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People Fixing the World


tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.

tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.
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tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.




Nigeria's Secret STI Test Kits

More than three million people in Nigeria are living with HIV, but only about 10% of the population has ever taken an HIV test. Talking about sex is a taboo subject and sexual health clinics are not popular places to be seen. Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as Hepatitis B and Syphilis, are on the rise among young people. But a Nigerian entrepreneur called Florida Uzoaru thinks she has a millennial-friendly solution to sexual health. Her start-up is giving people the option to...


Can a $1 million Prize Help Keep Women Safe?

In India, an estimated 79% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public, but it’s hoped that a $1 million competition will reduce that figure. We visit Mumbai for the grand final of the Women's Safety XPRIZE, where five teams compete to win $1 million for designing a wearable gadget that will secretly alert others in the event of an attack. We follow the competitors through a series of challenges as they try to prove their device is the best - from buses winding their way through...


The Street Where Houses Come Half-Built

Two thirds of the world’s population are expected to live in cities by 2050 according to the UN. But where will all these extra people actually live? Budgets to build new social housing are limited, so one architect has been working on a radical solution. To cut costs, Alejandro Aravena suggests providing people with only half a house that they complete at a later date with their own money. Several estates have already been built this way around the world. Tom Garmeson travelled to one in...


Fighting Food Waste

Food waste is a global problem. According to the UN, one third of the food that we produce is being thrown away. Two London-based technology start-ups aim to change that. Smartphone app Olio encourages people to share food they no longer want with their neighbours. Meanwhile, Winnow has developed a smart bin which allows chefs to record how much food they’re throwing away, so they can make their kitchens more efficient. Presenter: Dougal Shaw Reporter: Ammar Ebrahim Photo Caption: Food waste...


Clean Clothes and Glasses for the Poorest in Society

How do you improve the lives of the very poorest people? Sometimes it’s just a question of doing the simple things. In Greece, where an economic downturn has left thousands of people homeless on the streets, three friends have found a way to provide them with a basic need – clean clothes. They bought a van and fitted it with washing machines, so they can do the washing wherever it’s needed. In Malawi, the problem-solvers have turned their minds to another basic need – vision. They are...


Turning Subsistence Farming into an Investment Opportunity

How do you pull subsistence farmers in Africa out of the cycle of poverty? All you have to do is help them produce more food than they need to survive. But to do that you need money and a new company in Nigeria has designed a smart way to provide it. Farmcrowdy connects farmers with online urban micro-investors. The investors finance the production of chickens, vegetables or grain and receive a guaranteed financial return – and the farmer makes enough to start to grow their business....


The Speed Detectors

A growing movement in the UK is devolving the power of catching speeding motorists from the police to the people. Police have been working with community volunteers, letting them use speed guns in a bid to protect their communities from fast traffic. But as more of these amateurs learn to wield the speed gun, it’s a solution that’s thrown up its own problems. Presenter: Harriet Noble Reporter: Dougal Shaw Photo Caption: A volunteer wields a laser speed gun Photo Credit: BBC


The People’s Peace Talks

When we think of peace talks we think of politicians from opposing camps meeting behind closed doors in wood-panelled rooms, hammering out the details of an agreement that both sides can accept. But that process hasn’t led to long term peace when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So is it a mistake to think that only governments can negotiate peace? The Minds of Peace initiative brings together ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate their own peace agreement. Producer...


The Schools Trying to Build Bridges

Could bilingual schools help bring peace to a seemingly intractable conflict? In Israel, the school you’ll go to is largely decided before you’re even born – by whether you come from a Jewish or Arab family. Communities learn separately and live separately and that, many argue, cements the hostility and misunderstanding of generations. So is the solution to bring them side-by-side? Hand in Hand is a network of integrated schools across Israel where Jewish and Arab students are taught...


Problem-Solving Prizes

People can’t resist a prize, especially when there’s money to go with a medal, and for hundreds of years that basic human urge has been used to push humanity forward. When you focus minds and money towards a simple target, incredible things can happen - from the clock that won the Longitude prize money in the 1700s to the spacecraft that won the XPRIZE in 2004. Are there any problems that a big enough prize cannot solve? Producer & Reporter: William Kremer Photo Caption: Pilot Mike Melvill...


The Town Trying to Cure Loneliness

Loneliness and isolation can trigger a host of other problems, particularly for our health. But a town in Somerset, in the United Kingdom, appears to have taken a big step towards alleviating the problem. A team in Frome has implemented a handful of simple ideas – getting people to talk about the problems they face and finding ways for them to re-engage with family, friends or social clubs – and they believe it is having a dramatic effect. The cost of emergency admissions in Frome has...


The Babies Teaching Kindness In Class [REPEAT]

**This episode is a repeat from 23 January 2018** Naomi is not your average teacher. For one thing, she is only six months old. But in many schools across Canada babies like Naomi are a regular feature at the front of class. It is because of an education programme called Roots of Empathy, which is designed to encourage kids to be kinder. The idea is that because a baby cannot explain and externalise how it is feeling, children learn to recognise and identify the baby’s emotions, and become...


Taking Out the Space Trash

Space is littered with junk – some pieces as small as a fleck of paint, and some as large as a London bus. So much of it is orbiting the Earth, in fact, that it poses a danger to future missions. But how can space be cleaned up? One way could be to catch the junk in a net, or to use a harpoon to grab it. A team in Surrey, in the UK, are launching a special spacecraft to find all of this out. Reporter: Nick Holland Presenter: Dougal Shaw Image: Stock illustration of space debris Credit:...


How to Help Homeless People in Hospital

Being homeless is extremely bad for your health. Homeless people end up in hospital far more often, and when they get there their condition is often serious. We visit a London hospital to see how one innovative healthcare charity is rethinking caring for the homeless – and how a hospital visit can be an opportunity to do far more than just patch a patient up and send them on their way. Presenter: Tallulah Berry Reporter: Tom Colls Producer: Ammar Ebrahim Image: Gary Spall (BBC)


The Bird Rescuers

One of every five bird species could be extinct within the next century. Whether it’s down to the shiny glass office blocks materialising all over cities or the trawlers sailing ever-further out to sea to feed our growing population, our birds are seriously under threat. This episode looks at two particular successes when it comes to helping the world’s feathered friends: how Toronto has become a world leader in making cities bird-friendly, and how a group of enterprising conservationists...


Recycling Chewing Gum Litter to Clean Our Streets

More than $20bn is spent on chewing gum around the world each year. A lot of that gum will end up stuck to the streets. That's why gum is the second most common kind of street litter after cigarette materials. In the UK councils spend around £50m each year cleaning up the mess. But British designer Anna Bullus had an idea - what if the sticky stuff could actually be recycled and turned into useful objects? Presenter: Harriet Noble Reporter: Dougal Shaw Photo caption: Shoe sole made of...


How to Talk to Potential Extremists

Social media and messaging apps play a role in the extremist “radicalisation” of individuals. Tech companies have tried to get better at identifying extremist content and taking it down, but some specialists advocate an alternative approach – to use these platforms to engage with extremists one-to-one, to confront them and talk them round. Last year, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London organised hundreds of conversations on Facebook messenger between activists and those...


Recycling Second Hand Drugs

An app in Greece is helping people donate their leftover drugs to people who can't afford to buy them. So far the system has recovered and redistributed 10,000 boxes of medicine. Donors use the software to scan a unique code on the side of their boxes of unwanted drugs. The app automatically uploads details of the medication to a central database. They're then taken in by the country's network of social pharmacies where they're then given out to unemployed and homeless people. Reporter:...


Improvising Your Way Out of Anxiety

You’re standing on a stage, blinded by a spotlight trained on your face, knees weak, hands sweaty. Someone from the audience calls out a random word and you have to immediately react and come up with an amusing sketch or skit. This is improv, the unscripted theatre form that seems like it would cause rather than cure anxiety. But across North America people with the mental health condition are signing up for special “Improv for Anxiety” courses where the techniques and practices of the...


The Hydroponics Revolution

Providing food for seven billion people is fraught with difficulty. Fertilising vast tracts of land and flying fresh vegetables across the globe comes at a huge environmental cost. But more and more people are turning to hydroponics - growing plants in water, without any soil. The idea itself is hundreds of years old, but new twists on the old technique are now shaping the future of food. We investigate some of the most innovative hydroponics projects, from the refugees growing barley for...