Jordi Ros is the founder of Labdoo, a non-profit humanitarian organization that strives to bridge the digital divide by empowering all laptop owners with tools so their unused laptops can be brought to children in impoverished communities, without environmental cost. Connect with Labdoo on Facebook.
In the richer countries, every year more than a hundred million laptops are replaced by new ones. This number continues to increase, yet most of the children in the poor regions of the world still lack access to education. The goal of Labdoo is to provide a solution to this paradox by using grassroots, decentralized, social networking tools to bring excess laptops to schools in need without wasting additional Earth resources. Project Labdoo is a non-profit humanitarian social network which enables laptop owners with tools to carry out the mini-mission of bringing their own unused laptop to a child. The social network works by connecting sources of demand and supply and by providing the tools to sanitize your own laptop, install free education software in it and to identify CO2-neutral travelers (called dootrips
) to bring your laptop to a school in need. By using a decentralized social network approach and by enabling each of us to be part of it, the Labdoo project can organically grow and deliver its mission without incurring any economic or environmental cost.
The Labdoo idea was inspired by the notion of creating a social network that returns a social gain rather than an economic gain. The goal of Labdoo is not to maximize the economic value of its stakeholders, but rather to help improve the well-being of society. The network operates thanks to the will of people to donate a bit of their time in helping resolve a global challenge--the digital divide challenge. The Labdoo idea has found inspiration in movements such as the free software movement and collaborative projects such as Wikipedia. Additionally, we have seen the potential that communication and technology can have in developing communities and the effect that education has had in people such as William Kamkwamba
, the kid from Malawi who taught himself how to create windmills from a physics book.
From an economic perspective, innovation is what makes in the long run the development of nations possible. Simply producing more cars, more computers, more of anything, does not lead to development. We only make a step up the ladder of development when someone whether that person is a computer scientist, a teacher, a baker or a truck driver, invents a new technology or process. From that perspective, innovation plays a key role in solving historical problems for which we haven't yet found a solution. Solving some of the most challenging problems of the 21st
century--including poverty or global warming-- will require the invention of new technologies. The need for finding solutions to these challenges provides a central argument towards understanding the importance of innovation.
There is a second more artistic view of what innovation is. This view relates to our natural need to discover the unknown. Even if one day we get to solve all the global challenges we face, innovation will not stop. We are just too curious. Today we tend to think of innovation in practical terms, as in "innovation = start up in Silicon Valley = IPO = wealth". But that's because we still live under the urgency of inventing for the sake of surviving. If we remove that urgency and the economic superstructure we have laid on it, then innovation becomes no different than art. In the future, once we have resolved these challenging global problems and overcome our era of urgency, innovation will be indistinguishable from art.
I expect that even in the next ten years we will start to see some important changes in social entrepreneurship. We need to ask ourselves what the organizations of the future will look like. Three intriguing questions are: (1) How will they organize their human resources? (2) What will their objective be? (3) And how will they be funded? Today for the most part the answers to these questions are: (1) via a hierarchical and centralized command-based approach, (2) to maximize the dollar value of the stakeholders and (3) via monetary instruments. I believe in the future we will operate for the most part almost opposite to the way we operate today in these three dimensions.
If we wait long enough I believe we will see many more organizations that will operate in a decentralized fashion with an objective to maximize the global benefit of society (beyond the stakeholders' benefit) and many won't even need monetary instruments to carry out their objective. This is actually not too far stretched of a thought, we are already starting to see this happening like the free software movement or the creation of distributed projects like Wikipedia teach us that in life. There are many other factors that bring happiness to us beyond economic reward. Non-monetary resources will help fuel a new kind of social entrepreneurship in the long run. Labdoo in fact operates this way. The only input to project Labdoo is people contributing one hour of their time here and there to help deliver a laptop to a child using free social network tools.
This helps to send a clear message that all we aim to do is provide a solution to a social problem. This new way of operating--made possible thanks to technological advances--opens up a new breed of opportunities when it comes to social entrepreneurship which I believe will thrive during the next decade and beyond.