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One woman's mission to solve 100 problems in 1,000 days

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

An innovative company is looking for 100 problems… and the ideas, people and money that would solve them in a sustainable way. Time frame? 1,000 days. Sarah Carabott spoke to the company’s founder, Deborah Webster.

When Maria, a respected woman from the Samburu tribe in Kenya, was asked what she would wish for if she could be given just one thing, it was not money that she desired. It was access to water.

It was water that would keep the crops and cattle in the village alive. Selling the produce would then generate enough funds to build a school and educate the children of the village.

So Deborah Webster set about tracking down a Kenyan team with knowledge of the local challenges and then managed to link it to a US grassroots association which, with their resources, kicked off a water-well project for the village.

This was one of the successful projects that inspired Ms Webster to create Amani, a company that identifies and then implements ethical and sustainable projects by matching the ideas with investors.

Ms Webster, whose mother is Maltese – as she proudly points out – has now set her eyes on Malta.

Over the coming years she will be looking for 100 sustainable ideas that will benefit at least 5,000 people each, as well as the partners, which may include mentors, that can help bring these ideas to life.

Called ‘100 Ways in 1,000 Days’, the project will be launched at the beginning of 2017 to coincide with Malta’s EU presidency.

Ten different challenges will be set over a three-year period, each with a specific target market or geographic objective.

“We want to generate 100 different solutions to global and local challenges that fall within Malta’s key economic sectors, including financial services, healthcare and tourism,” Ms Webster explained.

Business… cannot be about one successful person that leads to the starvation of the other

The ideas could vary from educational games that fend off dementia to curbing the school dropout rate, from improving the energy efficiency of buildings to increasing the yield of small-farm holders.

Citizens are usually asked to chip in for such projects by donating money or simply filling in their tax forms. This project is instead asking for ideas.

“When students finish school, they have three choices: they can either continue their studies, become employed or start a business. Whatever path they choose, they need an entrepreneurial mindset.

“There is a gap, in Malta between the world of school and the world of work. Amani educates participants on real world problems, local and global, and we help them come up with ideas to solve them, not through charity, but through sustainable ways that will leave a financial and social impact.”

Since Malta has a very small market – which is ideal to test ideas – those coming up with these ideas need to think of scaling up the projects internationally.

Meanwhile, the partners that Amani is looking for need to be willing to share their wisdom and experience, apart from their financial resources, so that they can help guide the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in Malta.

“Business is not about a win-lose situation, but a win-win situation. It cannot be about one successful person that leads to the starvation of the other,” she said.

Why Malta?

• It is the last port leaving Europe and first port into Africa

• Strong track record as a trading hub from Phoenician times to the present day

• One of the least impacted economies during the latest financial crisis

• One of only 18 global economies where women are equal in the law’s eyes

• Ranks 12th in the World Giving Index (third in terms of financial giving)

• It is a member of good standing in the EU and the Commonwealth

Potential case study

• The challenger: The Malta Tourism Authority, representing travel and tourism stakeholders

• The problem: The tourism sector needs a mechanism to connect hotel operators and restaurateurs to casual and qualified staff in a timely and efficient manner

• The challenge: Create a plan and campaign to raise awareness and engage potential problem solvers; hold classes to engage innovators with stakeholders so they engineer the best solution, pitch the best ideas to the challenger

• Outcome: Funding a viable idea and an increased level of problem-solving capability among participants

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