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This past Friday at Tashkent’s Gulshan Recreational Park, city residents including people living with disabilities and social innovation volunteers presented household items they made over a three day period. They included a modernistic living room set worthy of IKEA, comfortable chairs and a day-bed, a coffee-table, lamps, carpets, pot-plant holders, several works of art, a functioning shower system with hot and cold water, a water rocket and a sun parasol.
These were some of the creations of the ‘Garbage Lab’ Social Innovation Laboratory, held for three days from the 9th to the 11th of July and organised by the UNDP/UNV ‘Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan’ project. What was impressive about these items was not just that their creators made them in such a short period of time, but also that they were made out of ‘garbage’ – things you or I might throw away after using just once or twice.
Nadejda Chuprina is a Tashkent City resident who took part in the half-week event. After learning about social innovation (developing inventive solutions to social challenges) and the importance of recycling, she and her son joined a team whose inventiveness created two ‘pouffe’ seats, a table, bags and mats out of plastic bags and bottles.
“We generate so much garbage, but through these items we can create things to use in our lives. Rather than throw things away, we can re-use them,” Ms. Chuprina said.
“I heard about this event in a support group for parents whose children are living with disabilities, and this is why I decided to take part with my son. There are ten parents their sons and daughters who are living with disabilities, who have attended this event. By working together they can share their experiences, talk about challenges they face and have a lot of fun. This is a good part of the process.”
Co-hosting the event was the ‘Umidvorlik’ NGO, which works with the families of people living with disabilities within Tashkent City. This past week’s workshop has played a role in encouraging social inclusion and tolerance.
“The ‘Garbage Lab’ is a chance for people to be active, learn new things and work together towards a single goal,” said NGO director Marina Teperina. “The event is an important step towards true integration. There was nobody who asked not to take part in creating the products – everyone made something and found something new.”
The event on the 21st embodied what social innovation is. The event was small-scale but influential, it helped to generate ideas, and it was simple enough to be duplicated in other regions of Uzbekistan.
While gathering appropriate raw materials was initially a challenge, the event’s ultimate success proved it could be recreated in other areas of Uzbekistan.
“Because the idea is so simple, and because there are plenty of creative people in Uzbekistan, the ‘Garbage Lab’ is something that can be re-established everywhere,” said UN Volunteer and event leader Jina Park. “It takes a special person who can look at garbage and come up with a way that it can be used practically, like the incredible solar-powered water heater the participants created in here in Tashkent. Those are the people who have the drive to make real change.”
The UNDP/UNV ‘Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan’ project builds on Uzbekistan’s traditional volunteering practices to address social matters nationwide. You can learn more about this project on the UNDP Uzbekistan national website, and on its Facebook page.