The world’s designers are creating real, practical solutions to some of the world’s many social and environmental challenges – through social innovation by design. Nowhere is this better shown than through the work of some of the winners of this year’s INDEX awards – design’s biggest prize at R7.5 million for the winning entries, showing a growing recognition of and investment in social innovation. The awards aim “to use design skills to develop sustainable solutions to global and local challenges”, featuring a collection of some of the most inspiring examples of social innovation you will find in one place.

2015 Index Award Winners:

Home Category


The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable battery that aims to revolutionise energy generation, smooth out energy consumption and allow users to cut down on their energy bills, as well as their carbon footprint. The solar-powered, lithium-ion batteries will allow owners to store energy generated during the day and use it at night, allowing them to avoid buying electricity from utility providers in the evenings at peak rates. This will lead to increased independence from the power grid, as well as a backup solution in case of a power outage.

Work Category


The Sky Urban Vertical Farming System is a revolutionary agriculture solution that alleviates environmental impact while making a bold move towards global food security. Addressing a variety of pressing global challenges, the system is the world’s first low carbon, water-driven plot that grows vegetables through efficient and highly sustainable production methods. Using minimal land, water and energy resources, the system provides the community with fresh, locally grown vegetables, and has a dramatically smaller carbon footprint than traditional farming and import systems.

Community Category


The Ocean Cleanup Array will be the first system to sustainably clean up plastic pollution from the world’s oceans using the natural rotating currents to its’ advantage. Designed for large-magnitude deployment, covering millions of square kilometres, the solution is a collection of huge floating barriers designed to be placed in centre of the circular currents – called gyres – and passively collect the plastic.

Body Category


Bringing professional eye care to remote areas without compromising quality, Peek Retina is a part of the Peek portable eye examination kit that uses apps and a simple adapter to allow almost anyone to perform high quality eye examinations. The photographs taken using the Peek Retina adapter allow users to look inside the eye to identify problems, leading to timely diagnosis for treatment and thus prevention of disabling eye conditions and blindness.

Play and Learning


With 70 million registered users Duolingo is completely changing the way we learn languages, offering a free top-quality language education to anyone with Internet access. Named iPhone App of the Year, TechCrunch’s Best Education Startup, and Google’s Best of the Best two years running, Duolingo is the world’s most popular language platform. In addition, the online programme not only engages those eager to broaden their communications skills, but also acts a crowdsourced text translation platform – slowly translating the entire web.

People’s choice winner


While many water purifying solutions have been developed over the years, new device Desolenator is set to be one of the most effective, affordable and environmentally friendly designs to hit the market. Using breakthrough technology, the device could provide freshwater for up to a billion people.The mobile desalinator runs purely on energy from the sun and purifies any type of water – even seawater. It’s easy to use, low cost, and one unit can provide a family with 15 liters of clean water per day. Designed for use in almost any scenario, the device includes high performance solar panels, an LCD display unit, robust casing and alloys, as well as a remote monitoring system among a number of other features. Simply fill the device with contaminated water, roll it in the sun and allow it to go through the purifying process.

See all of the winning entries here.