The Clinton Global Initiative Spotlights Cities As Labs Of Innovation

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Lucy Mara has been in and out of prisons for the last 12 years. But today she is empowered to take care of her life by being a part of Gastromotiva, a Brazilian organization that's using food as currency for community change by taking into account how great of an impact gastronomy has on society. In Brazil, the food and beverage sector moves 9.3% of Brazil’s GDP, and its one of the largest employers in the country.

Lucy's story was presented during this year’s annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting where the private and the public sector came together to discuss solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges.

During the Cities as Labs of Innovation panel, several activists and nonprofit leaders described how they are leveraging cities and urbanization processes as tools to provide better economic opportunities for their residents. Gastromotiva runs a vocational program for low-income youth through peer-to-peer education, reaching thousands of people at the local level. After acquiring culinary skills, students then go to their communities and replicate what they learned, while empowering youth to become active citizens.

The discussion also brought light to the rapid rate of urbanization in Africa. By 2030 over 50% of Africans will live in cities, and residents there will need to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape. To help low-income youth in East Nigeria, the Dr. Aloy and Gesare Chife Foundation, which focuses on improving the studying, teaching, and application of technology in Africa, has committed to action through the Anam – New City Project, which will provide a future agricultural production hub. 

The project represents a dynamic model for sustainable development that balances ecology with economic growth, and leverages technology within the African culture of collective progress in partnership with the greater Anam community. During the panel, Gesare Chife urged CGI attendees to build meaningful collaborative partnerships to create change. 

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel," Chife said. "If your idea works for others, bring it to us." 

Addressing the global water crisis, Water.org  reminded the audience that there are more people in the world who have access to a cell phone than to a clean glass of water. The organization's founders believe that poverty cannot be alleviated without tending to the 2.6 billion people who lack access to safe water and sanitation. 

Today, a child under five years of age will die every 21 seconds because of a preventable water-related disease. However, innovations such as microfinance for water and sanitation solutions are improving and dignifying the lives of millions of people. 

From the food industry in Brazil to technology integration in Africa to water safety for all, cities are indeed evolving into labs for innovation. 

What collaborations in technology solutions are you seeing coming out of cities in the name of social impact? 

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