Great presentation by Andy Hadfield about why Africa is alive with opportunities.
It was an early start to the day in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania but we were all looking forward visiting the rural town of Morogoro, located 190km from the city centre. Along with the TANZICT team and CEO of COSTECH Incubator we had a long 3 hour drive ahead and driving into beautiful Morogoro was an experience in itself. We were welcomed by Nate who is a passionate young man part of the Global Students Embassy programme and who currently runs a computer training facility in Morogoro.
As we arrived we were directed to a school (read TANZICT post about the experience)where more than 150 learners were waiting for us to discussion social innovation and entrepreneurship. Spending time with this amazing group of young people who are passionate about their communities and social change taught me THREE valuable Social Entrepreneurship lessons:
1) Adversity is the catalysts for innovation. In a community where the learners indicated that the main problems are water, electricity, infrastructure and connectivity were the key drivers for social innovation in the community.
2) Community-driven innovation initiatives are great opportunities to grow into social enterprises. Some of the learners saw an opportunity to start a gardening project where they can grow produce that can possibly be sold to members of the local community.
3) Tension in communities do bring together a wide range of people who as a collective can address the problems in a sustainable way. Through the GSE program it is amazing to see how a number of different stakeholders in Morogoro along with the learners and schools are coming together to make a difference in their communities.
The experience with the learners was nothing short of being special and their passion to learn about entrepreneurship with a social impact tells me that Morogoro, Tanzania has a bright future ahead with world-class leaders.
RLabs is excited to have Nairobi Innovation Lab (NaiLab) as one of its partners in Kenya with a goal of fostering new innovation and entrepreneurs in Africa. This collaboration came through our partnerships with One Percent Club and we know that Africa’s heart beats for a new breed of innovators. NaiLab based in Nairobi is an Innovation Lab that grows young creative and technology entrepreneurs and we are all passionate seeing youth businesses growing in Africa.
The increasing number of young people interested in entrepreneurship was proved recently when NaiLab opened up its call for its first incubatees. Seeing the quality of businesses being incubated and the strong element of also social entrepreneurship in the list is encouraging and RLabs is looking forward to see these businesses grow through locally in Kenya but also through its global network. Well done to all those who submitted and we know many exciting stories will be coming our way from Kenya.
Since the first launch of The Champions programme by Youth Works Asia a few months ago it was with lots of excitement for me to travel back to visit RLabs in Asia and see how the champions are doing. The trip personally was confirmation that when you give young people the opportunity to do good and create the environment for them to grow that the results will be more than you can ever imagine.
I remember like it was yesterday, when I got a call in September 2000 and asked if I would be willing to teach the C++ programming class on a part-time basis at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) (Thanks to Corrie Uys for the suggestion and making that call). I never for a minute thought that I would be with CPUT for over 10 years!!
It was therefore with great sadness that I had to make the decision to say goodbye to CPUT tomorrow and starting a new journey as a Social Entrepreneur with RLabs and managing JamiiX. The time in the Information Technology department was a memorable one where I met amazing students along the way and really worked with the best group of people ever. We shared so much together, tears, laughter, failure and successes but above all I’ve met a group of people who are leaving a lasting memory with me and who I will never be able to forget. Many have become more than just work colleagues to me but friends for life and who I am forever grateful for their contribution to where I am today. It was also at CPUT that I had a mentor and mother in Retha de la Harpe who was very instrumental in the journey that I’ve embarked on and who I will forever be indebted for her sacrifice and belief in me and my abilities. To all my colleagues over the years in the IT Department (Wilhelm Rothman – My Hero, David Makola – My good friend, Kirstin Krauss – My partner in crime, Estelle Zietsman, Johan Uys, Kruben Naidoo, Chris Kies, Nazier Paulsen, Euphias Rhode, Jay Barnes, Michelle Barnes, Denise Lakay, Tem, Karen, Ashraf, Mike (will be missed and who passed away), and everyone academic and support colleagues who I had the honour and privilege to work with…) and our Head of Department – Bennett Alexander for being so supportive to the work I’ve embarked on. A special thank also to Colleen Murphy, an amazing woman who was our department secretary but above all a true friend, I am forever grateful for her friendship and also being there when I needed her support the most. To our Dean of the Faculty of Informatics and Design, Johannes Cronje, who always believed in me and to the rest of the staff in the faculty for the friendships and partnerships we formed over the last few years since the merger of CPUT. Other colleagues from faculties of Business, Finance and Research who truly left a lasting impression on me and for the great friendships that grew from these relationships.
After such an amazing time with CPUT this new journey is one that is unknown, but above all it is the one that I will take in a mission to reach a third of the world’s population with a message of hope in my lifetime through the work that I am embarking on. It is here where I will share that journey of hope, change, community, technology and innovation that will become my life’s mission and goal that cannot be achieved without those who have impacted me at CPUT, in the past and those who I will meet on this Quest.
A famous quote states that “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” and that is what the journey of RLabs have been over the last few years. A global movement where technology and innovation are used to address local problems and bring about social transformation has been such a journey.
This past week I had the privilege sharing the RLabs story with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Graphic Design students and what an interesting response I had. It was also a wonderful opportunity to learn what some of the students were doing to make a social difference in their community. The question that was asked on a number of occasions was how do you grow a sustainable project in a community without being reliant on only donor funding? That in itself is another interesting post for sustainable models for social projects but I wanted to share the following three points in how we’ve managed to sustain our projects in RLabs:
1) You need human resources (PEOPLE) and we’ve done that successfully by gathering a group of champions from all over the world who are passionate about the Social Revolution.
2) We maximize our resources and skills available to us in order to grow the movement and the work we are doing in communities.
3) Use the power of Social Media to engage with people who are willing to provide their support (skills or finances) to your project. Do not use the tools to ask for money or resources but rather use it as a means to have more meaningful engagement.
The above points are just some of the lessons we’ve learned to grow a sustainable movement for Social Transformation and this could also be used in your social project in making a difference in the lives of others.
I’ve now been in Asia for two weeks and lots of exciting things are happening with the launch of RLabs as well as JamiiX and amazing to see how people are maximising the use of technology in their lives. However, for me personally there has a massive transition and change that took place and my life will never be the same again. It is while on this exciting journey with young people and great minds alike that led me to this new journey of longing to reach at least 1 third of the World’s population in my lifetime and leaving a positive footprint through the work of RLabs and other initiatives that I am involved in.
This journey is not a solo journey but one of people reaching out to others in need and I do see technology playing a big role in this. This is the reason for the change in title of this blog and new “feel” to keep you updated on what is happening on this journey. You can still expect technology insights, interviews, research and all things fun related to innovation and technology. For now this pursuit of a dream has begun and I am excited to have shared it with you as we together strive to reach that 2 Billion people in 1 Lifetime.