In our new series, The World at Work, Mashable interviews the faces behind the companies that are working to make a global impact.
Using the power of digital, these five companies have empowered citizens in need, rewarded innovation and created uniquely shareable tools that are key in affecting real change. Although they range in issues from education to sustainability, the one thing that all of these companies have in common is the drive and passion of those at the helm.
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Here's a roundup of featured programs from the last week, including exclusive video interviews. To read more and watch the videos, click through to the full story, and follow the series to learn about more breakthrough companies.
Big Idea: Kaggle hosts contests for data scientists.
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Why It's Working: Using competition to perfect predictive models.
Kaggle hosts contests for data scientists. Companies that want problems solved post them, along with relevant data sets, on the site. Anyone can submit a solution, and each competitor ranks on a leaderboard throughout the competition. So far about 30,000 people have submitted at least one model to a contest.
Big Idea: Recyclebank gives the planet a rewards system using gamification techniques.
Why It's Working: Recyclebank rewards environmentally friendly actions with points, which are a monetary incentive to recycle. You can also compare your behavior with others on leaderboards in the Recyclebank Ecosystem.
When Recyclebank was founded six years ago, no one had heard of gamification, the concept of rewarding non-game actions with points, scores or other rewards. Thanks to Foursquare, the popular geo-social network that has gamified exploration, many more of us are familiar with the term.
3. Pencils of Promise
Big Idea: By adopting the pencil, both symbolically and literally, the Pencils of Promise (POP) builds schools and educates children in developing countries.
Why It's Working: PoP's newest campaign, Made With Pencils, engages participants via online art auctions, killer website design and a social media strategy that dates back to the roots of Facebook.
PoP is a global project that aims to build schools and establish learning initiatives for millions of children around the globe who lack access to education. The non-profit organization -- or as its 28-year-old founder Adam Braun would call it, the "for-purpose organization" -- has already helped lower the number of uneducated children from 75 million in 2006 to 67 million today.
Big Idea: Wefunder provides a platform that allows startups to hold fundraising with a crowd of investors.
Why It's Working: WeFunder drives innovation by giving startups the ability to go through a formal funding series, and it also takes crowdsourcing to a new level by giving equity to funders.
In the hard and fast world of startups, it's not easy to get your name heard and money in your pocket. Boston-based company Wefunder aims to change that through another buzzword: crowdfunding.
5. Reward Volunteers
Big Idea: Reward Volunteers is an app for volunteers to log time, share what they're doing and earn rewards for themselves and the organizations they serve.
Why It's Working: Users clock in volunteer time so they can focus on doing more good and less on keeping track of hours. The more hours logged and activity shared, the greater chance both volunteers and organizations have to win cash and prizes.
Volunteers deserve a bit of credit for their do-good attitude, and that's exactly what Reward Volunteers aims to do -- it is in the name, after all.
What do you think of the efforts of these companies? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.