Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on the blog of Evelyn Namara, a member of Acumen’s second class of East Africa Fellows.
“Create something that will make the world awesome” – The Kid President said in his Pep Talk. What an amazingly inspiring future leader – I would love to still be alive and see the kind of change such a young mind will bring to his generation.
Being a part of a world where people stop thinking about themselves and moving on to feel the desire to touch, change and make the world awesome is what this Class of 2013 Fellows subscribes to.
Seminar One of the East Africa Fellows Program took place last week in Nairobi, Kenya and it was an experience I will never forget. If I were to describe what it meant for me – I would say it was a moment of believing that change can happen, and that Africa indeed has a bright future.
20 very diverse young leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda were chosen as Fellows for the class of 2013. I was touched by the kind of change people are driving in their social change projects.
The first seminar brought all of us to a place of learning to know each other – we are embarking on a year’s journey with people with different dreams, different visions, and different aspirations, and getting to learn why each of us is driven to do what we do was key as we started off.
A young woman passionate about young girls who are being forced into early marriages and robbing them of their future by making them mothers in their teenage years – a very unacceptable practice happening in Samburu tribe, north-central of Kenya. – Josephine Kulea has built a rehabilitation center where they rescue these young girls and take them back to school – so that they too can have a bright future, a future they are entitled to.
Millions of girls in the developing world skip up to 20% of the school year, partly because they can not afford to buy sanitary pads. Julienne Ingabire from Rwanda is working hard with her social change program SHE INNOVATES by producing low-cost sanitary pads made out of low-cost locally available material to help the women and girls who can not afford re-usable sanitary pads to also have a chance to live a normal life.
Throughout East Africa, women walk many miles a day with a heavy load of firewood for cooking fuel. “Cooking should not be a death penalty for our women,” according to Tayeb Noorbhai who works with SimGas in Tanzania and they offer biogas solutions to help people improve their lives and save money with the way they cook!
These are only 3 of 17 amazing social change projects that the Fellows of 2013 are a part of. The projects mentioned above I particularly connect to them because they have aspects of women and girls in them.
“What will you create that will make the world awesome?” asks the Kid President, “Nothing if you keep sitting there! This is your time, this is my time, this is our time. We can make everyday better for each other. If we are all on the same TEAM – let’s start acting like it, we got work to do, we can cry about it, or we can dance about it.” I can tell you that the fellows I met last week are surely doing something in their social projects to make the world a better place, and am glad am part of this team.
We dug into the operational skills management too – how does a business or a small social enterprise know about its operations? I particularly loved the 20/80 rule of business – The Pareto Principle. By the numbers it means that 80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs. So looking at what you do everyday, it is essential to focus on those things that are vital that you will do and will in turn make your organization take off. I had a lot of things to take away from the operations training, from learning to draw processes for every sector of my organization to knowing at what point in one’s business do you need to expand or scale.
My favorite part of the first seminar was the Human Centered Design Process. For years, businesses have used human-centered design to develop innovative solutions. Why not apply the same approach to overcome challenges in the non-profit world? IDEO.org focuses on this approach to design solutions for social enterprises and non-profits to create solutions to the world’s most dire poverty- related challenges.
Including end users in every aspect of the design process is key when creating solutions that will eventually be used by the same people. I learned a lot from this process of Design Thinking and realizing how everything is connected and how you can not leave the end-user out of the entire process.
I related this concept with my daily work – I have tested so many solar lanterns and it’s evident that the ones that are highly sought are the ones that were built using this design model. If you do not include the end-user in the process of designing the product, then who are you designing for?
There is a toolkit for all social enterprises and non profits who want to dig in and learn more about this process of design thinking here.
What a week! I learned more about myself, I learned more about my fellow Fellows and I came back challenged to be a better person and to do even more in my social change project.
I cannot wait for the second seminar in a couple months. Big thanks to Acumen Fund for making all of this possible and investing in future leaders!