This year marked the fifth installment of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards, which have spent the last half decade honoring companies and nonprofits for their innovative projects that are transforming the world.
We’re always happy to see honorees use the awards to help them expand their missions, and this year, through a unique partnership, we went a step further, offering one World Changing Ideas project an opportunity to tap into the digital transformation expertise of global services firm Genpact to create even more impact.
Not Impossible Labs incubated Bento, a 2021 World Changing honoree in the food category. Originally called Hunger: Not Impossible, Bento is designed to fight hunger by connecting food-insecure people with donated restaurant meals. Bento was spun up during the pandemic as a way to address the twin problems of hunger and the cratering restaurant business. People in need had to just send a text that said “hungry” to Bento, which would then connect them to a restaurant nearby. Bento would order a meal at the restaurant using money from donations. The hungry person had to simply walk in and pick it up. By giving hungry people easily accessible options, and offering them in a stigma-free process (the orders appear like any other pickup order), Bento helped ease the process of getting food to the food insecure, especially at times when food banks weren’t open, were overwhelmed, or otherwise hard to reach.
Initially, Bento was jerry-rigged, using a Google Voice number and an individual person making restaurant orders using gift cards, because all the small bills were triggering credit card-fraud alerts. But as the pandemic wore on, the system grew more streamlined and Not Impossible Labs worked to create publicity around the effort to draw in more donations for meals, partnering with athletes like soccer stars Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and the NBA’s Klay Thompson.
Now, as the pandemic winds down, Not Impossible Labs has spun off Bento into its own company, which plans to work with governments and nonprofits to continue its method of fighting food insecurity. Working with Genpact, the company is planning to build a tool that aims to bring more real-time data to both donors and providers. “We’re eager to embrace a ‘world changing’ idea and apply our digital transformation expertise to a critical social issue like hunger,” said Stacy Simpson, Global Leader of Corporate Responsibility and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Genpact. “Genpact is committed to amplifying the impact of Not Impossible’s mission of eradicating hunger through digital technology that connects the full ecosystem, from donor to recipient.”
The vision for the tool is that it will help track the donations that come in (the donations are handled by Not Impossible’s nonprofit foundation) to make it clear exactly what impact each dollar had; a donor might be able to learn that her $20 donation provided a family of six in San Francisco with a holiday meal. It could also help provide data to show when food insecurity is peaking, to help donating organizations know when greater interventions are needed. “The ultimate goal is for Genpact and the Not Impossible Foundation’s work together to bridge the gap between donation and impact—providing intimate outcomes data from recipient to donor; fueling philanthropic engagement, retention, and commitment,” says Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible Labs. “The partnership will illustrate people’s capacity to care for each other and map these human connections to inspire more action.”
As the two companies work together, Fast Company will be reporting on their progress over the course of the year, examining how an organization can use data, analytics, and advanced technologies to expand its offerings, increase its ability to measure its impact, and grow the amount of change it can make.
Now in its fifth year, Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas program has recognized hundreds of organizations across dozens of industries and categories for ambitious projects that aim to tackle some of society’s most intractable problems. Winners in 2021 included a Microsoft project using AI to capture mosquitos to track disease, a 105-story skyscraper made of wood, milk grown in a lab, and the antibody treatment for COVID-19.