Insights on Innovation and Impact from Africa’s Largest Urban Slum, Kibera

Part 1: Introduction to Impact Week & Kibera

In April 2019, I had the privilege to mentor 150+ youth from Kibera as they began to develop the skills and mindset needed to launch an impact enterprise.

This was a part of the Impact Week program, which was launched in Nairobi back in 2015 and is now run in a number of countries across the globe including Colombia, India, and Rwanda.

Impact Week takes the latest theories in innovation and entrepreneurship, packages them into an intense three day program, and then delivers the program to low income – high impact communities. Impact Week was a breath of fresh air full of inspiration and smiles.

For the program we were located in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, and home to an estimated 1 Million plus residents. Kibera is heavily polluted and contaminated with human and animal feces, due to the open sewage system and the frequent use of “flying toilets”. The lack of sanitation combined with poor nutrition among residents accounts for many illnesses and diseases. The community here is facing a number of major issues and in need of innovative solutions.

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Despite the visually clear issues at hand and the major barriers to innovation, I left Kibera inspired by the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the those tackling the issues at hand. Kibera is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and impact with a lot of potential for rapid change.

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Impact Week attracted 150+ local youth to join the 3-day program. This was an amazing opportunity for the youth to learn about entrepreneurship, whilst connecting with like-minded peers.

For many participating this was their first time to learn about entrepreneurship, begin to build a business and consider how they can have a positive impact in their own community. The program also included a chance for teams to pitch their ideas for a number of prizes to help them get started.

Impact Week is an empowering experience designed to provide the youth with the tools they need to take control of their future and the inspiration to become agents of change for their local community.. #forusbyus

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Part 2: Insights on Innovation and Impact from Kibera

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1. Impact requires action: The youth of Kibera possess a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit. In less than 72 hours, the youth had met customers, built prototypes and started to validate their ideas. The motivation to ‘hack’ solutions together under a lean startup approach demonstrated a high level of resourcefulness and motivation. Often the best thing we can do when building a new startup is to simple ‘GO’

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2. Innovation requires insights:The youth of Kibera dream big. With very limited resources you would forgive the teams to think small. However due to the power of the internet teams had gained insights from far and wide to re-imagine how Kibera could be transformed. Innovation is often described as ‘connecting the dots’ as such by increasing the ‘dots’ or ‘insights’ innovation is more likely.

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3. A big problem is often a big opportunity. Where you see trash, the youth of Kibera see gold. The most common solutions involved recycling / up-cycling the waste plastic and organic matter. The vast amount of waste is clear to see in every corner. A serious issue that is getting worse and the causal effect of many other issues. It was thus powerful for the young people to see the business opportunity at the heart of this issue.

The combination of teaching the latest impact theories, providing hands on mentorship, and an opportunity to present ideas for feedback is a powerful model to help the youth to develop the skill-set and mindset needed for impact. This is a model we hold close to our hearts at Hult Prize Foundation and the core of our action learning programs, which in 2019 alone trained 200,000+ students.

It was great to see a program of this quality being delivered in Kibera, where arguably the youth and residents need this training the most. By empowering the youth with the tools to solve the challenges we face, we enable them to take their future into their own hands today. #forusbyus

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Part 3: Kibera Town Center

During the week we also visited the HNP (Human Needs Project) Kibera Town Centre. The centre empowers against poverty, by bringing essential services to slum residents. Designed by renowned architect and green designer Ken Kao, the centre opened its doors in July of 2014.

The Kibera Town Centre provides physical infrastructure for clean water and sanitation. They also build social infrastructure with capacity building: information, skills training, access to credit and computers, and community ownership. The combination empowers people and transforms communities.

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The center also runs the popular Kibera Town Center Search for Talent a platform for residents to showcase their creativity and potentially launch a new professional career. You can check out the linked YouTube video for a taste of the action.

Inside the Center, I was blown away by people like Gordwin Odhiambo who picked up a camera three years ago for the first time in his life, and is now an up and coming storyteller who uses his Cannon and Instagram as his choice of tools. You can check out his Instagram and congratulate him on his recent showcase in NYC.

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I also met Kennedy who had rented the training room for the day to teach fellow residents Forex Trading. Something I could have never imagined to discover in Kiberia.

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He told me that his fellow residents are hungry for knowledge and opportunities to create economic change. He taught himself how to trade, thanks to the power of the internet, which dramatically improved his own situation. He now looks to empower others with these skills and knowledge.

This is another example of the power of connectivity and the internet as a great equalizer. His actions to share this knowledge with his community, regardless if this room of people become great traders or investors, will create an impact multiplier effect as members discover the power of the internet and group learning to gain skills and knowledge.

Part 4: Explore, learn and connect to Kenya with Impact Tours

Kibera, Nairobi, and Kenya are hubs of innovation built on a powerful mobile first movement, which have led to great success stories including M-Pesa, M-KOPA, and BuuPass. The region also faces major social issues, making it an ideal location for Impact Entrepreneurship.

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If you would like to deepen your knowledge within the Impact sector and entrepreneurship whilst having the adventure of a lifetime then check out Impact Tours.

Our Kenya tour will give you a taste of what it is to be a social entrepreneur inside Africa’s Innovation hub. You will meet the local community movers and shakers, create direct impact withBuuPass, the fastest growing transportation solution in Kenya, and have an adventure of a lifetime as you explore the wildlife.  

Impact Tours is also operational in India, Thailand and Colombia. So be sure to plan with us your next adventure as we build a brighter future together.

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