Social innovation is also reflected in small and simple innovation projects and the sensible use of spaces and resources to cover the basic requirements of children and young people in economically restricted and disadvantaged regions. For the last 20 years I have been coordinating and directing various projects on behalf of a Bulgarian NGO called Open Mind, one of these smaller organizations that are more flexible and rapid in providing specific responses and solutions. Nowadays we also have startups with ideas that innovate the market and seek to make complicated processes easier, focusing on a variety of topics and uses.
Over the period 2007-2009, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to Mumbai as the Operations Director of India Assistance where I helped to set up our company from scratch. During my stay there, I developed relationships and collaborated with a local initiative “The Bicycle Project” where we made second-hand bicycles (discarded or broken) available to children from remote towns to help them get to school and to use in their general daily lives. Some of them used to walk three or four hours every day to get to school or go shopping. Through contacts with ex-pats and international removals companies, we came to an innovative agreement to “fill up” the empty spaces in some of the international removals containers with second-hand and discarded bikes from major European cities in which OPEN MIND had contacts and a network to organize their collection.
When my time in India came to an end, I wanted to find the best way of staying in contact and not losing the friendships I had developed there. I had noticed that in India there was an amazing interest in and passion for flamenco, the same as in Bulgaria (life is full of surprises!). Through having a personal network of contacts with professional flamenco performers in Spain, we decided that it was a good opportunity to set up a virtual flamenco school and thus “Be Flamenco” was born, our virtual outreach program of pure flamenco through a “master class” given by native teachers two or three times a year – both in Mumbai and Sofia. Thanks to technology we could, with this project, provide a response to a number of social problems and deal with some of needs of the project; giving the possibility to various young dance professionals in Spain to perform and earn some money and on the other hand provide direct distance learning for hundreds of young people in India and Bulgaria, bringing them closer to Spanish culture.We managed to keep the links between us alive thanks to music and dance . We also acted as coordinators and producers of a documentary on flamenco for Bulgarian TV – “Black & Red”.
I live in hope that one day I can develop a social project with Fundación MAPFRE - opening horizons towards Asia.
*About the author
Ivan Yankov, underwriter and 'innoagent' at MAPFRE RE London. Previously an underwriter for the APAC region in MAPFRE RE Madrid, Director of Operations for India Assistance in Mumbai, Coordinator of International Medical Assistance and Repatriations at MAPFRE Asistencia, Collaborator and event organizer for Viajes MAPFRE.