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Innovation As a Response to Community Need

Ever heard of plogging? Or a Plog Run?

Well, you need to know. It’s an environmental initiative driven by United Way India, and it’s making a difference. 

Shweta Singla, Director of United Way India’s Resource Mobilization and Manish Michael, CEO, spearheaded the India Plog Run in 2018, in response to a growing environmental concern in India. India generates close to 20 million tons of plastic a year, but only 20 to 25 percent is recycled. Plogging, derived from Sweden, is a combination of picking and jogging. During a plog run, runners are equipped with a plogging kit – gloves, an apron and other material – to run around a 2km radius while collecting plastic waste.  

With Manish’s 10 years at United Way and Shweta’s background in jewelry, the India Plog Run leveraged their innovative spirits. The 2018 Bengaluru edition of the Plog Run was wildly successful, establishing a world record of 33,000 tons of plastic waste collected by 7,000 volunteers.

Hard to top that, right? Wrong. Last year, Manish and Shweta extend their impact. The 2019 India Plog Run spanned 50 cities in India, covering 1,000 neighborhoods and 750,000 kilometers (or 466,028 miles). And it was the first collective effort between the eight United Way organizations in India.

The run generated excitement, enthusiasm buzz – including 100 million social media impressions across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.  In collaboration with TikTok, the #IAMLessPlastic campaign challenged users to join the movement against plastic pollution and share how they can make their neighborhood free of plastic. The Plog Run was also recognized by India’s Prime Minister and Ministry of Sports.

Last year’s Plog Run also benefited from good timing, aligning with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a national government campaign to clean up streets, roads and infrastructure across India.

According to Manish and Shweta, innovation is about viewing the same problem a different way. An innovator asks the tough questions, instead of blindly following. Manish recalls a Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  

Manish and Shweta hope that the Plog Run will evolve into a people-led movement, becoming a trend and an enduring habit that more and more people across India adopt.  

#Innovation  #SharedPurpose  #LiveUnited


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