Our 2022 Highlights
Looking Back at 2022: Why I'm Optimistic and Why I'm Still Concerned A note from Hagit Freud, Managing Director of Pears Program for Global Innovation
As 2022 comes to an end, it’s hard for me to reflect on this year without mixing personal moments, organizational achievements, our industry trends, and global events. With this mix, there are definitely mixed feelings, a bitter-sweet taste where the sweet is very sweet and the bitter is very bitter. Looking back and looking ahead, I’m not sure if I’m more optimistic or more concerned. Global events keep many of us awake at night, and 2022 was definitely not the year we were hoping for, with the continued COVID-19 pandemic and its concerning implications, especially for the most vulnerable; the war in Ukraine and continued conflicts worldwide which lost their spotlight; extreme weather events; and the unfolding economic crisis. One might say that the need for innovative solutions has never been more important than right now. But it was the case even without these events and will continue to be in the years to come. I’ve also been awake at night a lot this year because 2022 is the year I became a mother and my concerns and hopes for the future gained a different perspective. Growing inequalities, injustice, and climate change became ever more concerning. But there is also some room for optimism and trends that generate hope. Digital inclusion — the trajectory of mobile and internet penetration, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) is growing, and although COVID-19 caused many setbacks, access to mobile and internet continued to increase. While fully closing the digital gap and getting to this last mile is still quite challenging and will require a lot of effort, it is encouraging to see how digital tools are making our world smaller and far more connected. Digital inclusion not only affects our daily work and the opportunity to work remotely, but it also strengthens partnerships and creates dialogs. It's also about diversifying and democratizing the content we consume, the cultures and opportunities we are all exposed to, and it can break down barriers and change stereotypes and mindsets. And so, I’m optimistic as digital access is access to so much more. Global food systems and regenerative agriculture — 2022 will hopefully be remembered as the year the food system discourse was prioritized globally, following the first global food system summit at the end of 2021, which brought a lot of attention and commitment to the sector. Food systems were further enhanced and tied to the global climate discourse at COP27. One particular trend our team had been extremely enthusiastic about is the growing focus on regenerative agriculture. There are many reasons to be excited about the potential of regenerative practices which are beneficial not only to human consumers but also to the environment at large. One reason we are thrilled about this vision for the agriculture sector is that it positions smallholder and traditional farming across the global south as a solution rather than a problem, and affords small-holder farmers (which are the majority of farmers) a real opportunity to leapfrog into better agriculture practices. And while technology alone is never the answer, we are curious and excited by the role technology will have in advancing regenerative practices. The African Innovation ecosystem continues to grow — while here in Israel the global economic crisis is leading to massive layoffs and a decrease in investment in the high-tech sector, it seems the African Innovation ecosystem is booming and continues to grow. We know that even with the growth we are seeing now, this is only a fraction of the potential and there is so much more that is going to evolve in the coming years (check out – Africa: the Big Deal). For the Pears Program for Global Innovation, it’s been a year of growth and great achievements. We worked with wonderful partners and created meaningful and fruitful collaborations, we deepened our methodologies and strengthened our approach to supporting innovation for development challenges, and supported wonderful companies, technologies, and the people behind them in their journey towards meaningful contributions to address development challenges. At the beginning of 2022, we launched the fifth edition of our flagship venture builder — the Pears Challenge — with a focus on resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems in Ghana. As the year comes to an end, this year’s challenge has produced five new ventures who are off on their journey, endorsed by partners and with promising technologies we hope to see deployed in the field and creating a positive impact in the coming years. It's also been a year of growth for many of our Pears Challenge alumni and many other wonderful startups we support here in Israel. And while it’s been a catalytic year for the climate and impact discourse here in Israel, with growing interest and investment to those fields and highlights such as PlanetTech World, we are still very far from where we as an ecosystem and as a country should be with regards to international development and delivering on our promise that we are a global outward looking innovation ecosystem. We work with many dedicated, idealistic, and committed partners on this front, and as we look ahead to 2023, we hope to see our field grow and evolve in the year ahead. As part of my work, I love to consult with colleagues and counterparts about how we can improve and what more we can do to advance our vision and achieve our mission. With the recent release of ChatGPT, I decided I might want to see what artificial intelligence (AI) has to say and had a long wordy discussion on the platform about our work and how can we improve it. While I have to admit I was surprised and intrigued by some of the answers, it made me confident that AI is not (maybe yet) ready to replace us humans in the field. (If you are reading this and have some thoughts to share on our work, I’d be happy to discuss it, I’m sure it will be more enlightening). We in the Pears Program for Global Innovation remain committed to building more bridges between the Israeli innovation ecosystem and the international development field and to communities in LMICs, we remain committed to our values, and to fulfilling the potential that further exposure, exchange, and collaborations can achieve. On a personal note, I’m grateful for the team of talented, dedicated, and inspiring individuals I get to work with. I’m grateful for our many partners, in Israel and abroad, and for the possibility to join hands, share causes and achieve more together. I’m grateful for our bright community of DevTech entrepreneurs and startups. I’m often blown away by your creativity and capabilities - let’s continue, there is still much more you can achieve, and we are here to support you. And I’m immensely grateful for our supporters and primarily the Pears Foundation, for allowing us to keep on doing what we love to do. All of you make me look forward to what 2023 will bring and keep me optimistic that we will do good, and it will be good and better. And so, with major concerns and cautious optimism, I wish you all a happy new year.