Want Better Indian Cities? Try Community-driven & Crowdsourced Ideas

As India celebrated its 68th Independence Day, an agenda full of aspiration and hope was reiterated, this time by our newly elected Prime Minister. The day has also been a time to reflect on some of the challenges we a country of a billion plus face. While there has been a substantial push for rural growth through government policies, challenges of urban centers seem more citizen-driven and in partnerships with private entities. These groups, which include established names and many unknowns, have together taken up solving issues of poor sanitation, filth in the streets and unsafe roads head on.

Cleaning the streets by the Community, for the Community & with the Community

Last weekend Bangalore got together for a day full of inspiration at TEDxBangalore. Among the over a dozen talks by eminent speakers, there was a popular one given by a leaderless organization – The Ugly Indian (TUI). Though anonymous, the group has built a large following in a short span of time, almost entirely due to their work – of quietly cleaning up the filth in the streets of Bangalore and other cities. While the core team’s identity hadn’t been revealed to the near 2000 people who attended the event, it was definitely money’s worth hearing the telling stories of spot-fixing at different locations.

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The TUI volunteer who gave the talk also shared why they preferred remaining headless and anonymous. The organization’s belief was one should be judged on what they do, rather than how they looked or where they came from. Beyond the concealing of the background information, it needs to be remembered that these efforts have had many volunteers and from all walks of life. It is these people from the crowd who are its actual stakeholders, who through their efforts in cleaning up cities, maintaining streets and sharing learnings with the rest of the community, become leaders themselves. Such community-driven change-making initiatives are truly ideas worth spreading, don’t you think?

Crowdsourcing Ideas and Innovations for Safer Roads in a Safer India

Challenges of road safety are as perpetual as the filth we come across in our streets. So what’s the way forward for better road safety? Well, with a lot already been discussed and written about, we finally have solutions, those from crowds that actually will be pursued – or at least have all the opportunity to do so. Through an initiative by Ashoka Changemakers, a global organization of change-makers, there have been over 80+ entries to a competition for Safer Roads, Safer India. Here winning game-changing innovations that can help save lives on our streets, will get funded from the international safety organization – Underwriters Laboratories.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                (source: telegraph.co.uk)

The entries that have made it to the final list of the competition range from crowdsourced data-driven solutions like ‘Road Accident Sampling System – India (RASSI)’ and ‘RoadScan’ – detects road unevenness, to on-call services that ensures one reaches ‘Home Safe’, and not to forget those safety product solutions like ‘Smart Skull’ – a one-of-a-kind protective helmet for bikers. The finalists also include various road safety and education programs, including initiatives that have got traction from across the country. Check out the list of the 13 finalists, 6 of whom will soon receive INR 300,000 each to take their ideas forward. The success of this crowdsourced initiative may well be the beginning of many more to come.

If the above initiatives are anything to go by, there could be more hidden gems and ideas that waiting to get unraveled as more people get involved in initiatives. There seems no better way to get more people involved than continuing such community-driven and crowdsourced initiatives. Also with the scale of involvement that community participants and crowdsourcing bring to the table, challenges of engaging with the larger society, resource gathering or even funding of such ideas may soon be a thing of the past. Whether ideas come grounds-up or top-down, in true TUI style, let’s say ‘Kaam Chalu Mooh Bandh’ (Stop Talking, Start Doing) is what can get us to where we want to be in – India?

Vinay Dora

Vinay Dora

Vinay Dora has a background in digital business, open source, Internet of Things and crowdfunding. He has worked with startups as well as corporations like Yahoo! Inc. Vinay has lived in India, China, Europe and South-East Asia. In his spare time, he plays squash and indulges in standup comedy.