"If it doesn't make a big difference, find something else to do"
Posted by Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 13 Dec 2015
Recently, I have been constantly tempted by a video advertisement on YouTube which started with a man presenting himself and his product, an energy drink. Every time I would skip that video just because I thought I would be invited to buy the next useless product which would make me a superman (superwoman). One day I just surrendered to the video and kept watching it when I heard the words "there are 7 billion of us in the world today and we are facing some huge problems". I said, OK, that sounds promising and I continued watching. The voice continued "awareness doesn't reduce pollution and grow food – that takes doing". And that line totally caught my attention.
The video ad turned out to be linked to a film telling the story of an entrepreneur of Indian origin, Manoj Bhargava, founder and CEO of the 5-hour energy drink, who commits his fortune to change the world by actually "doing stuff". He considers that "if you have wealth it's your duty to help those who don't". 99 % of his revenue is given to charity, thus taking corporate responsibility to a whole new level.
It all started with searching for an answer to the question "How to fix India?". His team found out that if they fixed a few "things", then they would fix half of the country. Those "things" were fundamental to the livelihood of society – water, electricity and health. So, the inventions had to be able to produce effect immediately and to be simple enough. That is how the free energy "bike", rain maker and "renew blood circulation" device were born, out of societal basic needs and ready to be applied back in the society. This is what the local community needs and easily has access to, as they are given for free. Manoj Bhargava and his team are following one simple rule when designing their inventions - "If it doesn't make a big difference, find something else to do". As Mr Bhargava further explains "it's not just about money, we don't do cool stuff, we do useful stuff".
The story above is a great example of science done with and for society. Involvement and engagement of the society is the core principle in the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) concept being spread throughout Europe by the RRI Hubs covering 30 European countries. Researchers, educators, businessmen and citizens are all joining their efforts in order to incorporate societal values in the innovations in order to respond to the grand societal challenges we are all facing.
We, as a society, need to collectively bear responsibility and invest our efforts in solutions designed to ensure the sustainability of our future. What can each of us do? Just answer the question "How can I fix my community?".
The information in this article is based on materials, video interviews and information published on the website of the movement Billions in change, interviews held with Mr Manoj Bhargava shared on the web, as well as the film released by Mr Bhargava's team.
Petya Gancheva works on the RRI Tools project at the Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bulgaria, the RRI Tools Hub coordinator for Bulgaria and Romania.