“Sanitation is Sexy”: Turning Poop into Action

Pop quiz hot shot: What’s the most significant medical advance of the last, ailment say, website 150 years?

X-rays, buy information pills you say? Nope… Antibiotics? Nope… Germ theory? Wrong again.

The answer, according to the British Medical Journal, is toilets, or a sanitation facility that “ensures hygienic separation of human excrement from human contact.”

1.5 million children have died from sanitation-related illnesses so far this year and the Acumen Fund, a non-profit that seeks to find creative solutions to global poverty, has launched an inventive international competition to tackle the ‘human excrement problem’.

Doo, doo, in other words… crap, poo, shit, number two. Whatever you want to call it, 2.5 billion people on this earth (2 out of 5) are doing the deed in the outdoors, in unhygienic, shared facilities, or in open latrines so gross we’d all prefer to talk about the weather or somehow avoid the subject.

“And that’s the problem,” the Acumen Fund writes in their promotional material for the contest. “Nobody wants to think about sanitation, so we don’t talk about sanitation. We’ve gotten good at talking about malaria, AIDS, disaster relief, global warming, cancer, safe drinking water, and even investing in girls. But, nobody wants to talk about sanitation. The issue is far from sexy. It’s gross. It’s uncomfortable. It’s funny.”

The contest, ‘Sanitation is Sexy‘, calls on artists, designers, videographers, advertisers and creative types all over the world to submit solutions to this sanitation crises by November 21. “Use your creative genius to show the world that the lack of basic sanitation is one of the most critical issues facing the developing world today,” the contest banner reads.

Potential solutions are quite open ended: a contestant’s submission (all you gotta do is email your idea) can be as simple as a photo documenting any physical objects or service they have created.

Suggestion include: The most retweetable tweet of all time, guerrilla marketing or public art, an iconic print ad or poster, a story or essay, a game-changing video that will put sanitation on the map, or anything unexpected.

James Wu, the Acumen Fund’s curator of the contest, told Change.org that he hopes it will “help shed light on the issue of sanitation with a much broader community beyond the development world.”

Winning submissions will be featured by the competition sponsors, including Design Observer, GOOD Magazine and YouTube. The winning video submissions will be featured on YouTube’s homepage for 24 hours.

The inspiration for the project came from MacKenzie Fegan’s project “Sewers.” She has since been asked to join the judging panel for the competition, which includes: Daniel Burka, Director of Design at Tiny Speck; William Drenttel, the Editorial Director of Design Observer; the writer Steven Johnson and David Kurla, Founder and CEO of Ecotact, which builds clean public toilets in Kenya.

Readers should also check out Acumen, a hip organization that seeks to milk the power of creativity to better the world. The “Sanitation is Sexy” initiative is the first in a series of challenges based on using ingenuity and inventiveness for social change. Sign up for notifications of future challenges here.

Shout out to James Wu, the competition’s curator and an avid reader of the Change.org Human Rights blog, for contacting us.

GOT A TIP FOR US? Is there a story or campaign in your area that we’d want to know about? E-mail us at humanrightstips@change.org. Please also follow Change.org’s Human Rights page on Facebook and Twitter. Photo credit: The Acumen Fund