These Incredibly Stupid Ideas Are Somehow Changing the World for the Better

Paying criminals not to shoot each other is the dumbest idea I've ever heard... thank God it's working.

may 2016 awful idea gangsterNishant Choksi for Reader's Digest

[pullquote]A City Pays People Not To Kill One Another[/pullquote]

Our reaction: I’m sorry, did you say you’re paying people not to kill one another? I thought so. Are you nuts?! What sort of message does this send?

But it worked! Ten years ago, Richmond, California, a city of 104,000, had one of the highest murder rates in the country. Millions were spent on crime-prevention programs, but nothing worked. It got so bad that the city council declared a state of emergency.

But since the town instituted a plan to pay the toughest gang members to follow a Life Map that would keep them out of trouble, the city’s murder rate dropped 77 percent from 2007—when the program was initiated—to 2014. During that period, homicides in the rest of the county rose.

The idea was the brainchild of DeVone Boggan, 49, the CEO of a youth-mentoring consultancy in nearby Oakland. Once his plan was approved by the city council, Boggan created the Office of Neighborhood Safety.

According to Mother Jones, ONS staff members, most of them former felons, use police data as well as intelligence they gather on the street to determine the gang members most likely to kill or be killed.

Up to 50 gangbangers are offered a monthly stipend for nine months ranging from $300 to $1,000 to stick to their Life Map. Staff members help gang members attain a driver’s license or GED. They also arrange anger management classes, job training, and other specialty courses that might help them develop the skills needed to keep them off the streets. The better they do at avoiding trouble, the more money they make.

The thinking behind paying for good behavior is simple, criminologist Barry Krisberg told the Washington Post: “If you can’t stabilize their financial situation, they’ll go back to dealing dope, and drugs is a dangerous business.”

To be sure, other factors, such as gentrification and a new police chief who put a priority on community policing, are often cited as contributing to Richmond’s drop in crime. All these influences have combined to recast Richmond’s image as a modern Dodge City.

“Young men who are historically responsible for gun violence in this city are making better decisions about how they negotiate everyday conflicts,” Boggan told the Contra Costa Times.

Richmond’s mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, agrees: “[Our] old reputation is dying off.”

may 2016 awful idea hospitalNishant Choksi for Reader's Digest

[pullquote]To Stem Malpractice Suits, Hospitals Should Admit Their Mistakes[/pullquote]

Our reaction: Oh, the ambulance chasers are gonna love this. If you admit wrongdoing, they’re gonna bleed you dry! Why not just hand over the bank account?!

Hmm, the hospitals may be onto something: When a patient perceives, correctly or not, that a doctor or hospital has made a mistake, the doctor’s or hospital’s knee-jerk reaction is typically to circle the wagons and deny guilt. A study from Johns Hopkins found that only 2 percent of American hospitals let patients know when a mistake has occurred. But that may be changing. Oregon passed a law stating that an apology from a doctor won’t be used against him or her, while the University of Michigan Health System has launched a groundbreaking initiative.

According to U.S. News & World Report, “the University of Michigan Health System pioneered the Disclosure, Apology, and Offer model, in which patients who have been the victim of an error are quickly told, issued an apology, and offered a settlement.” As a result, the hospital system’s legal costs dropped some 60 percent, and it had 36 percent fewer medical claims lodged against it.

While admitting a grave medical error may seem like career suicide in today’s litigious society, the fact is, what most patients and their family members really want are to know the facts and to be treated fairly.

As Richard Boothman, a former trial lawyer, told U.S. News & World Report, doctors can disarm angry patients by simply saying, “I could and should have done better—I’m sorry.”

may 2016 awful idea kidneyNishant Choksi for Reader's Digest

[pullquote]Do You Need A Kidney? Take Out An Ad [/pullquote]

Our reaction: What are you thinking?! Don’t you know what kind of creeps answer ads like these? Go through the proper channels to get a kidney.

Success! After having not felt well for weeks, Christine Royles, a South Portland, Maine, restaurant worker and mother of one, took time off to visit her doctor. The diagnosis he gave her was devastating: She had lupus and anca vasculitis, an autoimmune disease that affects blood vessels. As a result, both her kidneys were failing, and she would need a transplant. Royles, only 23, was placed on a donor transplant list along with 100,000 other people, then waited for a call.

But Royles grew impatient. Being tethered to a dialysis machine for ten hours a day will have that effect. So, using a marker, she wrote an ad on the rear window of her Kia in the hope that some kind-hearted soul would see it and respond. The ad read: “Looking for someone 2 donate their kidney. Must have Type O blood. (You only need one kidney.)” She then included her phone number.

Josh Dall-Leighton was on a shopping trip with his family when he spotted the plea on the back of the Kia. According to the Portland Press Herald, Dall-Leighton, a 30-year-old corrections officer and father of three, immediately told his wife, “I need to do this.”

He called the number on the ad, then took the requisite tests that proved he was a match.

Last June, doctors successfully removed both of Royles’s failing kidneys and replaced them with one of Dall-Leighton’s healthy kidneys.

Royles’s debatable (or brilliant) solution brought out the heroism in Dall-Leighton, though he doesn’t see it that way. His actions were practical, he told the Press Herald. “If my wife needed a kidney, and I couldn’t provide for her, I would hope that somebody else would help her out.”

may 2016 awful idea legoNishant Choksi for Reader's Digest

[pullquote]Since Prostheses Take An Emotional Toll On Kids, Make Them With Legos[/pullquote]

Our reaction: Have you ever had kids? Know what they do with Legos? They lose them! Having a prosthesis isn’t fun and games!

Why it’s ingenious: When it comes to kids, maybe prostheses should be fun and games. Children missing limbs suffer from both physical and psychological handicaps. Carlos Torres Tovar wondered if there was a way to make these kids the life of the party.

Tovar, a Colombian designer who studied at Umea University in Sweden, created a prosthetic arm with a three-finger gripper, powered by a specialized motorized adapter, much like many other prostheses. But here’s where it gets interesting: The gripper can be easily snapped off the device in favor of a gadget made entirely of Legos, one the child designs and creates. Want an airplane foran arm? Here’s your chance! How about a doll? Go for it. A Maserati? Vroom!

Dario, then an eight-year-old from Colombia, was born with a partially developed right arm that stopped growing at the elbow. Last year, he became the first to test the new device. With the help of family and staff members, he created a battery-powered remote-controlled backhoe, which he fitted onto his arm after removing the gripper.

Dario’s friend joined him at the test. The friend has two fully functional arms, but he got swept up into the spirit and built a Lego spaceship. Dario snapped that onto his arm, and soon the two were off in outer space.

The reason Lego-compatible prostheses make kids happy is simple, Tovar told It’s social: “When you assemble a Lego set, you assemble it with your parents or your friends, or you even make a new friend with them.”

may 2016 awful ideaNishant Choksi for Reader's Digest

[pullquote]To Fight Drought, Pour 96 Million Plastic Balls Into Reservoirs[/pullquote]

Our reaction: Shouldn’t they try pouring more water into the reservoir instead? There’s already enough garbage in our drinking water!

A brilliant effort: The skies finally opened up over California recently, but after five years of devastating drought, everyone wants to make sure the water stays in the reservoir and isn’t lost to evaporation. To that end, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has dumped “shade balls” into the reservoir. By blocking the sun’s rays from the water, the balls will reduce evaporation by 300 million gallons a year; they’ll also keep “the water clear of dust and critters, hinder algae growth, and prevent chemical reactions between sunlight and chlorine,” says USA Today.

The balls, which have at least a ten-year life span, are just four inches in diameter and are made from the same BPA-free plastic material as milk jugs. At 36 cents a pop, or $34.5 million total, the shade balls are a lot cheaper than the EPA’s alternative: Create a floating cover for the reservoir at a cost of $300 million.

Pouring 96 million plastic balls into a reservoir might strike some as crazy talk, but desperate times require desperate measures. As Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti told, “This is emblematic of the kind of creative thinking we need to meet those challenges.”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.