Co-Founder of Demand Solutions, Inter-American Development Bank
Thank you for joining us for this interview series, we’ve been talking to experts in aging, mobility, technology, policy to uncover the business and social opportunities that inclusive and accessible products, services and experiences deliver.
Q: Tell us your story and the great work you do at IDB, Demand Solutions and beyond.
Since 2013, I’ve been working in a project that showcases talent from around the world and Latin America. We created Demand Solutions, a movement that brings together some of the most creative minds around the world to listen, inspire, experience and share innovative solutions improving lives. Demand Solutions seeks to revolutionize the way development issues are handled in Latin America and the Caribbean. As an institution we believe we can contribute to co-create innovative solutions to our most pressing development challenges with different segments of our society.
We want people to understand that innovative ideas can come from different backgrounds, levels of education and ages, and not only from one specific sector or background.
Through Demand Solutions, we are uncovering those stories and connecting these individuals with different networks, so their solutions can inspire, teach and help create other solutions.
Q: Can you tell us more about the movement and how you make it happen?
Today’s technology brings people together and the IDB is leveraging these platforms to build an ecosystem that rewards creativity and promotes startups.
Given our unique position as a multilateral organization, we bridge Latina America and the Caribbean with the rest of the developed and developing world. Demand Solutions is our gateway to connect these different worlds.
In Latin America and the Caribbean there are great opportunities for accelerating innovation but in order to accomplish that, we need to create spaces to combine people with different backgrounds and know who are these visionaries that are creating new products and services. We need to invest in technology and work with governments to help them move their digital agendas. Basically, we need to be hands on and be part of the ecosystem. We need to make sure the private sector, the public sector, educators, creators, artist, startups can learn from each other and transfer knowledge. And that’s where Demand Solutions movement kicks in. We connect governments with entrepreneurs and innovators through events and, on a digital level, through our online communities and our knowledge products.
Q: When did inclusion and inclusive design become important to you?
Inclusion is something that must be embedded into the culture of any company or organization. If we want to bring diversity to a market, or a specific population –we need to put inclusion into practice somehow.
I don’t know exactly when all these topics were important to me, but I can tell you since I was leading the new media agenda for the IDB it was naturally embed in every product we developed.
It is important to recognize that having different backgrounds in one team doesn’t necessarily produce inclusive or innovative ideas. However, I believe we need to find new ways to promote practices to be more inclusive. For example, female representation in top management leads to an increase of firm value, yet, it’s still not the common denominator today. The question is why not to take this fact and put it into practice and invite more women to the table? I am very proud to belong to an organization that is always looking for new ways to be more inclusive.
When we talk about product design, we are also far away to be accessible to all. Making sure that all our users can consume our content is critical. Through the years we see a lot of improvements and many companies are aware that accessible design is a way to create a better experience not just for people with disability, but for everybody.
Q: Can you share an example of something you’re working on that’s delivered value beyond the people you serve? And what did you learn?
Something that always surprised me is the power of storytelling. While storytelling is not the only way to engage people with our ideas, it’s certainly a critical part of the recipe. There’s a well-known marketing axiom that people buy from people they know, like and trust. If we want to improve lives, we not only have to have the right messages but also the right people that can tell a good story.
A simple story can be the voice of so many people in need, but it can also be the amplifier of new solutions that are making a difference around the world.
Since we started Demand Solutions there is not a day that we don’t learn something new. We are the curators of the most creative minds around the globe that can bring solutions to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Q: How has this impacted IDB?
The IDB Group recognizes the power of innovation now more than ever, and since we started this project little by little the Bank has realized the importance of connecting people with ideas in order to transform economies. Changing the culture of an organization, I will say, has been the most challenging project we have ever done. But we see the changes today, and I can say that our leaders realize that innovative culture is not some mythical phenomenon floating around the IDB. This innovation culture is created daily by what, they themselves as leaders, push, recognize, celebrate and reward. There is still a lot more to do but we are in a great momentum to position Latin America as the hub of creativity.
Q: How do you find the people you showcase?
As Charles Landry said on Demand Solutions in Mendoza, “Creativity is a renewable resource” and Latin America has creative people and teams everywhere. To find them is just a matter of reading between the lines, doing research, talking to people, google it or crowdsource what you are looking for. Today, because the brand is so strong, people come to us easily, but we also map the ecosystem in cities and in sectors that takes us to the right places where innovating solutions are being created.
Q: What are the exciting innovations tied to inclusion that are coming out in your field?
In our latest publication Orange Economy: Innovations you may not know were from Latin America and the Caribbean we highlight 50 of the 300 innovative projects with the greatest social impact in the region, grouped according to 8 sectors of the CCI’s: Architecture, Handcrafts, Design, Media, Fashion, Music, Creative Services and Software / Digital Platforms, in 12 Countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic. In this publication you will find many examples that illustrate the potential of inclusion to improve live in our region.
Here are some of Analogous’ favorite innovations from the Orange Economy publication:
“There is no machine in the world that does the work of Aymara women who, with their ancestral techniques, are capable of making a device for treating infantile heart disease.” led by Dr. Franz Freudenthal, Bolivian child cardiologist.
Conceptos Plásticos, in Colombia, a business that transforms plastic and rubber into an alternative building system for temporary and permanent housing, providing then access to housing for a greater number of vulnerable communities.
Design and technology together to bring The BabyBe system, a device for incubators for newborns that connects mothers with their premature babies through simulated contact with their bodies. With the goal of reducing the time that babies spend in incubators, and health costs for their families.
Alejandra’s passion to inspire, educate, and innovate led her to co-found Demand Solutions, an innovation ecosystem for global innovators focused on fostering, inspiring and connecting innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Working with investors, executives, journalists, government officials, university students, inventors, and entrepreneurs, Demand Solutions is transforming the region into a creative and innovative global hub. As a leader and a strategist, she believes in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to solve problems in a broad range of fields such as health, transportation, Climate change, and citizen security. Her experience overseeing start-up competitions, social media initiatives, and projects related to the creative economy across the public, private, and non-profit sectors has provided her with the knowledge needed to pursue and establish partnerships with programs and universities throughout the region.
Learn more about Alejandra:
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