• 12.12.11

McKinsey Announces Social Innovation Contest Winners

The Internet has spoken, and McKinsey has found the most powerful social innovators in the world. From rats doubling as doctors to ingenious ways to save newborn babies, see the projects that garnered the most votes.

McKinsey Announces Social Innovation Contest Winners

Last week, we wrote about McKinsey’s social innovation contest. Though the consultancy is full of business solutions, it needed some help to identify the best solutions to the world’s environmental, health, and energy problems (to name a few). So it offered a chance for users to submit their projects in exchange for a chance to get some publicity and a chance to meet with McKinsey. About 150 nonprofits, community groups, and entrepreneurs submitted entries. Then an expert panel narrowed the contenders to an 11-idea shortlist. Then the public got to vote. And, now the winners have been announced!


The winner is Embrace Global, a super-low-cost incubator for newborn infants. The product consists of a sleeping bag, a heater, and a pouch of a “phase-change material”–which is heated and then slipped into the bag to keep babies warm. The idea is to save some of the 4 million newborns who die in the first month of their lives.

In second place comes APOPO, a Tanzania-based social enterprise that trains rats to sniff out tuberculosis in mucus.

And, in third, is the ridiculously ingenious Soccket, a soccer ball that doubles as a mini-generator for homes without access to electricity. Inside the ball is a mechanism for capturing kinetic energy, which families access by plugging in an LED lamp, or other low-power appliance.

Finally, McKinsey also awarded a “fan’s favorite” prize to IRIS–an aid allowing visually impaired children to appreciate colors.

The 11 shortlisted innovators received about 5,000 votes in total. The winners get copious publicity on McKinsey’s website, write-ups on Huffington Post, and the chance to take part in a “networking reception” in New York City. Luckily, they’re already doing good things, without needing any help from the networking reception. Hopefully, this added publicity pushes them further into the spotlight.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.