Why this playful approach to sustainability can be a real game-changer for product and service development.

1 out of 3 people worldwide doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. The number alone is overwhelming, even more, doing something about it and proactively trying to reduce this figure. Mauricio Cordova, the founder of Faircap, took up the challenge. He initiated Faircap, the open water filtration project, to design and manufacture small devices that can purify and test water quality at the lowest cost possible using the latest technologies.
Ideas and applications of sustainable business and operating models have been around for centuries. Therefore, it is interesting to question why not every business applies sustainable principles? And what are the actual levers for organisations looking to transform their business models in favour of a circular economy?

Open Design and Innovation explained

In German, we have a saying that goes, «too many cooks ruin the soup». For Open Design and Innovation, many «cooks» (or, in this case, experts, designers and end-users) make the result better! They contribute to finding a solution to a clearly defined problem.

The power of the crowd can offer different points of view that add value to the proposed solution. These proposals are then shared openly so that the idea can continue improving and evolving. It means that while a company’s traditional research and development effort would require enormous human, financial and technical resources, most of these resources come from the community in an open-source development methodology.
Open source first became popular in software development, but it is now spreading to hardware because a design file can be shared digitally and then be 3D printed anywhere in the world.
The difference between traditional research or development compared to open source and open innovation is that now, with more readily available information, everyone can potentially act as an inventor, designer or maker. Consumers can become producers by using shared intellectual licenses for the good of the commons.
“Diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups of the best individuals at solving complex problems. The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.”
– Scott E. Page

Problem-Solving for Sustainable and Humanitarian Challenges: A case for Open Design and Innovation

The so-called Maker Movement opens up to many actors and, therefore, more opportunities for finding technical solutions. Open innovation and design shift more power to drive change to the end-user; it promotes decentralised problem solving and makes beneficiaries responsible actors by fostering creativity.

Another critical aspect of open innovation is that many of the resources needed to develop a new product or solution are shared, requiring less funding. Having a lower development cost and being open means that those economic savings can also be transferred to the end-user, hopefully by offering high-quality products at a much lower price.
Faircap firmly believes that through modern rapid prototyping methods, open innovation and emerging technologies like AI solving large-scale issues like lack of access to clean drinking is possible for millions of people at an affordable cost.
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