Advancing Innovations Workshop in partnership with Stanford University Change Labs

Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (www.ranlab.org) in partnership with Stanford Change Labs (http://changelabs.stanford.edu/) hosted a 4-day workshop at the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (EA RI Lab).

Drawing from Stanford University Change Labs’ rich facilitation style, this workshop was engaging packed with hands-on sessions. It kicked off with a warm up session where all participants shared about a colleague’s biggest achievement to bring all up to speed but most importantly create a tense free workshop environment.

The first day of the workshop was guided by the topic: “Impact Potential Assessment and Planning

Workshop guidelines included;

  • Learn through doing and trying out different or new things
  • Focus on “How might we? Instead of we can’t because…Let us be creative and co-create as a team
  • Avoid splitting hairs and arguing about the best way and instead bring a spirit of cooperation
  • Take what you hear and adapt it for your success

Objectives

  • Identify and prioritize the Impact Potential- building activities that your lab can start doing immediately
  • Constructively critique and revise the techniques for measuring Impact Potential

Dr. Harriet Namata, RAN Monitoring and Evaluation Manager then led participants through a refresher on the Impact Potential Framework highlighting that the purpose of Impact Potential to RAN is to show that all implemented activities are very important, of value and not a waste of time. “It is necessary to extend such knowledge to other RI Labs and Innovation projects,” she added.

RAN team under the guidance of the Change Labs team later broke away into working groups categorized to incorporate all RI Labs under the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) http://www.ranlab.org/rilabs to conduct an Impact Potential self-assessment exercise purposed to help RAN appreciate its progress to date and identify gaps to guide r- channeling of resources for improvement (design and implementation of an action plan).

During the workshop, Theodora Gibson, the Senior Design Strategist at Stanford Change Labs and one of the facilitators of the Business Modeling Workshop: Advancing Innovation, engaged the RAN team in a discussion on how the process of measuring, streamlining the measuring and monitoring process of impact potential to identify how it can be made a useful and valuable process for everyone involved.

Opening remarks by Prof. William Bazeyo

While officially opening the Scaling Workshop, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director welcomed and thanked all development partners for sparing their valuable time to join the RAN Team in planning for the nation. Several development partners including: National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA), Ministry of Finance, National Development Authority (NDA) and Hostalite among others joined in this deliberation. He also welcomed the other RI Lab representatives from West Africa, Horn of Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa for the continued commitment to developing solutions through Innovation and active participation in the Scaling workshop. He also welcomed Prof. Banny Banerjee, Theo Gibbs and Anna from Stanford Change Labs one of RAN’s Core partners at Stanford University. He described Theo as a spark in innovation and recognized Prof. Banny for his expertise in Innovation talk.

Prof. Bazeyo stated, “As a Network of Universities, we can do whatever we do but unless we closely work with those responsible for review and implementation of policies, then our work can easily go to vain.” He added; “I am particularly proud of the Innovators for when we were writing the proposal; we were worried and skeptical whether students and faculty would join us to realize this dream. We were also worried because people like to work in silos, which is not a good practice.  We need to work together if we are to crash the most pressing challenges and strengthen resilience in the communities.” Prof. Bazeyo also emphasized that what the RAN Team is doing within the RAN Innovation Lab must cause change. He urged all the workshop participants to stop being the doubting Thomas; “no one will steal your innovative idea, share it with the RAN Team and get expert feedback to inform further development of the idea/project/innovation or prototype. However, he also cautioned all participants never to compete with people bigger than them as this can lead to one’s destruction and total failure.

It is prestigious for Uganda to provide a solution for Uganda, Africa and beyond sharing the example of the Humane Emergency Use Canopies and Accessories (HEUCA) Ebola tent project http://www.ranlab.org/heuca currently being worked on by a multidisciplinary team from Makerere University School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN).

His remarks were followed by 5 minutes pitch presentation session by all RAN innovations http://www.ranlab.org/innovations including; MATIBABU, ROOTIO, EDAD, Village Egg Bank, Mushroom project, Better farming better me, Back2 Millet at the dining table, Rapid Solar Dryer and Kungula Maize Thresher. It was a wonderful opportunity for participants as they gave feedback and incites on various projects and the areas of improvement.

As this day came to a close, the teams with good pitches were awarded cash prizes to help them continue remodeling or improving their projects in preparation for scale. The Deputy Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe congratulated the participants and thanked RAN for availing this great opportunity. In a special way, he thanked Prof. Bazeyo for being very innovative, and bringing a lot of solutions to African problems. He also thanked the judges for their support and encouraged the young people and the Innovators to continue with their projects without despair. He stated, “A part from creating Innovations, be persuasive and convince people (end users and investors) to support your projects and or purchase your service or Innovation.”

Awarded teams included:

1st Place- $500  Kungula Maize Thresher

2nd Place- $400Rapid Solar Dryer

3rd Place- $ 300Village egg bank

4th Place- 300 $Domesticating earthworms won

During the 3rd series of the 4-day workshop, Dr. Dorothy Okello welcomed potential external scaling partners including; a team from Top Finance Bank: Komukama Diana-Marketing Manager Maureen Muliisa- Customer Care Manager, George Ibanda- Business Development Manager and Antony Tenywa-Incite and Research Manager at Vodafone Uganda to the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab in a bid to identify possible areas of synergy, strengthen partnerships and further engage them in RAN’s activities. Dr. Okello shared a brief overview About RAN and the projects currently under incubation at the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation lab (EARI Lab) to get all up to speed. She noted that, “These issues, community challenges or problems faced in African countries are second nature to us (the Africans), instead of sitting back, watching and waiting for the foreign community (who are fortunately always willing and ready to help) to come down and study about Africa and the most pressing challenges,, we need to exploit the opportunity and develop innovative solutions to address these challenges”.

Professor Banny Banerjee, Founder of the Stanford Change Labs, shared that the most captivating thing about RAN is that it has transformed resources (including knowledge) that were redundant or untapped and has turned them into products that will address and or solve community challenges. “The beauty of having RAN is in the ability of the RAN Team to remain creative and innovative in the way you implement RAN’s objectives” Added Prof. Banny.

One of the partners Antony Tenywa, appreciated RAN’s initiative of getting immersed into the communities and generating ideas from the data collected closely working in and with a multiple disciplinary task force, using the information gathered as a foundation to develop solutions for the challenges faced in the communities. He added that, “It is very important for the RAN Team to clearly point out, document and share the positive impact that the various RAN projects have registered in the communities. Also, highlight how a telecommunication company can enhance the operations of RAN or create opportunities that help to strengthen resilience. Bring out those community voices so that they too further inform different possible partnerships”.

During a brainstorming session, the RAN team, external partners and Stanford Change Labs team broke away into two groups to brainstorm on How to create a new form of cross-sectoral partnership that will enable social entrepreneurs to scale their impact as fast as possible. Participants also physically engaged in a ‘mock’ involving sealing   a partnership or convincing a potential scaling partner or end user/buyer within 90 seconds having met in an elevator. This provided further learning and prompted critique too as RAN prepared a moving pitch to further sell the project.

Closing Remarks by Professor Banny Banerjee

While officially concluding the Business Modeling Workshop, Prof. Banny Banerjee, Founder of the Stanford Change Labs recognized the maturity to which RAN has grown. He added that this is manifested in RAN’s activities over a period of 4 years now. He continued to encourage RAN not to despair as the initiatives the project is undertaking are unique and of substance. He emphasized, “We as Stanford Change Labs are past the level of nurturing and spoon feeding you, and we are now partnering with RAN to work as co-creators. It is RANs responsibility to take on the Innovation process and exhibit characteristics of Innovation Leadership, do not stop at mentoring innovators only but also be involved and closely follow-up on the performance and growth of all innovation projects.We have to find ways of becoming less reliant on funders and learn to walk on our own feet. Let us tell our story in a different way where we show investors what we have achieved so far and how we have brought change in the communities.”

“There is no simple beginning; all beginnings are not possible/easy but we have to remain focused in order to achieve positive impact” emphasized Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/ Lab Director.

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