Cristian Lara, founder of Reciclapp, leads a spark talk at the Innovation Laboratory

Cristian Lara, founder of Reciclapp, leads a spark talk at the Innovation Laboratory. Photo credit: Red Argentina para La Cooperación Internacional

Yesterday, 100,000 people across five cities in Chile recycled from the comfort of their couch. They arranged everything from the time of the pickup to the types of material taken – simply by tapping on their phone screens. Reciclapp, a phone application, is revolutionizing recycling in a country that continues to struggle to go green.

Created by young Chilean entrepreneur Cristian Lara, Reciclapp could not have come at a better time for Chile & Latin America. Long lacking the proper waste management infrastructure, Chile’s landfills have grown enormous as less than 5% of people recycle. “We need innovative thinking to face climate change, to face waste management and infrastructure problems,” noted Lara during his spark talk at the Innovation Laboratory.

The Innovation Lab, a side event of the Towards Collaborative Cities Conference supported by Counterpart International and CIVICUS, met in a small hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. A growing global network of people, online hubs and regional centers, Innovation for Change uses shared working spaces – both physical and virtual – to connect people and organizations so they can exchange ideas, debate challenges and create solutions to some of the world’s largest challenges.

And in early June, the Innovation Lab incubated collaboration between civil society organizations and the private sector of Latin America and the Caribbean. By leveraging the knowledge of both sectors, the Innovation for Change community can empower faster and more innovative solutions to global issues.

Issues like pollution and global health.

“It’s really very good to be here today with Innovation for Change. It feels good to be a part of a community of change makers,” Lara explained as he networked with another up-and-coming techie, Gabriel Escalona, the founder of Siplik.

Innovation Lab participants prepare to begin deep dive sessions with Latin American entrepreneurs. Photo credit: Red Argentina para la Cooperación Internacional

Innovative Ideas at the Forefront of Development

“It’s important for us as tech entrepreneurs to build relationships with civil society. Their hands-on experience and knowledge of community needs can inspire us to create relevant, innovative projects that further global development and progress,” explained Escalona. And it was that mindset that led him to create an innovative digital platform that is transforming healthcare in Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and beyond.

As a doctor in his native Venezuela, Escalona began noticing trends among the patients he was treating. After treating patient after patient from the same communities for similar ailments, he had an idea. What if he created a digital platform that analyzed anonymous medical data and trends over time? If successful, he could paint a larger picture of area issues – potentially helping other area doctors, local governments and, of course, citizens.

Gabriel Escalona, the founder of Siplik, presents his platform to participants of the Innovation Laboratory; Photo Credit:Red Argentina para la Cooperación Internacional

Gabriel Escalona, the founder of Siplik, presents his platform to participants of the Innovation Laboratory. Photo credit: Red Argentina para la Cooperación Internacional

In 2014, he and his friend Jose created Siplik as a platform to process and analyze anonymous medical data from private hospitals all around Venezuela. “It’s a tool that can transform health and healthcare in Venezuela,” he noted. Using the app, institutions, doctors, pharmacies and area investigators can now see who is sick and where. By publishing this data, he hopes they will then be able to isolate the ‘why.’

“By having a big picture, you can see trends. For example, in this little community outside of Caracas, we can see that in these five schools, girls are more likely to be malnourished,” he demonstrated through the “graph” feature on the app. This is happening, he notes, because girls in these poorer communities are more likely to cook for and then eat after their brothers. And this is just one example. By collecting and sharing data from all over Venezuela as well as cities in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, the potential implications and impact are huge.

“This data can better inform citizen advocacy efforts by empowering them with the information needed to influence public policy,” he stated. “It’s our responsibility to publish this data – anonymously. Because for the first time, citizens can truly see what is happening in their community, city, country and region,” he continued. And although Escalona is off to a good start, he explained that in order to scale up, he needed to build networks and learn best practices from his peers. Innovation for Change presented him with just that chance.

As a participant in the Innovation Lab in Buenos Aires, he built relationships with other entrepreneurs and civil society activists from Latin America, the Caribbean and  beyond. “Innovation for Change gives voice to those of us working to change Latin American for the better. It’s a place to anchor our ideas and to create links between them,” Escalona reflected.


Innovation for Change is a growing global network of people, online hubs and regional centers in Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa and South Asia. These shared working spaces – both physical and virtual – are places where people and organizations can connect and exchange ideas, debate challenges and create solutions to some of the challenges facing our societies.

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