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Modern superheroes do not wear tight pants and flamboyant mantles, they do not bend steel or read minds; they tackle poverty, fight for equal health access, and keep people healthy by crowdfunding for safe drinking water. These passionate change-makers consider social responsibility as part of their mission, and come to the rescue of those in need.

Trendy innovation

Innovation in general has become one of the main drivers of economic growth, particularly for developing countries, where entrepreneurship ecosystems are still growing.
Every day thousands of great ideas are born out of social needs in the minds of these ordinary heroes. Some of those “what if” ideas grow into novel mega-ideas and bring global social change.
Social innovation, a trendy word recently stumbled upon by millennials, brings novel solutions to issues, or improves the existing solutions by finding more people-centered, effective, and sustainable approaches. Social innovation addresses social needs of all kinds ranging from community development to health. The key point of social innovation is to enhance individual entrepreneurial capacity for actions that benefit society through dialogue between citizens and state. This is aimed at increasing the quality of government services in correspondence with the core needs of citizens and for social development. This in turn, is aimed at breaking down the apathy towards a one-sided road of policy-making process. Thus, the formula of entrepreneurial ventures for modern-day social entrepreneurs and innovators goes beyond the traditional profit orthodoxy.

What about Armenia?
Armenia, a South Caucasus country with GDP of $ 10.561 billion, has been continuously supporting policies that sustain innovation. On the one hand, these are proactive government policies, such as OGP/Armenia Action Plan commitments that not only tend to make the government more transparent and accountable to the citizens, but also allow direct citizen engagement in public policy via crowdsourcing and voicing the most pressing issues in social life. Reforms and initiatives including e-governance and e-taxation as well as the tax exemption bill for newly established tech startups in Armenia all add value to the development of innovative infrastructure.
On the other hand, Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, as well as other big cities, such as Gyumri and Vanadzor, are currently undergoing transformations with tendency to turn Armenia into a modern regional high-tech hub. Additionally, R&D centers, startup incubators and accelerators, co-working spaces, and techno-parks, along with more business-oriented VC firms and seed funds encourage collaboration and foster an innovative startup ecosystem.
A vibrant innovation system is constantly evolving: several success stories on the international scene contribute to a remarkable increase of enthusiasm and passion to address different kinds of challenges through new models.

#Inno4health: Finding Armenia’s healthcare heroes

UNDP Armenia’s Kolba Lab is a local venture incubator that carries out idea incubation from citizens, public awareness activities, and public sector engagement.
In January 2016, Kolba Lab asked people to select the most interesting topic for the upcoming social innovation camp. Crowdsourcing results revealed healthcare and education to be the most interesting and important sectors in need for innovation according to voters. Not surprisingly these sectors scored 7% and 6% respectively in full trust from society according to the Caucasus Barometer.
As a result health was selected as the main theme for the Social Innovation Camp 2016. Since an e-health system will be implemented in Armenia in two years’ time, the main goal of the Innovation for Health (#inno4health) project was to gather people from different walks of life to develop bottom-up tech solutions for local health issues.
By the end of the camp, five ideas were brought about by innovative superheroes to provide affordable health care services with emphasis on inclusive participation of hospitals, physicians, and policymakers. Three winning ideas will have the chance to enter Kolba Lab’s incubation cycle and receive seed funding from the European Union.
#Inno4health popularises the practice of blending social impact and for-profit business agendas and encourages entrepreneurship. However, it is the people who have ideas that matter. Entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell mentions that “everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.” People who make that social difference are the heroes of our time.