From a cleaner freight train to an automated beehive, a way to recycle fabric, and other bold, new technologies, the 5th annual awards honor the products, concepts, companies, policies, and designs that are pursuing innovation for the good of society and the planet.
The winners of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced today, honoring the businesses, policies, projects, and concepts that are actively engaged and deeply committed to pursuing innovation when it comes to solving health and climate crises, social injustice, or economic inequality.
The Inclusive Naming Initiative, which has won honorable mention in the Software category, removes harmful, racist and unclear language in software and unifies the adoption of replacement terms across the technology industry.
Written software code is the underpinning of our society, a kind of utility system that makes everything work. From our desktop computers and home appliances to our financial institutions and transportation systems, it is the fabric of our lives. And it contains sometimes harmful and even racist language that must be removed. The implications of this language remaining in software development range from dissuading people of color or diverse abilities to contribute to building software to the products and services we use exhibiting bias and deepening painful divisions in our society.
“A meaningful percentage of people involved in technology agree that software code must be scrubbed to remove insensitive language like ‘master’ and ‘slave’ and ‘blacklist/whitelist.’ But the real work starts with identifying and standardizing on the terms with which we replace them. And that requires a cross-industry effort,” said Priyanka Sharma, co-lead on the Inclusive Naming Initiative and general manager, Cloud Native Computing Foundation. “We’re thrilled to have our work recognized, as it will bring more awareness and contribution to this important work.”
Now in its fifth year, the World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 33 winners, more than 400 finalists, and more than 800 honorable mentions—with Health and Wellness, AI & Data among the most popular categories. A panel of eminent Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 4,000 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, and more. Plus, several new categories were added, including Pandemic Response, Urban Design, and Architecture. The 2021 awards feature entries from across the globe, from Brazil to Denmark to Vietnam.
Showcasing some of the world’s most inventive entrepreneurs and companies tackling exigent global challenges, Fast Company’s Summer 2021 issue (on newsstands May 10) highlights, among others, a lifesaving bassinet; the world’s largest carbon sink, thanks to carbon-eating concrete; 3D-printed schools; an at-home COVID-19 testing kit; a mobile voting app; and the world’s cleanest milk.
“There is no question our society and planet are facing deeply troubling times. So, it’s important to recognize organizations that are using their ingenuity, impact, design, scalability, and passion to solve these problems,” says Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “Our journalists, under the leadership of senior editor Morgan Clendaniel, have discovered some of the most groundbreaking projects that have launched since the start of 2020.”
About the World Changing Ideas Awards: World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all.