4 Key Ways that Open Innovation Delivers Lasting Impact

By Henry Crabtree

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In November 2020, Wazoku launched a series of Challenges with Habitat for Humanity, facilitated by SeaFreight Labs. In Kenya, Mexico, India, and the Philippines, the Wazoku Crowd provided solutions to overcome different humanitarian and housing problems. Read more about their success in our Habitat for Humanity report!

When we partnered with Habitat for Humanity and SeaFreight Labs on a series of Challenges, we knew that our Wazoku Crowd of millions of change makers had the excitement to get involved, backed up by the expertise to provide critical solutions.

These Challenges continue to have lasting impacts for the communities that they’ve helped across the world. In this blog, we take a look at 4 key ways in which these open innovation Challenges have delivered lasting impact.

Continued Engagement:

Habitat for Humanity’s work across the world has been inspiring and engaging people for decades. Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter have been running an annual home building event, and on his 98th birthday, President Carter was helping out yet again, piecing together support beams.

For at least two of the innovations discovered through this project, the continued engagement of active field testing to further validate efficacy and cost-effectiveness is being utilized.

In the Mexico Water Challenge, solutions were submitted from 26 countries: with the winning Solver living on a different continent. His solution brought a first-hand contextual knowledge, using UV light and a carbon filter to identify and sift out impurities in rainwater that could then be used by urban, low-income families.

“I would love to suggest more solutions to Challenges in this area, whether run by Habitat for Humanity or someone else.”
// Jesus Chico Fernandez – Winning Solver for the Mexico Challenge

Risk Reduction:

Open innovation Challenges are used by organizations to achieve a specific goal that is outside their current reach. For Habitat for Humanity, these Challenges acted as a force multiplier to reach and extend existing targets from its four ‘Shelter Venture Labs’. One of these targets, risk reduction in housing, took precedence in the Kenya and Philippines Challenges.

In Kenya, 70% of the population is thought to be at risk of Malaria, and there are ~3.5m new cases each year. This Challenge aimed at finding affordable and sustainable home design solutions to reduce the number of mosquitoes and bites. Solutions were tested at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), with the winning design achieving an 89% reduction in mosquito numbers compared to control designs.


For the Challenge in the Philippines, the winning team suggested technology that enabled the retrofitting of foundations to houses built without them. The Challenge was implemented by the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS), Holcim Philippines, Hilti Foundation, and BASE Bahay Foundation, with the prototype fitted to partial homes constructed specifically for the field test.

Cultural Change:

Patrick Kelley, Global Vice President at TCIS, remarked that these projects took place after social norms mapping. The teams then focused on retrofitting homes, as opposed to new construction – providing greater cost efficiency and a higher chance of social acceptance.

For a lot of the solutions that not-for-profits and humanitarian organizations find with Wazoku, community acceptance and cultural change is as important as its level of innovation. In the Kenya Challenge, Habitat and SeaFreight Labs ensured that local support groups were part of evaluation, implementation, and the next steps.

“Fortunately, the solution we awarded was accepted by the community almost immediately.”
// Jerick Axalan – Market Systems and Entrepreneurship Specialist, Habitat for Humanity International

Alongside KEMRI, Women in Real Estate (WIRE), Arifu, The Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), and others were important stakeholders. A working solution only has value if it’s accepted and validated by the local community that will use them.


In using open innovation Challenges, it is important to establish solution requirements: one of these is often a cost threshold. This ensures any solutions are both effective and financially viable. In the India Challenge around circularity of construction waste, low-income families would reap the benefits of recycled building components.


“Together we’ve identified common sense, low-cost solutions to high-impact issues. My favorite part is that these solutions can be implemented beyond Habitat as well, potentially impacting thousands more families.”
// Harry Sangree – Founder, SeaFreight Labs

Innovation is often borne out of adversity, and cost constraints are a regular spark for change. For Habitat’s work in these countries, a primary need was to deliver these solutions to as many people as could benefit. In Kenya, each modified hut meant local families could reduce mosquito entry by 50x for less than $150 USD.

Across these four Habitat for Humanity Challenges, there has been a real and lasting benefit in culture, risk, engagement, and costs. Want to learn more about how open innovation with Wazoku can bring about real change? Read through our latest Customer Stories!

By Henry Crabtree

Wazoku's Community Marketing Manager, Henry is also a life-long Manchester United fan - but we still love him, regardless. When he's not cheering the Reds on, he's working his way through an extensive reading list. Need a book recommendation? He's your man!