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Announcing our first D&AD New Blood Awards: 8 ingenious solutions to help ‘unbanked’ communities

YETU. Bolo. Unnati. Haven. There’s also Balikbayan, El Trueque Polar, Droplet, and KeyPool. Eight refreshing, simple ways to help improve the lives of people in the world left behind by traditional financial services.

These eight solutions address such challenges as personal banking for the illiterate, reduction of the fraud that allows for land grabs, and money management in hyperinflated economies.

They are also the winners in the first challenge McKinsey designed and sponsored as part of the D&AD New Blood Awards. D&AD is a London-based, not-for-profit design and advertising organization founded in 1962.

The New Blood Awards are among the most prestigious in the design world. They identify the next generation of creative talent—both students and working designers—under the age of 24. Challenges cover all aspects of design and creative thinking and are sponsored by companies such as adidas, Adobe, and BBC.

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Tey Bannerman, mastermind behind McKinsey’s D&AD brief, Anett Tarnokova, senior recruiter, and Sam Mensah, senior designer and a panelist at the New Blood Festival

“It’s like winning the Oscars,” says Kwame Nyanning, a senior expert in design based in McKinsey’s London office who helped organize the firm’s participation and served on the jury. Winners have access to skills training, which many times leads to job opportunities. The awards are designated as “Pencils,” with four levels of achievement.

Why participate in this program now? Our firm has grown to the size of a top ten design firm through acquisitions such as LUNAR, Veryday, and carbon12 creative, in addition to the development of internal talent.

“We champion creativity, and it was a chance to introduce the young designers of the world to this new professional area of consulting, which is quite different than working in an agency or design firm,” explains Kwame. “The problems tend to be more complex; the relationships are long term, working with ongoing dependencies and complications. And the talent tends to be more diverse—a team can include researchers, service designers, mechanical engineers, and analytics experts.”

Anett Tarnokova, a senior recruiter who helped lead the project, explains the thinking behind the McKinsey challenge: “We wanted to approach digital finance in a different context—to help people who didn’t have a say in the financial market, which is very much in the ethos of our firm’s work for social impact. We gathered an international team, with people from Berlin, Dubai, and London, and brought together elements of service, user experience, product-design and -systems thinking.”

The briefs were published online at the end of October. “There was quite a lot of anticipation: who would choose our brief, which required quite a bit more work, from among the more visual-communication pieces, sponsored by media and consumer brands,” Tarnokova recalls.

Over the next few months, there were some 5,000 downloads of the brief from 80 countries, with 53 full submissions and, ultimately, eight Pencil winners.

There are four Pencil levels of the D&AD New Blood awards: Wood, Yellow, Graphite, and Black. Wood Pencils are awarded for the best in advertising and design; Graphite Pencils for work with an original, inspiring idea at its core; Yellow Pencils for work at the pinnacle of creative excellence; and the rare Black Pencil for work that is truly groundbreaking.

There is an additional category in which a specially selected jury awards the White Pencil for work across any of the 17 briefs and 3,500 entries that uses creativity as a force for good.

On July 12, 2018, two entries in the McKinsey category—Bolo and YETU—won two of the four White Pencils. How did they use creativity for good? Let’s see.

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Team Bolo, represented by Donghoon Lee, won a White Pencil award

India is the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, and the government has provided bank accounts to every household. Yet many remain untouched, because India has the highest illiteracy rate in the world. This is where Bolo—meaning “speak” in Hindi—comes in. Bolo was created by a team of students from the Miami Ad School in San Francisco. It is the first voice-activated payment app for mobile devices of its kind, recognizing 23 languages spoken in India. It offers the potential to help millions of citizens activate their own bank accounts.

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Megan Egan and Jonothan Hunt, creators of YETU, won a White Pencil award

YETU addresses the global issue of land grabs, inspired by Megan Egan’s early work in Tanzania. She is a student at the School of Communication Arts 2.0 in London. “I spent a month in a small town called Babati back in 2010, where I heard stories of families losing their homes, livelihoods, everything, due to corrupt businesses and governments faking land-registry documents and taking their land to build on,” she recalls. “[My colleague] Jonothan Hunt had been telling me about innovation in blockchain technology, and we joined the dots—to create YETU, which means “ours” in Ugandan.”

Every time a land purchase is made, this cryptocurrency adds proof of ownership to an encrypted, digital land registry, which is then continually updated. “We’ve been blown away by how much positive feedback we’ve received,” Egan said. “We have a very clear idea of how we want it to develop and grow—and make our ‘pie in the sky’ idea a reality.”

See the other six winners here.