The World Economic Forum (WEF) teamed up with corporate heavyweights Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn to launch a digital platform to connect next-generation changemakers and social entrepreneurs with the resources they need to deliver on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rolled out at Davos in January, UpLink already is amplifying practical connections through a sprint focused on SDG 14, protecting marine ecosystems and reducing ocean pollution.
13th Most Influential Project of 2020
Looking to give more visibility to LGBTQ people and other underrepresented communities, Pexels updated the search algorithm on its stock photo and video platform. It began boosting images of same-sex relationships on search-bar entries such as “couple” or “wedding,” for example. The project, which Pexels hopes will help offset societal biases, was released during Pride Month 2020.
With the promise of end-to-end encryption across messaging apps, Signal was seeing record downloads as the number of protests surged around the world. To better help on-the-street organizers communicate safely and privately, the company released a new tool for shared photos that automatically detects and blurs faces and allows users to manually conceal other features they wish to hide.
In response to the anti-racism and Black Lives Matter movements refueled by the death of George Floyd in May, the mayor of Washington, D.C., USA authorized local artists and public works crews to paint “Black Lives Matter” across two city blocks of asphalt. The yellow letters were so massive they could be seen from space. The artwork proved contentious—and influential, parking similar murals on the streets of other U.S. cities.
Lego Group and its philanthropic arm developed a new take on the company’s iconic toy bricks—this one aimed at helping kids learn Braille. The bricks retain their signature shape, but the typical knobs atop them are repurposed as Braille alphabet dots. A 2019 pilot tested the Braille Bricks in multiple languages, and the Danish toy company expects to distribute the bricks to partner schools and educators next year.
To help parse fact from fiction about the pandemic, Italian political fact-checking organization Pagella Politica developed Facta, a new site focused on viral hoaxes and coronavirus misinformation. In April, the organization also received a Coronavirus Fact-Checking Grant to invest in a chatbot to field coronavirus queries. “We have to make sure we become a gateway for true information,” Silvia Cavasola, project manager at Pagella Politica, told PMI’s Projectified®.
U.S. consumer products giant Kellogg partnered with nonprofit Autism Speaks last year to create sensory Love Notes on wrappers of Rice Krispies Treats. Designed specifically for autistic children—who respond positively to tactile experiences—the heart-shaped stickers feature different textures, like fleece, faux fur, satin and velour. The project is an extension of the brand’s earlier efforts to be more inclusive by adding Braille stickers and re-recordable audio boxes to packaging.
Language affects how people are perceived—and women often choose wording that makes them sound passive. So U.K. agency AnalogFolk developed a tool that uses natural language processing and machine learning to analyze blocks of text and offer users more powerful wording. Geared toward females in the creative industry, BigUp.AI was developed for International Women’s Day 2020 and went right to testing.
E-commerce startup Grove Collaborative is out to make itself completely plastic-free by 2025. To get there, the household cleaning and personal care retailer launched a five-year project that will reduce and reimagine its packaging, offer refills for many products and incorporate more alternative materials. A certified B Corporation, Grove is already plastic-neutral: For every ounce of plastic it sells, it partners with Canadian recycler Plastic Bank to eliminate 1 ounce of ocean-bound plastic.
As discussions over diversity and inclusion dominated, Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid brand revisited an old project and released a new line of bandages representing skin tones other than white. The century-old brand had previously released a range of bandages in multiple skin tones in 2005, but discontinued them three years later. Plenty of companies stepped in to fill the gap, but the new project is a powerful statement from a major U.S. brand.