When values and innovation combine.
By reading just the front page of any news these days, one can become increasingly alarmed by the onslaught of pressing social and environmental issues that face humanity - be it climate/environmental, wealth and racial inequity and so on.
Luckily, there is a definite growing awareness that these “Wicked Social Problems” can no longer be dealt with through traditional philanthropy and charitable actions. Instead it requires the kind of transformative and competitive energies that society have long dedicated to the private sector. It is time for values and innovation to come together to enable long-term, impactful social good.
With changing demographics and working patterns, more and more people are choosing a life of entrepreneurialism, particularly the type that brings about some good in the world. On the other side, more and more investors are moving away from being solely concerned with financial returns but are now valuing social outcomes as well. This attitudinal and behavioural change unlocks private capital for the support of social innovations.
As a value driven start-up, dedicated to facilitating joy for people with sight loss and different types of abilities, we at Sonnar thinks it is an amazing time to be alive. While it may seem that other types of worthy global issues have been dominating public attention (climate change, for example), we have witnessed first-hand the growing support for access innovation across various spaces.
What started as a third-party contracted R&D evolved through a series of “what ifs”. These days, our big vision of creating a cloud base audio library for people with different reading and learning needs have been embraced with more enthusiasm than we could initially imagine. The World Blind Union excitedly shared with us the use case potential for people who struggle to read print in developing countries; an US-based blindness organisation ‘salivates’ at the idea of an ‘audiobook Spotify’ for people with vision loss. On the commercial side, we have started seeking out people who are involved in impact investment for first round of funding that can enable us to scale. As early affirmation, we recently won AUT’s X Challenge, where industry experts specifically commended us for the disruptive change the library could bring for a (surprisingly large) segment of the population.
Despite all these positive developments, it is important to acknowledge that we are still in the process of change. The stars didn’t align in a vacuum, and nor are we in utopia as social entrepreneurs. Initial change takes systemic efforts by all those involved, and it takes a robust ecosystem for the change to continue. Be. Lab plays a critical part in enabling all of that, through their vision, initiation, support, and activation of access innovation, from both the supply and demand side, in NZ and abroad. That is why we are proud to align ourselves with the work of Be.Lab. and share the belief that: there is always ground-breaking potential to unlock, it just depends on how you look at the world.