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Innovation for the planet: A recap of the ChangeNOW Summit

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It took us a couple weeks to catch our breath and reflect on our participation at the ChangeNOW Summit, the world's largest gathering of innovation for the planet.

It was uplifting to see so many people join forces in Paris (over 28,000 according to the organisers), all moved by the same urgency: acting now to find innovative solutions to our planet’s biggest challenges. Symbolism was in full force, as the summit was hosted under the mighty nave of the Grand Palais—an iconic Parisian monument built for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, for which the Eiffel tower was also built...

change now summit, paris, grand palais

Too many impressive innovations (1,000+!) were on display, at various stages of development, to fit into a single blog post, but a few stand-out projects stoked our interest in a big way.

Our oceans, our planet

Waiting lines were so long on opening day to pick up badges that after locking our bikes in the dedicated space in front of the Grand Palais (much appreciated!), we missed the opening session featuring crème de la crème tech entrepreneur for the planet, Boyan Slat, from Ocean Cleanup. The project, in short, aims to clean up 90% of ocean plastic pollution. 

In lieu of that, we had an inspiring chat with the founder of the Plastic Odyssey, a floating laboratory and three-year “human scale” sea expedition set to recycle and reduce plastic waste. We also had the chance to listen to and loudly cheer on start-up Zephyr et Borée, who is designing some incredible, low-carbon “sail ships” that could very well upend the cargo transport industry.

The work of underwater artist Julie Gautier and apneist world champion Guillaume Nery was featured at the summit’s film festival. If you haven’t seen their latest film “A Breath Under the World”, stop everything and hold your breath! Changing our world also means reconnecting with our own humanity, consciousness, and inner emotions, so it was great to see the arts featured in such a distinct way.

change now summit, paris, palo it, staff

Gaming and storytelling as solutions

Back on dry land, we stopped by the Citeo stand, promoting recycling and circular economy habits in France, and enjoyed taking part in their “adventure game”: a three-minute challenge in which you enter an apartment and have to put as many recyclable packages in various bins as you can. We didn’t do too bad!

We’re big believers in bringing ‘serious games’ to user experience, starting with Design Thinking and seamlessly building it into the product. This strategy is a powerful way of nudging users into virtuous behaviours.

At the ChangeNOW Summit our team of UX designers hosted a workshop where they co-created a card game with participants, focused on triggering crucial questions about new products and innovation and their impact on our world. The blueprint for this activity? None other than the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

change now summit, workshop,

This all brings us back to storytelling. More and more, we as consumers are questioning where the products we buy are coming from, and in what conditions they were produced, shipped, packaged, etc. In one word what’s their story? So, kudos to start-up ViJi, which traces this cycle to support brands in their approach to transparency and traceability, and gives ethical decision-making elements to consumers.

Playing a part in our ecosystem

It’s no secret, the smartest innovation we could possibly produce will not solve all our problems on its own. We need to think, work, and act at the ecosystem level. We nodded to every word of Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s speech on thinking beyond sustainability, and striving to build economies, companies, products, and services that are restorative and regenerative by design.

We’re convinced technology has a huge role to play in this change, and committed to making a difference. This is why the ChangeNOW Summit was also a good occasion for PALO IT to announce its support of Tech For Good France, a network association mobilising entrepreneurs and investors in France, and harnessing the power of technology for the greater good. Operating across five continents, we can testify to the tremendous potential of French companies, start-ups, and the tech community as a whole in spearheading innovation for positive impact.  

Thanks again to the organisers for putting together three days of inspiration, amazement, and progress at the ChangeNOW Summit. 

And one last thing—we were blown away by the veggie burgers from Beyond Meat. The hype is real! Foodies, you can try them out at Hank Restaurants in Paris.

change now summit, veggie burger

Stéphanie LEBLANC