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My Earth

My Earth is a social enterprise that provides training and employment for Australia’s remote Indigenous communities in the construction industry. My Earth engages local people to construct low-cost but high-quality, environmentally-sustainable housing. It uses locally-sourced soil as the primary building material, in a technique called Compressed Earth Block (CEB) technology. This construction technique has been demonstrated in East Africa, but not widely adopted in Australia. CEB is a low-skill construction technique, which enables My Earth to engage people who may have missed out on a good education. The program uses a flexible, tiered training and employment model to lower the barriers to entry into the labor market. It starts with brick pressing and a builder-trainer program, and ultimately ongoing employment in local construction and maintenance. Its flexibility, direct linkage to a job pipeline, and commitment to community involvement, sets it apart from traditional remote workforce development projects.

Doin’ Good: Mobile Makerspace & Education Center

Of the ~200,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon between the ages of 18 and 25 years, only 4% have access to formal education. Many of the current education programs do not focus on hands-on technical education and are not designed to reach the remote areas, where most refugees live. The innovative approach to these challenges is a mobile makerspace & education center (MMEC). The MMEC will take form as a van equipped with tools and materials that drives to different settlements to teach young refugees craftsmanship skills, for example in woodworking or sewing. This will enable the participants to learn the skills required to seek employment, while at the same time building items they need to improve the living conditions in the camps, such as furniture or toys. The program intends to provide a novel, highly individualized approach to education for underserved populations.

Spotlight On Hope Film Camp

Spotlight On Hope is free-of-cost and offers a unique and creative outlet through film and animation instruction for pediatric and young adult cancer patients and their families. Spotlight On Hope brings excitement, enjoyment and relaxation to patients through film production, enhancing their mental well-being, self-worth and skills during a particularly stressful and traumatic time of their lives. After 8-10 weekend film workshops have been carried out over the course of the year, a grand red carpet screening showcasing all the films is held for the participants, their families and friends, and the community to enjoy.


ZestBio is a startup spun out of UC Berkeley that is harnessing the power of biology to convert low value, abundant fruit and vegetable byproducts like citrus peels and sugar beet pulp into high performing plastic bottles and ingredients for dishwasher detergents. This proposal aims to build off recent business and technical advances to scale the improved fermentation technology from bench to pilot scale. At scale, ZestBio aims to make products with superior performance and dramatically reduced environmental footprint compared to existing solutions.


Visualize is a simulated training tool designed to train midwives in Ghana to screen for cervical cancer using the most appropriate and accessible screening method, visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). Using a simulated tool is a novel approach to improve learning and retention of cervical cancer screening methods in low- and middle-income countries. Leveraging funding from a previous Big Ideas grant, Visualize was co-designed with midwives in Ghana and has gone through multiple design iterations, based on feedback from Ghanaian midwives, trainers, OB/GYN doctors, and healthcare administrators at every stage. Now the team aims to scale Visualize by implementing and testing this simulated training tool as part of VIA training sessions at three urban health training facilities. During these sessions, trainers will use Visualize to teach midwives how to perform VIA. The midwives will then be able to screen patients using VIA.

Trash to Tiles

Ugandans have second or third tier roofs. Trash to Tiles (T3) is repurposing plastic waste in developing nations to produce affordable, quality construction materials such as roofing tiles, pipes, and pavers. By operating in areas with large amounts of plastic waste but no access to recycling, T3 provides a recycling option that currently does not exist. T3’s locally fabricated, precision-controlled machinery fills the gap between capital-intensive, industrialized manufacturers and low-tech NGOs struggling to expand. T3 will scale rapidly and empower local entrepreneurs through a franchise model. In the pilot market of Gulu, Uganda, T3 created prototype roofing tiles and pavers and confirmed market demand through 200 interviews. T3 is currently developing the second iteration machinery and establishing a community plastics collection center to provide a steady supply of plastic waste.

Pit Vidura: Building the “Uber Pool” for Fecal Sludge Management

Pit Vidura Team

In rapidly urbanizing areas, small exhauster truck businesses are unable to keep up with the demand for pit latrine emptying services due to inefficiencies in their operations. Thus, when a latrine fills in most low-income urban areas, manual emptiers use buckets to empty the waste and dump it in the environment. This results in high rates of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Pit Vidura enables sanitation service providers to grow their businesses by improving the efficiency and profitability of their daily operations. Pit Vidura’s integrated suite of technologies connects truckers to customers, intelligently routes truckers to clusters of customers, and streamlines payments for emptying services. To date (March 2019), Pit Vidura has served over 1,200 households in Kigali with safe emptying services and prevented over 3 million liters of human waste from entering the urban environment.

Project Sparthan

More than 3,000 children are born every year with a congenital limb deficiency in the United States alone. These children will change their prosthetics devices once every 6 months, making the purchase of a high-end prosthesis unaffordable for most families. Affordable 3D printers have spawned numerous customizable and very affordable prosthetic hand models. These devices can be modified to fit the children as they grow, at a relatively low price. However, these prosthetic hands leave a lot to be desired in terms of functionality. Most of these devices can only allow coarse finger control, placing it in stark contrast to commercial automatic hands. The Project Sparthan team is committed to taking the concept of modular prosthetics a step further, continuing to bridge the gap between expensive robotic arms and 3D printed prosthesis. This will be done through the design and development of Sparthan, a modular electronics kit, compatible with existing prosthetic hand models, which will enable intuitive hand control.