it is implemented in so far (Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique), with a target of reaching 100 million people by 2025! A huge thank you for all the team at Sanku for looking at a government-run solution to endemic malnourishment and turning this into a far more accessible, affordable and effective solution, increasing the reach of fortified flour to those who need it most. Learn more about this awesome initiative and opportunities to donate on Sanku’s website, linked below!

Links:

Sanku Website
Sanku Website

Capitalising on swinging weather extremes.

Meet Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge finalist Field Factors

I was fortunate enough to be taught the difference between climate and weather at school; put simply one is long term and the other short term. What we weren’t taught, fortunately, was this difference in practice. We weren’t able to tangibly see this difference yet – we just knew it existed and so it was a challenge to be able to identify changes to the climate without naturally assuming this just was the weather changing. I think this was also fortunate, as now this is no longer the case. It is becoming concerningly clearer as to what the differences between climate and weather are.

Australian Firefighters tackling 37 Mile Wild Fire. Credit: UN News

In Australia, just days ago we heard about the wildfire that spread across 37 miles and was not possible to put out by the heroic firefighters. In Venice, 80% of the city has been submerged under water as a result of 3 floods, some of the worst in the past century. Some would still claim this is extreme weather and has no bearing to climate change.

East and Southern African countries have faced severe and prolonged droughts since 2017 and are now facing severe flooding too. Scientists claim this is going to get worse over the next few decades with both weather extremes getting more severe. The cause of this, as concluded by scientists at the Met Office in collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University, is the endless burning of fossil fuels increasing the levels of carbion dioxide in the atmosphere – to over 145 parts per million, the highest levels since humans ever walked the Earth. Drastic changes of weather from one extreme to the other; this is not a result of random unprecedented changes in weather – this is a result of changes to our climate. Changes so drastic, in shorterning spaces of time.

Okay, so we’ve got scientific proof that climate change is happening and people still don’t believe in it. Even with all the evidence there is, some fools can’t be trumped. Thankfully, Dutch company, Field Factors, does believe in climate change though. Their vision is to restore natural water cycles in cities. Through the creation of their technology, Bluebloqs, they have effectively enabled a reliable and natural-based urban water supply.

Bluebloqs is a modular system for rainwater treatment, storage, and reuse. It combines biofiltration with aquifer storage technologies to achieve high treatment and recovery efficiencies. As a compact integrated system, Bluebloqs utilizes natural processes in a controlled manner, avoiding the need for large infrastructures. Discover the new way to manage urban water.

Field Factors, fieldfactors.com
Schematic Representation of Bluebloqs Technology Field Factors

How frustrating it must be enduring a drought when you know a few weeks ago your city was flooded. Field Factors hits that frustration on the head and provides a way to capitalise on a bad situation to help manage another bad situation. By collecting rain water during intense periods of rain, treating it under the soil and storing it until needed, they are able to provision a usable supply of water during times of intense droughts. Yes, it would be ideal if there were no extremities in our weather as a result of global warming and other changes in our climate. However, Field Factors, as many others, are no longer in denial that climate is happening and at an unprecedented rate and whilst we do need try to tackle the problem head on, we also need to find a sustainble means of surviving through it and they sure have found one means of survival indeed.

The work that Field Factors does links in directly with SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation, through their provision of a natural-based urban water supply, particularly useful in times of extreme weather, but also SDG 13 Climate Action. This is by their provision of an alternate solution to the consequences of global warming. They have been recognised for their work and were deservedly one of few finalists in the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge – I expect more recognition (beyond FutureSphere!) is coming their way, if not at their doorstep already.

It is inspiring to see yet another startup thinking into the future and providing solutions to problems that may seem a rarity now, but will unforuntately only become more and more prevalent in our lives and of those who follow us. A huge thank you to Field Factors for their commitment to a sustainable future – be sure to check out their website to learn more!

Links:

Field Factors Website
Fieldfactors.com

I want change. Show me how.

It is often the case we do not get what we feel we deserve or that there is more that can be done. During these times, it is incredibly difficult to stop yourself falling into a spiral of demotivation and a feeling of despair. Not-for-profit social enterprise, MySociety, gives the UK’s public access to online tools so that real change is no longer a fantasy.

We believe
… that strong democratic accountability and a thriving civil society are vital to our common welfare, and that these only survive when people engage with government and communities.

We work with online technologies
… because the internet can lower the barriers to taking the first civic or democratic steps in a citizen’s life, and it can do so at scale.

In three connected areas of civic life
– Our Transparency services make it easy for citizens to surface information
– Our Democracy tools help people hold their parliaments to account
– Our Community technologies empower local authorities and residents to make improvements in their own neighbourhoods.

MySociety, mysociety.org

You hardly hear about a practical means of impacting decisions which seem to be determined by an elite group of people sitting in an ivory tower. MySociety is groundbreaking in this respect. Chief Executive, Mark Cridge, is driving away the stigma that as members of the public, we are just bystanders to what our government decides to do or not do. They believe we are active citizens who deserve the right to make a difference and not just mark X on the piece of paper going into the ballot box.

Online technologies are endless. Some are futile, some fun, but some, like the tools MySociety has built, are powerful. Powerful enough to create real change for civilian life through research, partnerships, local goverment support, international collaboration and a passion to increase the impact any one citizen can have.

SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions is one of the harder goals to achieve because of the number of dependencies its progress relies on. Dependencies on government, on large corporations, on smaller businesses, on legal and justice systems and most importantly, the dependency on us. Though, not us as bystanders, but as civilians who strive for better. Thanks to MySociety, we now have tools to help us achieve this.

Specifically within SDG 16, they progress target 16.6, to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions, target 16.7, to ensure responsive, inclusive and representative decision-making and 16.10, to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

Let’s hope MySociety continue to grow the reach of their impact and the development of their civic technologies, so that the feeling of despair when decisions do not go your way can be acted on and not left to manifest itself into something far worse! Learn more about this awesome enterprise on their website linked below.

Links:

MySociety Website
mysociety.org

New power unlocked to support London’s homeless.

How many times have you walked past a homeless person in the last month? Quite a few. How many of those people you walked past have you stopped for and given something to? None. How many of those people you walked past have you spoken to? None. How many of those people you walked past do you think have hopes and dreams that they wish they could achieve? Every single one. So what are you going to do about it? Or better yet, what can you do about it?

youtube.com

Beam is the multiple award-winning London based company that makes the hopes and dreams of homeless people in London far more of a reality than their hardships typically allow for. Put simply, Beam is a public crowdfunding platform for homeless people in London, with the funds raised going towards the training and support they need to land stable, paid jobs like electricians, accountants, beauticians and so much more!

The concept of this business is inspirational. By harnessing the power of the web and the crowdfunding tools available, Beam targets the public’s goodwill to donate for causes that truly change lives for the better. The number of awards Beam has received is beyond admirable and its recognition by Forbes, the BBC, Financial Times and so many more, just goes to show why this 2019 Tech4Good Finalist is the epitome of progress for SDG 8 Good Jobs and Economic Growth and SDG 1 No Poverty, specifically through its decent job creation, access to financial services and promoting an active labour market program (albeit non-government lead).

Being a Londonder, I can appreciate how difficult it can be for homeless people in the city, particular in the colder months when nobody has time to stop walking, let alone donate something. Beam have effectively empowered the public to do more for the homeless in London than just dropping the odd coin or left overfood, which to be clear, does go a long way during hard times – it’s just that there is more that we can do to change the longer term hardships of the homeless and now we know how!

So much respect for the team at Beam for their impactful work, having so far drastically changed the lives of 156 people for the better already, getting them into stable, paid jobs. Please do check out their platform and feel inspired to donate, even a small amount, for the awesome cause of giving the homeless in London more than a fighting chance to achieve their dreams!

Links:

Beam Website
beam.org

Are we sending untapped power to the dumpyard?

If you had to take a guess, how many lithium-ion batteries do you think you have used in your life? “That’s a tough one; too many.” Okay, of all those batteries you’ve used, how many of those were completely depleted when you threw them away? “Obviously all of them! Why would I throw away batteries which still have power in them?!” Fair response. Let’s have a look at why such an obvious response, maybe isn’t so obvious and why there’s more to be addressed on this issue to make for a better tomorrow.

Co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins, have created Aceleron, a clean technology company based in the UK. The start-up came to life after their realisation that lithium-ion batteries are not typically designed to be completely depleted when they stop powering your appliances, due to unsafe leakages as a result of their (poor) design and nor are they designed to be maintained. Their use today and in the future must, therefore, be coupled with a means of tackling both the untapped power and its respective waste. Keeping sustainability in the forefront of their strategic thinking, they have come up with a range of battery pack products and services that have stirred up the energy market.

Their technology is built upon the idea that lithium-ion batteries sent to waste are not entirely depleted and better use of the technology can allow for up to 40% longer use than traditional lithium-ion batteries and importantly, allow for reusability. Using modular technology and innovative battery formations inside a battery pack, they have pioneered products which have multiple applications, all whilst remaining within the realms of sustainable development with their circular economy approach i.e. not for single use and then to the bin, like most batteries. Applications such as home energy storage, back up power for buildings and telecommunications are just a few examples of their far-reaching impact.

By coupling technology innovation and a sustainable mindset, Aceleron has created an alternative to the damaging impacts of single use batteries on our planet and so prove their progress towards SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, in particular the target to increase the proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology. Respect and gratitude to all the team at Aceleron for paving the way for a cleaner future! Check out Aceleron’s website to learn more and about why they’ve been shortlisted in the Top 10 for 2019 Telegraph Tech 4 Good Pioneers!

Links:

Aceleron Website
aceleronenergy.com