Issue 66, September 2015
bullet Social Innovation
bullet Innovation: DOMO - Rethinking & Re-Engineering Refugee Camps
bullet Settling the Digital Legacies of the Deceased: Columba Online Identity Management
bullet Interview with Entrepreneurial Finance Expert Prof. Dr. Dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner
bullet Blacklane: Germany's Fastest Growing Tech Start-Up
bullet The World's Largest Lost and Found:
Social Innovation 
To catalyze social change in today's complex and interdependent world, public sector innovators and civic-minded thought leaders are developing creative new solutions to combat challenging social problems.

A social innovation can be defined as a novel solution to a social issue that is more effective, efficient, or sustainable than solutions at-present. Microloans, urban farming, parental leave policies, co-working spaces, and public-private partnerships are just a few examples of social innovations that are changing life as we know it today.

The fast-paced growth of crowdfunding platforms, the increasing influence of millennials, and the growing number of NGOs and international organizations focusing their investments on innovation are key trends affecting social innovation efforts. Likewise, the proliferation of mobile is fueling a new category of innovations targeting community and individual empowerment whereas increased collaboration with data analysts is driving more effective social design solutions on the whole.

How societies can generate innovations to improve well-being during a time of complex global challenges and digital opportunities was a key question at the 2nd International German Forum earlier this year. The GCRI participated in the forum, established by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which brought together 120 experts from 30 different countries.

On Tuesday, October 6, experts from both sides of the Atlantic will convene at the German Center for Research and Innovation in New York for a panel discussion on "Transatlantic Perspectives on Social Innovation," co-hosted by the University Alliance Ruhr. The speakers will investigate what success factors lead to lasting social change, how cross-sector dynamics can be enhanced in order to create sustainable social value, and to what extent different social, economic, cultural, and historical contexts enable or inhibit social innovation. They will also introduce the EU-funded global research project "Social Innovation - Driving Force of Social Change" (SI-Drive). To RSVP by October 2, click here.   


Half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes due to a brutal and relentless civil war. But they're not the only ones. As a result of conflict, persecution, and poverty throughout various regions of the globe, there are now over 59.5 million refugees or displaced people worldwide - the largest number since World War II.

The average lifespan of a refugee camp is close to 20 years. Fifty percent of refugees today have lived in a camp for five or more years. As these sobering numbers indicate, refugee camps are increasingly not only serving as places of shelter, but also as temporary homes. Pre-existing solutions are not designed for such long-term use.

MORE THAN SHELTERS, a Hamburg-based social business providing innovative, healthy, and sustainable design for humanitarian purposes, is working to address this issue. With projects in Jordan, Greece, and Germany, the organization is responding to the present-day refugee crisis with a set of next-generation, human-centered shelter offerings and social design tools. The business has also been involved in Nepal to rebuild schools following the devastating earthquakes this past spring.

MORE THAN SHELTERS is working with people in need to transform the most miserable living conditions on our planet into more humane environments. Its main invention, DOMO, is a construction kit for building large igloo-shaped shelters for families in crisis regions. DOMO modules can be combined into multiple space configurations to accommodate various needs, such as families with large numbers of children or multigenerational households. Through the use of different tent siding materials or double walls, DOMO's stable, long-lasting components can be adapted for all climatic regions.

To increase awareness and solicit donations, the organization has launched the DOMO HOTEL on the rooftop terrace of a Hamburg hostel, enabling people to book a real or symbolic night in a DOMO tent. The organization is also involved in establishing partnerships with other commercial activities, such as "glamping," festivals, and events, to combine their product's purchase with support for the organization's humanitarian projects.

Last year, the company's CEO presented at the Solve for X conference, a Google initiative that aims to surface brilliant scientific innovations and technological breakthroughs with the potential to solve global humanitarian issues. To watch the video, click here.

For more information, contact: or +49 40 18 149 238.

Image: MORE THAN SHELTERS / Thomas Peters

What happens to your online presence when you die? Who is affected? And can relatives really settle a family member's digital legacy all by themselves?

Following a death in the family, relatives are often suddenly responsible for the digital accounts and payment services of the deceased. From social media profiles and email to online banking, shopping, and subscription accounts, the digital footprints left behind can be extensive.

As Internet use continues to rise, erasing a person's online traces is becoming an ever more difficult and time-consuming process. Relatives are often unable to access user accounts as they are unaware of the passwords. Or they may not even know where to begin, as they have no complete knowledge of which accounts belonged to the deceased.

An unsettled digital legacy brings financial risks to the living, such as losing money to automated bill payments for online subscriptions that renew automatically. Valuable memories, such as photos on social networks, may also be lost.

The medium-sized German company, Columba, is the first IT business in the world to act as a specialist provider for the automated and standardized settlement of the digital legacies of deceased persons. Columba serves as an IT bridge between the professional funeral business, customer-friendly companies, and the concerned relatives of the bereaved.

The service identifies and settles contractual relationships of those who have passed away, which includes researching user accounts with Germany's leading online providers, deregistering from and deleting Internet profiles, and transferring and cancelling contracts. No passwords or access data is required. Columba's services also benefit businesses by helping them clean up their customer databases so that money is not wasted on advertising efforts towards people who are no longer alive.

Columba is currently working with over 30 percent of morticians in Germany and has already sold more than 3,500 of its online protection packages in the past two years. The company was laureate of the 2015 "Landmarks in the Land of Ideas" competition.

To learn how Columba works, click here for a video. For German press coverage on the company, watch a German RTL news report or read articles in Die Zeit and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Source & Image: Columba Online Identity Management


Prof. Dr. Dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner conducts research in the area of entrepreneurial finance with a focus on the financing of innovation, venture capital, private equity, and family businesses. She also focuses on social entrepreneurship - particularly financing for social enterprises. Since 2001, she has held the Chair of Entrepreneurial Finance at the Technische Universität München (TUM).

In her interview with GCRI, Prof. Dr. Dr. Achleitner discusses her definition of social innovation as well the main challenges facing social innovation efforts and some of the latest trends in social entrepreneurship. She elaborates on how universities can cultivate the next generation of social innovators. She also addresses to what extent different social, economic, cultural, and historical contexts enable or inhibit social innovation. To read the full interview, click here.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Achleitner completed her undergraduate and doctoral studies in both economics and law as well as her Habilitation at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. She has worked in industry and academia, including time as a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Frankfurt and as a professor of banking and finance at the European Business School (EBS) in Oestrich-Winkel. Since 2003, she has also served as Scientific Co-Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial and Financial Studies (CEFS) at TUM.

A recipient of numerous accolades for her accomplishments in scientific research and university teaching, Prof. Dr. Dr. Achleitner was recently awarded the prestigious Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2014 (Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse der Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland). Back in 2006, she was awarded "Professor of the Year" by Germany's student magazine UNICUM BERUF. In addition to serving as a member of acatech - the German National Academy of Science and Engineering, Prof. Dr. Dr. Achleitner also sits on the supervisory boards of Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft AG, Linde AG, and METRO AG as well as on the board of directors of ENGIE SA.

Source & Image: TUM    

Source: Jens Wohltorf, CEO and Co-Founder, Blacklane

Innovative business models and start-up companies are changing the way people cross a continent, country, or town. Travelers today have an unprecedented array of options for moving between point A and point B, and they are rapidly taking advantage of them.

This disruption is facing well-documented resistance from entrenched businesses as well as from local and national regulators. Taxis, for example, have barely evolved their business models over the last half-century. Similarly, many of the world's premier cities rely on transportation laws written decades ago.

New technologies and customer preferences, however, demand regulatory changes and public acceptance of innovation. The benefits to society - more efficient cities, fewer cars and parking spaces on the road, better use of resources, and fewer natural resources consumed - are simply too great. Moreover, allowing new transportation providers and business models gives more opportunities for the entire transportation ecosystem to grow.

For instance, in a market with many transportation options, a couple could choose a car-sharing vehicle to go to dinner. Afterwards, if they've had a couple of glasses of wine, they may opt for a taxi or ride-hailing provider to take them home. Similarly, business travelers may choose a professional driver to greet them at the airport and be taken to their hotel in comfort, but use a taxi or method of public transportation to get to a trade show.

Simply put: the more options available, the more modes of transit travelers will use based on their distinct needs for each ride. However, perhaps even more importantly: People will embrace opportunistic travel more often.

The Berlin-based company, Blacklane, is helping expand the mobility ecosystem by building the first global professional driver service that aggregates the spare capacities of local partners. It brings unparalleled convenience, reliability, and affordability to professional ground transportation across hundreds of cities in 50 countries around the world.

Blacklane is the fastest-growing tech start-up in Germany and was just named one of Europe's hottest start-ups in this month's issue of WIRED magazine.

Blacklane's vision is to provide a professional driver to every traveler anywhere in the world, making affordable professional rides an integral part of the global travel experience.
Image: Blacklane GmbH

Source: Have it Back

The best ideas often come out of painful experiences. When Markus Schaarschmidt lost his backpack last summer containing his wallet, keys, and USB stick with important information, an odyssey ensued as he raced unsuccessfully between train stations and restaurants, markets and finally the police, in hopes of tracking down his bag. Frustrated with the process, Schaarschmidt decided to go about building a better, more centralized platform that would make it easier for people to locate lost or stolen goods.

Roughly one billion items are lost or found each year in the U.S. and Germany alone. Not only are everyday people affected, but so are businesses such as hotels, airlines, and those with direct customer interaction, which face the challenge of dealing with lost and found items on a daily basis. For them, processing each inquiry is a hassle that takes valuable time away from their main business responsibilities.

Since its launch in 2014, Have it Back - the first meta-search engine for lost and found - has become the most extensive database of its kind worldwide. The platform now displays over two million entries on its world map. Now, instead of wasting countless hours contacting each and every location of a possible loss, users can simply check and advertise a financial reward for the return of their item.

For companies, Have it Back offers the software and app "Lost & Found Manager," which uses the newly developed "Handling Gateway" to outsource the lost and found process to Have it Back. This enterprise solution enables effective owner authentication, provides logistics for delivery, and much more.

Have it Back services are free of charge. The website also provides a database for serial numbers, which once submitted, enables buyers of used goods to visit and check if a used item has been marked as lost or stolen.

Have it Back is a German-American project founded by Markus Schaarschmidt and Antonio Vega. To watch how Have it Back works, click here for a video.