AltInst: 1998 social invention award winning schemes summarised

From: Nicholas Albery <>
Date: Tue Sep 08 1998 - 16:38:34 PDT


This may interest Alt Inst readers since many of the schemes which won
awards are helping to tackle particular social problems in interesting

The Institute for Social Inventions in London, UK, makes annual Awards,
with a total of UK 1,000 pounds in prize money (deadline June 1st each
year) to the most imaginative and feasible socially innovatory ideas and
projects from around the world that have been reported by its
correspondents and supporters.

This year's 20 winners (which were announced September '98) are detailed in
the Global Ideas Bank ( and summarised below.

*Gaviotas, oasis of the imagination*

The Institute for Social Inventions' main Social Innovations Award for 1998
goes to Alan Weisman for his book Gaviotas! A Village to Reinvent the World
(published by Chelsea Green Publishing Co, Vermont, USA). The book
describes the work of Paoli Lugari, a Columbian environmentalist, who with
his colleagues has created Gaviotas, a self-sufficient community in the
poor savanna grassland of Los Llanos, the vast eastern plains in Columbia.

Paoli Lugari believes that because population pressures are
ever-intensifying around the world, people will eventually need to learn to
live in even the harshest of the planet's ecosystems.

In Gaviotas they have developed models for developing countries, with
prototype windmills, solar motors, hydroponic nurseries, a medicinal plant
laboratory, a hospital with a methane-powered kitchen and a children's
playground where the action of the see-saw pumps up water.

They have also helped the forests and wildlife to return by planting a
million pines, with sales of sap from the trees supporting the community.

The UK 1,000 pounds that goes with this award will be used to provide
copies of the book free for those in the developing world and elsewhere who
might otherwise not be exposed to this example.

*Huddersfield's Creative Town Initiative*

The Urban Development Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Huddersfield's
Creative Town Initiative, an 8m pound project, financed in part by the
European Community's Urban Pilot Project fund, to increase the city's
creativity. The council in Huddersfield is developing a 'Creative Quarter'
in the city, using redundant commercial premises.

Amongst the projects planned are a National Centre for Sonic Arts, the
Kirklees Media Centre and Telehomes for 'teleworkers' (a wide range of
artists and entrepreneurs with innovative businesses). There will also be a
drama-based Creative Skills Development Programme, a Creativity Forum for
local businesses, an Advisory Service to Inventors and a Creativity Shop
for innovative local products and services.

*Slum-free India within ten years*

The International Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to the slum networking
approach, developed by Himanshu Parikh and colleagues, which could produce
a slum-free India within ten years. Confidence is built up by having local
residents, one per twenty families, as volunteer co-ordinators, with a
community hall as the first project. Low interest loans enable each
household to have its own private toilet and water supply. Families are
paid for two years' care for a tree planted outside their house.

*Publishing for Indian villages*

The Rural Development Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Books for a
Change in Hyderabad which will publish simple booklets and posters for the
villages of India, on topics such as community development, health and
people's rights, whilst a linked project will set up village libraries and
a rural bookselling programme.

*15 community assemblies per London borough*

The Political Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to the London Community
Alliance which seeks the creation of about 15 community assemblies for each
London borough, within the policy framework being established for London's
new mayor and Greater London Authority. These urban parish councils would
have the right to raise local funds, to organise activities for children,
the old and the disabled and to deal with planning applications, street
cleaning, refuse collection and local traffic management. As the London
Community Alliance points out, people identify with the villages of London
- Pimlico, Soho, Covent Garden, etc - not with the boroughs. These villages
need their own powers.

*Grants from young people to young people*

The Community Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Changemakers Grant
Fund, which enables young people in neighbourhoods throughout the UK to act
as grantmakers, giving young applicants up to 250 pounds each to support
their community projects. What the young people give money for is up to
them and can range from a play on landmines to the renovation of a piece of
waste land as a BMX track.

*Project Gutenberg*

The Communications Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Michael Hart who
since 1971 has been working on Project Gutenberg, financed in part by a
Benedictine monastery, whereby he and a team of volunteers have created a
substantial electronic library of books.They aim to have 10,000 books
available free online by the year 2001. Present titles range from Alice in
Wonderland to Roget's Thesaurus.

*The Attitude Factor - living riskily can extend one's life*

The Health Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Thomas Blakeslee for his
Attitude Factor book and website. He is attempting to replicate the
research by Dr Ronald Grossarth-Maticek, who found that out of 3,055
elderly residents of Heidelberg, Germany, those who scored highest on tests
of well-being and pleasure were 30 times more likely to be alive 21 years
later, irrespective of their drinking and smoking habits.

Blakeslee is also providing people with a set of 'Attitude Jogging'
exercises to improve their sense of well-being and their ability to accept
challenges and risks - for instance, he proposes:

 "Next time a friend invites you to do something challenging, say yes and
then push through any temptations to find excuses to cancel."

*Knee bends to soothe a crying baby*

The Childcare Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Martin Rayman, a
physicist living in Cheltenham, whose technique for calming a crying baby
involves supporting the baby's head against his chest and bending at the
knees, reaching the lowest part of the bend at the moment that the baby
starts to breathe in. A baby is often soothed within four or five bobs up
and down, and the technique does wonders for a parent's calf muscles.

"It's the same way that the damper in a car spring subdues the rocking of a
car," says Rayman. "I have demonstrated the technique to total strangers in
restaurants, who, apart from the initial irritation of having someone
strange suggest something to them about their child, have been extremely

*Books printable for single web orders*

The Marketing Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to Xerox's Book in Time
service which, within two days, can produce a 200-page paperback with a
colour cover for about 3 pounds, even in a run of one copy. The order can
be transmitted for printing to a location near the customer, and a book's
summary can be made available on the web, so that a reader or bookshop can
order a printed copy online - enabling publishers to keep infrequently
ordered books in print.

*Women logging their dates online in case of mishap*

The Crime Social Innovations Award 1998 goes to, the
anti-rape Smart Date electronic diary on the web. This allows women to
document their dating and travel plans, confidentially, with the details
revealed to the police only if they do not return home safely. "Telling
your man you've registered with Smart Date", says founder Jerry Noble, a
father of three daughters, "is the socially acceptable way of saying you're
not taking any chances with anyone, no matter how charming they appear to

*Friends elect the bride from
25 candidates*

On June 13th '98, a panel of 45 friends and relatives elected 28-year-old
Elizabeth Runce as the bride for 28-year-old David Weinlick of the
University of Minnesota. There were 25 women there who had responded to
worldwide media coverage to stand as candidates in the election. Also
present in the hall were 3,000 spectators, including media from six

Steve Fletcher, the best man, was the one who dreamt up this scheme and who
thus wins the Relationships Social Innovations Award 1998. He has justified
Weinlick's marriage to a woman he did not know by pointing out that "Dave's
ex-girlfriends are evidence that he - like most people - is ill-equipped to
make reasonable decisions about romantic relationships. Who knows you
better than your friends?"

The following schemes were highly commended by the judges:

*Computerised phone therapy for obsessions*

BT STEPS is a computer-aided behaviour therapy, delivered over the phone
for those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Developed by
Professor Marks and colleagues at London's Maudsley Clinic, BT STEPS is
available 24 hours a day to patients - who answer the computer program's
questions using their telephone key-pad. Self-treatment takes about 12
weeks and research shows it to be effective.

*Work-Spreading Tax and
Work-Related Benefit*

The Work-Spreading Tax designed by Dr David Chapman exploits a feature of
progressive income tax by making employers responsible for paying their
workers' income tax and national insurance contributions. The end result of
the scheme is that an employer receives the value of each new worker's
allowances - a subsidy of about 35 pounds per week - thus reducing
unemployment by encouraging the spreading of work between more staff.

The Work-Related Benefit gives lowest earning workers a benefit per hour of
work done, with no withdrawals, the person keeping the whole of any extra
earnings. The scheme avoids creating an unemployment trap or poverty trap.

*Territorial Proportional Representation*

Of all forms of Proportional Representation (PR), this new electoral
system, Territorial Proportional Representation, designed by Dr David
Chapman, gives the best MP-constituency link. Candidates stand in a
'territory' (a cluster of several adjacent constituencies chosen by their
party) rather than in one constituency as at present.

*The biological basis of sacred sex*

Catherine Yronwode in the States has put a paper on the web entitled 'The
biological basis of sacred sex' which provides an insight into the
underlying processes in tantric and karezza sex.

She posits a learnable separation of the brain's 'entrainment centre' that
can enable the experience of orgasm and ejaculation to occur independently
of each other.

*Rewarding years of service with more free time*

Tom Walker of Vancouver in Canada proposes that it become the norm for
firms to reward seniority with more free time rather than with more wages.
For an employee facing a marginal tax rate of, say, 33 per cent, one extra
day off would be worth one and a half days' income.

*How to share out property fairly among relatives*

Richard Ross-Langley of St Albans, UK, proposes that arguments over sharing
out property from a Will could be avoided by his procedure whereby
executors auction the property amongst those eligible, with the highest
bidders' payments going into a pool to be shared out at the end.

*Mutual aid & the millennium bug*

The millennium computer bug may cause catastrophic social breakdown for the
year 2000, with banks, transport, emergency services, welfare and payroll
payments, food distribution, electricity, sewerage systems, water supplies,
the military, traffic lights, lifts, etc, all liable to be adversely
affected. A Social Innovations Award for 1998 goes to the Cassandra Project
and to futurist Robert Theobald in the States for their efforts to develop
community awareness and community preparedness and mutual aid.

The Institute for Social Inventions pledges to contribute to this
initiative from its base in the UK, and has organised a London brainstorm
on this topic and an online brainstorming group, constantly accessible via
the Global Ideas Bank at (latest news section).

These various Awards were be presented in September '98 at the Institute
for Social Inventions, 20 Heber Road, London NW2 6AA, UK (booking
essential: tel 0181 208 2853; fax 0181 452 6434; e-mail:

With best wishes, Nicholas Albery <>)
The Institute for Social Inventions   |  Tel +44 [0]181 208 2853
*also* The Natural Death Centre       |  Fax +44 [0]181 452 6434
20 Heber Road, London NW2 6AA, UK
ISI/Global Ideas Bank is at
NDC/Funerals info:
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Received on Tue Sep 8 23:53:42 1998

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