10 Interesting and Inclusive (COVID19 Triggered) Citizen Moves

Compiled by Courtney Savie Lawrence, Prateeksha Singh UNDP Regional Innovation Centre Asia Pacific

Who is accountable for responding to COVID19? Recently, we shared ‘11 Bold (COVID19 Triggered) Policy Moves’ that caught our attention- where governments, from across the structural spectrum, from federal to municipal, were experimenting or being more ambitious in their approach to the pandemic. At the same time we have been curious about the localized, context specific ways, in which ordinary citizens and civil society have been filling the void where government is not taking the lead.

What are we observing? This “Plan C movement”- driven by citizens and open collaboration- is beyond nascent. In fact it may have always been there, yet now COVID19 has catalyzed a collective imagination to respond to the gaps, not always bridged by government or large scale enterprises.

In this post we focus on interesting examples of inclusive innovation, the crowdsourced, and creative ways in which citizens are moving in Asia — from an individual to larger scale coordinated efforts. Take a look and let us know what else should be on the list- we suspect there are multitudes more, in different languages, across various cultures.

Supply Chains Economics-

New markets dynamics unlocked with creative cuisine

1- Vietnam’s “pink food movement”- as a result of COVID19 disrupted farming supply chains linked to China’s closed borders, Vietnamese farmers suddenly needed new markets, as the previous ones had collapsed. A local bakery used dragon fruits to make a new type of baguette (the famous Vietnamese “banh mi”) and opened the recipe for any local businesses to follow. This created a new trend of making “pink food” in the country, from KFC dragon fruit buns, to dragon fruit pizza dough, all while helping support local farmers.

Demand Driven Network Efficiency Helps Farmers

2 — India and Lao’s food market ecosystems are recalibrating in real time- In India, food entrepreneurs have responded to the crisis by developing demand aggregation tech solutions that notify sellers when there is a logistically feasible amount (e.g. a suitable truckload) to move to markets from farms. This is also addressing the crisis of farmers burning their ready to harvest produce because they do not have access to the buyers. In Laos, an analogous challenge facing farmers has been met by the Lao Farmer Network coordinating through social media.

Peer-to-Peer Safety Net Platforms-

High Tech Voluntarily Redistribution

3- Indonesia’s peer-to-peer wealth (re)distribution- BagiRata, is a digital financial platform launched and run by 100% local volunteers to help workers economically affected by COVID19. Those without income can apply to be part of the platform by sharing how much they need, for how long and then the team verifies.

Low Tech Pay-it-Forward Meals

4- Thailand’s (non-digital) initiative- What happens when the most vulnerable are unable to access government relief provisions? A small group of citizens created a ‘pay it forward’- coupon system- food campaign where customers of local food stalls can buy a meal in advance for others in need. This has since spread from Bangkok to several provinces across the country.

Food Dispensary Systems Go Viral

5- Vietnam’s ‘Rice ATMS’ ensure that everyone has access to food- what started as one idea by an entrepreneur in Ho Chi Minh City has since spread across the country and served thousands in a matter of weeks. The system redistributes donated rice to those that are without work and is referred to as an ‘ATM’ because of the ‘withdraw’ concept.

Grassroots Innovations for PPE and Safer Transport-

Social Distancing Prototypes Take Off

6- The Philippines and India’s drivers customize for the COVID context- in the Philippines, Jeepneys are a key source of affordable transportation. Recently drivers have been adding plastic partitioning and nylon ropes to create more barriers for social distancing. In India, rickshaws are also being retrofitted with compartments to support more distance between customers.

Personal Protective Gear for People With Disabilities

7- Indonesia’s citizens design for inclusion- for the deaf or hard of hearing communicating with a conventional mask complicates and stifles interactions; responding to this dynamic, one woman has started to create masks designed with transparent materials so that verbal expressions are visible. We noticed this also catching on in other parts of the world as well.

Maker, Fab, Crowd and Open Source Bridging Gaps-

3D Domestic Manufacturing and Redistribution

8- Bhutan and Nepals’ FabLab makerspace teams backfill healthcare systems- these citizen driven initiatives are not only just identifying and 3D-modelling key components of medical equipment, but also ‘mapping the supply chain of the medical sector, building a catalog of spare parts and, despite being landlocked, ‘on-shoring’ production of mission critical medical equipment spares.’

Community Funded and Open Sourced Safety Equipment

9- Thailand- rural health workers crowdfund and create open source designs- outside of major metropolitan areas, health care systems struggle to procure safe and affordable equipment to protect frontline workers at scale. A small group of doctors have been able to raise funds to build stations that allows high-risk COVID19 patients to be tested safely- inspired by open sources designs online.

Holding Government Spending Accountable-

Publicly Tracing COVID19 Government Expenditures

10- Philippine’s COVID19 related spending is being examined publicly — a university policy researcher, who had previously worked for the Ministry of Finance, wanted to make it easier for everyday people to understand how the government was using money on the pandemic crisis and response efforts. The intent was to also identify what areas (of funding) the government might be neglecting, and which people they might be forgetting. He created a citizen budget tracker to trace where COVID19 funds go and made it public for all.

Lastly, a few other things that caught our attention -

Our UNDP Accelerator Lab network is noting many examples of localized, community based examples of PPE: from Malaysia’s concrete examples of grassroots innovations, to Cambodia’s local innovation scene creating bamboo based faceshield (among others), to the Philippines highlighting communities reorienting services to ensure access to health services.

This list was compiled as a collaborative effort, and with thanks to Giulio Quaggiotto. Let us know your thoughts on what new responses you are seeing — you can engage the Regional Innovation Centre, Prateeksha, Courtney and Giulio.

Want to stay tuned on the latest? Take a look at our just launched “Innovation Dividend” Podcast Series, our Inclusive Innovation ‘Stories from the Field’ and stay tuned for the #NextGenGov Online Summit coming soon.



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Regional Innovation Centre UNDP Asia-Pacific

Doing development differently through designing, developing, curating, collating and championing innovation and digital across the Asia Pacific Region.