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Innovation with Purpose – Insights from PSFK 2017

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Stepping away from my wheelhouse in the payments space, I found great inspiration at this year’s PSFK 2017 conference in New York City. The setting was the scenic Museum of Jewish History in Lower Manhattan on an extraordinarily balmy, spring day. The theme, ‘Innovation with Purpose’ introduced an uncanny yet appropriate list of speakers and industries who shared how they are working towards addressing this theme in their own unique way. I’d like take this opportunity to share what I felt were some of the more compelling examples.

  1. Anthropologist and author Jan Chipchase shared his insights on how one should immerse themselves in the environment in which a problem exists, as a means to better understand the steps that need to be taken to resolve it. These key steps include:
  • Go in to the environment with your set of assumptions/hypotheses
  • Gather the appropriate data and knowledge
  • Extract the insights and wisdom
  1. Social Enterprise Expert and COO of What3Words, Clare Jones, shared how her organization is changing the world by taking care of the needs of those without an address.

Who knew that 75% of the world does not have a registered address? Initially, the questions that came to mind around this shocking stat included how would these people open a bank account, get a job, or obtain a Social Insurance Number? But these are merely just surface issues. How about the fact that not having a registered address might also mean life or death. Consider the needs of a person who may be in need of emergency services like an ambulance. How can they inform the operator of their whereabouts when they cannot provide an assigned location?

What3Words provides a precise and simple way to identify a location. They have divided the entire world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address which has also been translated into 14 languages. My office, for example, is located at ‘Tame | Mixture | Epic’.

  1. Bootcamp visionary Coss Marte at ConBody Live, turned his life around. A former drug dealer turned entrepreneur who is focused on prison reform.

While incarcerated he developed a boot camp style workout routine that could be done anywhere and anytime, including in a tiny prison cell. ConBody Live is committed to hiring individuals who are former inmates to lead their fitness classes, giving them a new lease on life. This company’s latest success is a pilot being operated through Saks 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

  1. Creative Instigator Ji Lee shared the story of his grump 75 year-old father who rediscovered his purpose in his retirement years by creating drawings for his grandchildren that he shares with them through on a daily basis on Instagram. This not only leaves a wonderful gift for his grandkids, but also brings his family closer together who are spread across three continents. Check out this great story here.

All of the above are wonderful examples of how these creative and forward thinking individuals along with their teams are delivering innovative solutions that address a genuine need by solving a real and urgent problem – thus innovation with purpose.

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