Israeli-created movement harnesses tech brains worldwide to fight coronavirus

Tikkun Olam Makers launches open database of prototypes and products; encourages engineers, designers, developers, to create affordable solutions for hospitals, households

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Some of the anti-coronavirus products available via the Tikkun Olam Movement. (Courtesy TOM - Tikkun Olam Makers)
Some of the anti-coronavirus products available via the Tikkun Olam Movement. (Courtesy TOM - Tikkun Olam Makers)

An Israeli-created worldwide movement that harnesses technology and innovation to design affordable solutions for the disadvantaged is turning its hand to help hospitals, treatment centers and households obtain products that can help fight COVID-19.

Tikkun Olam Makers (tikkun olam means “healing the world” in Hebrew), or TOM, has created a platform called Rapid Response Makers (RRM) where engineers, designers, medical professionals and developers all over the world can be “on call” to design and build health and medical infrastructure, products, and software to help fight the pandemic.

The organization is seeking to provide a global database and forum to spread and share ideas that can be useful in the battle against the virus at different locales.

On the forum are prototypes and products for fighting coronavirus (not necessarily designed specifically for TOM) including face masks and shields, ventilators and personal hygiene products.

A member of the Tikkun Olam Movement works on parts for protective gear against coronavirus. (Courtesy TOM – TOM – Tikkun Olam Makers)

Some TOM communities are readying 3D printers to be able to print once a product design is finalized, others are working on testing and improving current designs, and still more are forming support networks for their communities’ high risk populations.

Tikkun Olam Makers, established by Israeli entrepreneur Gideon Grinstein in 2014, is made up of local communities all over the world. Each community brings together “makers” — engineers, designers, developers, and “need-knowers” — individuals with a personal understanding of a neglected challenge for which there is no government solution and an affordable market is unlikely.

Its innovative model is based on crowdsourcing of volunteer talent — people who engage in “open innovation” where products can be co-designed by multiple teams in different places to be made available to anyone in need.

Once the challenge has been identified, the makers get together to create working prototypes that might provide the solution. The prototypes are then converted into digital product files that can be sent to teams of volunteer-professionals in local universities to be turned into a physical product.

As of January 2020, TOM has operated in 67 communities in 22 countries and five continents, developing 450 TOM solutions with the potential to improve the lives of millions of people.

A Tikkun Olam Movement member demonstrates an anti-coronavirus face shield. (Courtesy TOM – Tikkun Olam Makers)
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