SIGEF 2015 – innovative ideas and a global call to take action


Ester Kokott


23.-25. October the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices opened its doors for the second SIGEF (Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum) in Geneva (Switzerland). From Friday until Sunday renowned speakers, social entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and the general public got the chance to come together, get involved in an interactive platform and to discuss innovative solutions for urgent social problems. ‘Horyou’, the social network for social good, and organizer of SIGEF 2015 invited 50 speakers, 100 organizations and furthermore 50 socially innovative projects from all over the world.

The motto for this year’s SIGEF 2015 focused on proposing effective solutions for a better tomorrow. Under the slogan ‘Shaping Better Times To Come’ a lot of new ideas were presented and discussed by the speakers and participants.

What connects them? Their dedication to the purpose and will to create something for a greater good.

What differentiates them? Their diverse perspectives on and solutions for pressing regional social difficulties.

Besides NGOs that focus on human – and especially women’s – rights and apart from Projects that concentrate on improving conditions for better education and reducing injustice as well as inequalities in countries in need, SIGEF 2015 provided a platform for social entrepreneurs to present their own projects that contribute to social good.

Stephen Ritz, an Innovator, Educator and Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2015, for example spoke about his project ‘Green Bronx Machine,’ which he created to improve the health conditions of the children at his school. Together with his students he observed that as waistlines expanded, the commitment and engagement at schools decreased. To change these circumstances he came up with the idea to set out a vegetable patch right next to the school to grow salad, pepper and tomatoes that are directly processed in the school’s canteen. After implementing the garden it appeared that the students improved their school performance through healthier nutrition and later on gained from its positive effects by graduating and getting hired for well-paid jobs. Stephen Ritz underlined that with regards to health, prevention is better than cure.

The second keynote-speaker that should be pointed out is Dr. Georges Bwelle, a General Surgeon at the Central Hospital Yaounde (Cameroon) and Top 10 CNN Heroes 2013, that represented the NGO ‘ASCOVIME’. He assembles a team of medical volunteers that prepare and realize weekend missions to rural villages in Cameroon that rarely have access to medical care. Once the team arrives at the planned destination they set up a field clinic and try to provide every necessary medical treatment for its citizens. For the members of ‘ASCOVIME’ ‘good health and education are key assets in the development and welfare of any country’.

One of the most motivating speakers at the conference was Chad Harper, Founder and CEO of Hip Hop Saves Lives. His project focuses on the original purpose of Hip Hop, which is an alternative to gang and street life. This is realized by giving youth the chance to choose an everyday hero from their environment and to write a song about him/her and his/her actions. After sending a recorded video of this song to the related person the project team presses all the songs that have been recorded in the semester to a CD and uses it to raises funds. 100% of the raised money funds schools in Haiti to support education and clean water. ‘This program gives youth global education and the opportunity to express themselves through doing what they love, all while making a difference.’

After the SIGEF Award had been handed over to him, Chad Harper impressively demonstrated how music connects people by persuading the whole audience to conclude the international three-day conference by singing a song together. The lyrics – and at the same time their intention – were as simple as they were ingenious: ‘We are the people!’

With these words the SIGEF2015 ended with a global call to take action and shape better times to come!

Ester Kokott

Ester Kokott, born in 1994 in Erfurt (Germany), is a current exchange student at the University of Geneva. She studies Political Science and Economy at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. After she graduated from High School she went to Cairo (Egypt) as an Au Pair and furthermore spent 7 months working in a special unit for ventilated children in a rehabilitation center in Jerusalem (Israel). During her stay in the Middle East and while taking care of children with special needs in Israel she discovered her increasing interest in political conflicts and social problems. This year she volunteered at the SIGEF2015.

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