When it comes to developing the technical infrastructure of the 21st century, economists tend to look to upscale R&D labs, high-tech universities, and big-buck venture capitalists.
Business professor Anil Gupta has a radically different vision, one he calls G2G, or “grassroots to global.” Its central premise, as he put it at a TED talk in November 2009, is that “people may be economically poor, but they’re not poor in the mind.” If necessity is the mother of invention, Gupta believes the world’s poorest workers ought to be premier innovators. Turns out, that’s the case.
Gupta founded the Honey Bee Network two decades ago to facilitate the spread of groundbreaking practices and technologies among the world’s poorest people. Gupta and his field workers travel the villages and countryside of his native India and other nations gathering ideas that are openly shared on a central database.
The organization has gathered tens of thousands of brainstorms, including wind-powered irrigation systems, a pedal-powered washing machine, an amphibious bicycle, and attachments to turn a motorbike into a grain grinder, washing machine, or plow. Anyone is free to build a personal version; commercial producers must credit and compensate the inventor.
This open-source structure mimics the behavior of the honey bee that gives the organization its name, offering cross-pollination that benefits all parties in the pact. More than 75 countries are now involved in the project, and several organizations have joined in support of the mission, all proving that when globalization is harnessed in service of the people, it can be a tool for the good.
Visit the Honey Bee Network website to see a full list of the projects in its database, including shared ideas on crop management and herbal pesticides, and read a profile of Gupta at Worldwatch Institute.
Read more: 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World