20 OCTOBER, 2010
By: Maria Popova
A quest for ordinary brilliance, or what sewers, eyeglasses and famous writers have in common.
The brilliance of problem-solving lies in solutions so seamless they become invisible. That’s exactly the premise of Search for the Obvious — a wonderful new initiative from our friends at Acumen Fund, the global nonprofit venture fund investing in business models that support access to water, shelter, healthcare, energy resources and agricultural technology in the developing world. Search for the Obvious is out to find everyday objects and ideas that have dramatically improved our quality of life, collecting submissions ranging from asphalt to zippers. They are then asking a jury of cross-disciplinary judges — including writer Daniel Pink, Swiss Miss founder Tina Roth Eisenberg, designer Daniel Burka, writer Alain de Botton, Design Observer founder Bill Drenttel, writer Steven Johnson and, erm, yours truly, plus a handful more to be announced over the coming weeks — to select the most compelling examples.
Once these are identified, Acumen Fund launches challenges to the community to creatively show the world why that topic is indeed critical through anything from “the most retweetable tweet of all time” to a New-Yorker-worthy essay to a stride-stopping poster. The first challenge is inspired by sewers, the obviousness chosen by Daniel Burka, and focuses on sanitation — a basic human right the lack of which is among the most critical issues in the developing world today.
Submissions — in the form of tweets, essays, videos, or anything at all — are due by November 21 and winners will be chosen by the judges on November 30. The winning entires will be spotlighted by the challenge’s media partners, Design Observer and GOOD, and will be featured on the YouTube homepage for 24 hours. (We’re supporting them too with a bit of pro-bono ad space to get the word out about the challenge — look over on the right.)
So go ahead and submit an idea or get busy with the an open challenge. And in the meantime, use this as a reminder to appreciate all the wonderful objects and ideas we’re surrounded with, whose role in our daily well-being we often forget.