RestartSlovakia – no more buffoonery!

Last night I had a chance (thank you, Jura) to take part in the winners gala of Restart Slovakia – a nationwide competition for the most innovative, tech-based solutions presented by NGOs. The event was organized for the second time by the Center for Philanthropy in Bratislava (read an interview with one of the last years contestants).

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Nine teams presented their projects, both in an open market format and on stage, competing for money awards that would allow them to improve their tools and develop additional features.

Here are four ideas that got most recognition and cleared almost all prizes (in the order of my personal preference and not actual prizes):

  1. Vzdy a Vsade – an online platform providing psychological help through one-on-one chats with volunteer therapists. The platform has been running for 1,5 years now and they get an average of 30 conversations per day. Unsurprisingly, the holiday season is almost doubling the number of people who need to talk… [tell me about it]. Their pitch was to get money for an app that could increase portal’s accessibility. And they won!

  2. Co Robim – remember the times when you had no idea who you wanna be “when you grow up?” If only this site was there at that time… Co Robim is a website devoted in full to explaining what does it mean to do a certain job. And it’s done through videos. Wanna be a firefighter? Watch an interview with an actual one!

  3. Mapa zlocinu – a crowdsourcing platform mapping crime in the country. But not only – as the leader of the team explained, the map should ideally show, which areas in the city are safe or not also in regards to building safety and other not strictly crime-related issues that influence how secure you feel. This one got many prizes!

  4. Nemlcme – a portal for victims of sexual abuse, providing a space to sharing testimonies, seek advice and learn about the topic (including a section about most prevalent myths surrounding sexual violence).

You can read more about these ideas on the RestartSlovakia website.

The event in general was a fine one! I left it with two major takeaways in mind:

  • no more buffoonery!

The tone of this event was what I often miss in discussions about innovation: normalcy, commonness, non-elitist touch. All of a sudden it’s almost disappointing and somewhat shameful that we have fixmystreet iterations all across the globe. This shouldn’t be the case. By endorsing an ivory-tower feel of innovation, we might be slowing the spread of new solutions.

There’s a plethora of innovative initiatives that have proven effective in certain conditions. It is very important that we start making it easy for people to copy and modify them, start replacing with them their old, less effective methods of work. This way we can build people’s ability to innovate on their own.

Yesterdays event was exactly on that note: proud but normal. And I loved it!

  • Lasciatemi cantare! (on a more personal note)

Oh, how I was reminded again that we are more than one thing. After the presentations, but before the winners were announced, we were entertained by – wait for it – Diplomatic Immunity Band. Diplomatic as in the musicians were actual diplomats. Oh, yes!

They sang everything from Knocking on heaven’s doors, Wonderful tonight, to Smoke on the water, Black magic woman, and… Lasciatemi cantare! I just loved their enthusiasm and inspiring humbleness with which they played for the most wooden audience ever (no, we didn’t wanna start dancing, not even clapping to the rhythm…).

But the most important thing here is – during the day they all have a job that is nowhere close to what they showed on the stage. And yet, they were the ones singing for us last night.

People are more than one thing. And it’s inspiring to meet people who can really embrace who they are after they turn off the lights in their office.

And with this in mind…

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