Phillip Denny is the Director, Big Ideas ContestBlum Center for Developing EconomiesUniversity of California, Berkeley. Phillip has been supporting the Big Ideas Contest since inception in 2006. Big Ideas is an annual contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of students who have “big ideas.” Since its founding in 2006, Big Ideas has inspired innovative and high-impact student-led projects aimed at solving problems that matter to this generation. By encouraging novel proposals and then supporting concrete next steps, Big Ideas is helping contest winners make an impact all over the world.  Details about Big Ideas are shared on

As part of Phillip’s visit to Kampala Uganda, he hosted a networking dinner on February 13,  2018, 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Piato Restaurant on Plot 20, Lumumba Avenue, Kampala. In attendance were local Big Ideas judges and mentors, colleagues from ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), University of California Berkeley alumni and a few Big Ideas winners. ‘I am honored that you joined us for this very special evening’ shared Phillip as he freely engaged with the dinner participants. This was an opportunity to convey gratitude to all for the invaluable contributions made to the success of the Big Ideas Contest, and a chance to network with those who have helped to make the Contest a huge success at Makerere University.

Some of the dinner participants had the following to share;

Phillip was grateful to the team for the continuous support to the Big Ideas Contest noting that the quality and number of applications from Makerere University has greatly improved/increased. He also appreciated the time individuals spare and volunteer to support the Big Ideas teams in one way or the other.

He also added that now that the Rockefeller Foundation is interested in supporting certain aspects of the Big Ideas Contest, it is yet another affirmation that the contest activities will seamlessly continue for the benefit of the communities in which we live and serve.

He also urged the innovators and Big Ideas Contest winners to further support, mentor and also encourage other innovators, students and community at large to apply to the Big Ideas Contest. That this is one of the ways these innovators and or previous winners will give back to the program but also further grow learned skills.

Dr. Roy William Mayega, Deputy Chief of Party-RAN also expressed gratitude towards the Big Ideas Contest team for keeping Makerere University through RAN as a close partner in this contest. He added that serving as a judge to the contest has also been an educative process for him sighting that the proposals submitted to this contest are thorough with the potential to positively transform our communities. ‘Even as University faculty, engaging in this contest as a Judge and Mentor has greatly contributed to the improvement of my teaching skills. I believe that all faculty here present can attest to this’ Dr. Mayega shared.

He urged the Big Ideas team to work out ways through which the Big Ideas alumni can directly coach, mentor and support the new entrants, also working towards further knowledge generation and sharing in addition to contributing to the sustainability of this program. ‘Let us create a working group of all Big Ideas winners at Makerere University and also elsewhere so that this group is charged with some responsibilities directed towards further growing the program.  Since they benefited from the program, they need to contribute towards benefiting others too’ Dr. Mayega noted. ‘It is also a high time University of California Berkeley; Blum Center officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Makerere University to run the Big Ideas contest. This is one of the things we all need to follow-up with to ensure that the Big Ideas contest is deep rooted in Makerere University’ he added.

Dr. Thelma Awori, Honorary Consul General of Liberia in Uganda and an alumna of Makerere University and University of California while at the networking dinner said ‘I am particularly excited to be part of this evening yet again witnessing University of California excel in executing the Big Ideas contest in collaboration with Makerere University. Such opportunities to develop, nurture and grow creative ways of doing things is what is desirable for Uganda, all institutions of learning, Africa and the entire globe if we are to realize development in areas where it is still lacking’. While pledging her continued support, she also urged the team to keep working even harder for greater achievements highlighting that she has also never stopped working hard and thus no one should stop executing his/her duties diligently until all lives in the communities are positively touched.

Olivia Koburongo, Innovator with Mama Ope project-Pneumonia Vest and past Big Ideas winners 2014-2015 shared that her team will remain forever indebted to the Big Ideas and RAN team for the continuous support accorded to them thus far. She noted that it is through such opportunities that they have been able to further develop the pneumonia vest but also improve their pitching skills to attract more interest in and support to the innovation. ‘As past winners, we would like to see Big Ideas grow bigger and bigger and even target beneficiaries at secondary school level’ Olivia added.

‘It is humbling being apart of the team working closely with Phillip and the Big Ideas Contest team at University of California Berkeley. While Phillip is in Uganda and particularly supporting the Makerere University Big Ideas applicants, the way he is engrossed in teaching the students but also meticulously responding to their questions is something all mentors should emulate’ said Deborah Naatujuna, Engagement Manager-RAN.

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