What links Arcade Fire, lab-grown chicken burgers, the rare white Arabian oryx, masks made from plastic waste and the circular economy?
We’re closing a tough year and starting a fresh one with a trip around the world, travelling from Afghanistan to Zambia in a gorgeous reminder of what’s good – a mix of meaningful innovations, excellent examples of resilience and things that will simply make you smile.
Could the pandemic be an opportunity to improve our world? It often doesn’t feel like it, but seeds of possibilities are sprouting. So let’s celebrate with 26 things to be jolly about in a year that was brought to you by the letters WTF.
? A is for Afghanistan
“2020 has been tough, but we’ll remember it for the things we learned and the resilience of our staff and students to keep on shredding!”
Skateistan started in Kabul as a “crazy idea” to use skateboarding to empower Afghan girls. Although they had to suspend programmes due to Covid-19 and attacks in the city, this year saw a documentary about them win an Oscar and a BAFTA, and they’re opening a fifth school in 2021.
Read more ► Girls skate to liberate
? B is for Brazil
“We believe nothing is trash. Even the most unimaginable things can be transformed.”
Believing that what goes around comes around, the revolutionary São Paulo-based Boomera works with Brazil’s waste pickers and big brands like Adidas and Nestlé to find new creative uses for plastic that normally ends up in landfill – even turning trash into music to help meet the sustainability goals.
Read more ► Going in circles with plastic
? C is for Chile
“I can’t tell you how amazing it is to visit other inspiring farmers who are using our software.”
In today’s digital age, farmers need to be more resilient, especially now. Vidacycle Tech builds tools and apps for smaller scale farmers to learn what healthy soils and flourishing biodiversity looks like. Let’s head to Chile to a small farm in the coastal hills run by a family committed to a sustainable future.
Read more ► This tech nurtures soil – and wine
? D is for Denmark
“Life unfolds at all ages, young and old, and can be thrilling, fun, sad, beautiful and meaningful. This is about letting people age positively.”
Cycling Without Age is a movement (literally) that’s creating a sense of freedom, joy and happiness in an awesome meeting of generations. Who wouldn’t love wind in their hair, without having to put in the pedal power? The oldest ‘pilot’ is 90 and if that ain’t joyous, I don’t know what is.
Read more ► The simple joy of rickshaw chats
? E is for Ethiopia
Africa is building a big wall of trees through 11 countries, just under the southern edge of the Sahara, to defend the land from winds and sand.
Spanning the entire width of Africa, nearly 8,000 kilometres from Dakar to Djibouti, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on earth, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef. The band of trees will provide food, jobs and a future for the millions living on the frontline of climate change.
Read more ► Growing a new world wonder
? F is for France (and food)
“Technology can modernise and accelerate the short circuit to promote a fairer trading system.”
More and more people are ditching the supermarket in their quest for seasonal local goods. ‘100% local’ and ‘KMZero’ stickers on avocados are not enough for consumers who want to know where their food is coming from. The Food Assembly makes it easy.
Read more ► A taste for shopping local
? G is for Ghana
“The pandemic gives people globally the opportunity to drastically change habits.”
Home to endangered marine turtles that come to its shores to lay their eggs, Ghana has a rich fauna and flora. Plastic Punch is an ambitious and imaginative project that harnesses edutainment and art in fun beach clean-ups, an app, mask-making and even a drama series. It all started with five dead turtles.
Read more ► Meet the Plastic Punchers
? H is for Haiti
“I was initially concerned that they did not seem to know how to make sounds! We were wrong.”
Baille Tourible is an isolated village in Haiti of about 11,000 people with no running water or electricity. Régine Chassagne, from the Grammy-winning rock duo Arcade Fire, is helping to empower its young people with a marching band – and an experimental farm – that’s inspiring an entire community.
Read more ► The marching band that helps food security
? I is for Israel
Finger lickin’ crispy cell-based chicken is going straight from bioreactor to table in the world’s first lab-grown meat restaurant.
An Israeli startup is offering diners an innovative, slaughter-free, crispy ‘cultured’ chicken burger – for free – as part of a restaurant experience that’s bringing together technologists, engineers, biologists and chefs. SuperMeat grows the pluckily-titled The Chicken from cells, right next to your table.
Read more ► Would you eat this chicken?
? J is for Jordan
The magnificent endangered Arabian oryx has been brought back from extinction in a pioneering step of conservational activity.
By working directly with Bedouin communities, Wild Jordan is creating a real impact on nature conservation and local women. One of the best places to find souvenirs in Amman, it leans on the natural beauty and wildlife around natural reserves to generate employment opportunities.
Read more ► Bedouin women save the oryx
? K is for Kenya
Can words posted to social media suggest where a genocide might happen?
Swahili for ‘Are you sure?’, Una Hakika? is a hotline that fights misinformation in the Tana Delta with an SMS service that acts as a fact-checker. The wicked rumour police are tackling bloody conflict via smartphones – and that really is smart.
Read more ► How to spot fake news
? L is for Lebanon
Learn languages with native speakers to offer hope to refugees who have lost everything.
Looking to refresh your Shami or Masri dialect? NaTakallam is an award-winning conversation service that’s offering ‘languages of hope’ to refugees. In an increasingly interconnected world, global understanding has never been more critical.
Read more ► The gift of conversation
? M is for Mozambique
Trail cameras are important tools in wildlife conservation – and get surprising results.
What’s more majestic than seeing lions, big cats and wildlife in the African landscape – while outside of their pouncing range? With WildCam Gorongosa, citizen scientists identify animals taken by motion-activated trail cameras in Gorongosa National Park.
Read more ► Watch how they get the photos
? N is for Nigeria
“‘African’ isn’t just one look. We celebrate both skinny and curvaceous women.”
The colourful Queens of Africa help young African girls embrace their heritage with a diverse range of body-confident role models, also empowering mothers, who braid the dolls’ hair and create outfits. The dolls outsell Barbie in Nigeria, as they should.
Read more ► Black dolls matter
? O is for Oman
“MyOmani showcases the jewels that ignite the passion for sustainable practices – be it art, action, innovation or ideas!”
A barber who bikes to work, a zero waste birthday party, a student who’s made an artwork out of aluminium cans and an edible garden; MyOmani profiles the people and projects that promote sustainability in Oman to inspire a better tomorrow.
Read more ► Meet the real jewels of Oman
? P is for Pakistan
“If somebody had told me that I would be solving the problems of thousands of girls and talking about taboo issues through cartoons, I would’ve laughed. The bad guys are out there, but the good will prevail through it all if we come up with creative solutions.”
Girl bikers, transgender activists, divorcee entrepreneurs and female cricket journalists; this is Pakistan as you’ve never seen it before. Revenge rape, honour killings, acid attacks, forced marriages and child sexual abuse are taboo topics in Pakistan. So journalist Saba Khalid decided to create Aurat Raaj – a digital content platform that breaks all the rules.
Read more ► Meet the AI ‘Coronabot’
? Q is for Qatar
“We are creating powerful personal narratives of how everyone can contribute to making a difference and reducing our collective carbon emissions.”
Qatar has an extreme climate, fragile ecosystems and a high dependence on non-renewable energy. But that’s starting to change thanks to an NGO that wants to combat climate change. The community behind SustainableQatar wants to show that an individual can make a difference, but a team can create a miracle.
Read more ► Combating climate change in an extreme climate
? R is for Rwanda
“If we want women to be at the forefront of a movement to build prosperity, we must give them the tools to make their voices resonate.”
It is over two decades since Rwanda experienced one of the most brutal genocides in history. The country is emerging as a development and economic success story, not least because women are becoming increasingly more empowered. Resonate unlocks leadership potential of women and girls in East Africa with a training programme dedicated to public speaking.
Read more ► Yes she can!
? S is for South Africa
This water on wheels technology proves an idea doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful.
Designed in Africa for Africa, Hippo Water Roller is a reimagined wheelbarrow enables women, children and the elderly to collect five times more water than a single bucket by simply rolling it along the ground.
Read more ► Water on wheels in Africa
? T is for Tunisia
“Riding a bike is still an unfulfilled childhood dream for so many people in Tunisia.”
A new meeting place is weaving a culture of cycling into the fabric of everyday life in Tunisia – with women cyclists challenging gender norms. Vélorution Tunisie raises awareness about cycling’s benefits to the public by staging Critical Mass protest rides and petitioning local authorities to protect cyclists on Tunisia’s chaotic roads.
Read more ► Bike revolution occupies the streets of Tunis
? U is for US
“If you can change the way that people see the world, you can transform it”.
We’re living in one of the most memorable moments in history. Blavity, Inc. is the powerful Black-community serving multiplatform multimedia success story that the world needs. Initially a news, politics and culture digital media for Black millennials, today its seven brands reach 60-80 million users a month.
Read more ► Feel the force of Black gravity
? V is for Vietnam
“Our country struggles with so many fake products: milk, medicine, antibiotics. It is so dangerous for our people. Caring about our products and ethics are important.”
Helmets are an effective ‘vaccine’ against head injuries on the road. In Vietnam, Protec helmets are made by people with disabilities who have been injured in traffic-related accidents and are are donated to school children.
Read more ► The ethical Vietnamese helmet
? W is for Wales
“As a Somali born and bred in Wales, I’m out of place on all these ‘white Zooms’.”
Frustrated with a lack of diversity, and partly inspired by lockdown boredom, Mymuna Soleman set up Privilege Cafe as a virtual space for difficult conversations, where people openly talk about race. She just never expected it to take off.
Read more ► Use white privilege for good
? X is for… XR
“Troublemakers change the world. No change is possible unless there’s major emotional distress.”
OK, it’s not a country, but a global movement that has seen Xs adorn pavements and bill stickers around the world. Extinction Rebellion combines a rigorously executed strategic plan of climate action with immense authenticity and love in non-violent, mass civil disobedience. The movement’s future will be defined by its ability to make people from all parts of society feel empowered.
Read more ► Meet the rebels
? Y is for Yemen
“Creativity and film are extremely powerful outlets for expression, and a great source of hope for Yemeni youth living in a time of war.”
Two women are changing the narrative on Yemen. Comra Films are incredible filmmakers and activists creating groundbreaking, artistic content in an extreme environment. Oscar-nominated Yemeni-Scottish film director Sara Ishaq and Yemen’s top-ranking film producer Yousra Ishaq are using the medium that they love to shed light on the most pressing issues that the country faces.
Read more ► Indie filmmakers help Yemen reclaim its voice
? Z is for Zambia
Transformed poachers trained as ‘blasters’ are helping keep elephants from raiding farmers’ crops in Zambia – using non-lethal chilli powder blasts, not bullets, to ward them off.
Farmers in Luangwa Valley often turn to poaching in an area known for its exceptional wild game population. Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) was established to stop illegal elephant hunting and poaching while working towards healthy soil, food and a diet in rural Zambia.
Read more ► Zambia swaps poaching for ploughs
? We would love to see every country on our map. Do you know of a project for social good that deserves to be showcased on the Atlas? ► Submit a project here