Since inception, Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) www.ranlab.org has collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) http://web.mit.edu/  as partners in the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN). During this collaboration, several activities were planned and these included; creating an enabling learning environment for both Makerere University and MIT students through planned engagements, collaboratively implementing the Youth Innovation workshops held in Soroti district of Eastern Uganda and continued online engagement supporting capacity building for the benefit of those communities in need among others.

In this regards, 2 students from MIT visited Uganda and these together with their Lead, Nai Lee Kalema stopped over at the RAN Innovation Lab not only to appreciate the Innovation lab and activities there in but also physically engage with the Open Ed Fellowship http://www.opensustainability.org/fellowship/ program beneficiaries. Almost all the Open Ed Fellows joined in this engagement registering 12 out of 13 in attendance under the leadership of

Philip Asedri Dradrio, a Trainer in the Joint Open Ed Program. The engagement at the RAN Innovation Lab happened on Friday January 12, 2018.  It was yet another opportunity to generate and share knowledge and experiences. These students later headed for Soroti in Eastern Uganda for the Youth Innovation workshop. The MIT team was in Uganda from January 6th through 30th, 2018. Specifically, they were in Kampala from January 6th through 12th and in Soroti from January 14th through 29th, 2018. Thank you MIT Fellows for the continued partnership but above all for offering to serve the communities in need.

During the engagement at RAN, both MIT and Open ED Fellows shared experiences and facts about each program, engaged in questions and answers session and explored areas of leverage and collaboration. Both the MIT and Open Ed Fellows used this opportunity to share about what their interests are in relation to the work each group is currently doing. It was and is still interesting to note that all these Fellows are people deliberately working create a culture of innovation in the communities with the aim of transforming these communities at the base of the pyramid. The MIT team shared that their focus is mainly on offering innovation incubation support, mentorship, research support, capacity building-enhancing learning from impact investors, funding and collaboration to the people they work with towards impacting the global innovation ecosystem. They also added that the Youth Innovation Workshop in Eastern Uganda was aimed at exposing participants to coding, Human Centered Design, empower them to deal with their own community challenges, expose them to STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, understand ecological systems, intensely engage with young people in two weeks’ time, explore different design products or projects and at the end of the workshop, showcase the activities and products. ‘We are always privileged and happy to benefit from opportunities like these ones enabling us to plug into the existing innovation spaces in Uganda and Africa at large’ shared Nai Lee Kalema,Master’s Candidate, International Relations, Extension at Harvard University and MIT Students’ Lead.

The Open Ed Fellows were equally delighted to meet with the team from MIT sharing that business is not all about registering profits but making investments and coining potential supportive collaborations too. That the Open Ed Fellows are working together to understand people in the communities in-depth but also empower them in several angels of life. They also shared that some of the trainings an Open Ed Fellow gets are in the areas of; Business Modelling, Ecological Practices, Filed work to get hands-on with the communities, Branding and Publicity, Networking and Collaboration among others. One of the Open Ed Fellows 2016 Cohort Dr. Gudla Naiga Basaza, during this engagement noted that ‘Thank you RAN Lab for making available and accessible to us this platform to meet and share learnings with people who are on the same journey like us. This makes life easier, offers a rich learning experience, motivates us to move forward and laugh about failure together’. There is so much to learn from diversity including Doctors, event managers, and the medical fraternity, engineers, Social Scientists, nutritionists, social workers and others. Engaging multidisciplinary teams is beneficial because there is cross and multi learning in the groups, Dr. Naiga added. The Open ED Program is open to all including students-undergraduates and graduates. After the fellowship, fellows are continuously monitored, engaged in further supporting other innovation incubates and are connected to other partners for further support including funding opportunities,

Some of the potential areas for collaboration between these MIT students and Open Ed Fellows identified during the Meet, Greet and Engage opportunity at the RAN Innovation Lab include the following;

  • Possibility for the two teams to support one another in proposal writing soliciting for funds to support the work currently being done.
  • Further explore Community Youth support programs in which both teams can participate and offer a service.
  • Training on the MIT and Open Ed Program approaches both online and where possible face to face.
  • Share and interest the Open Ed Fellows in the MIT D-Lab Fellowship Program.
  • The MIT Fellows to work towards creating a video of the Soroti workshop and share this widely for further knowledge generation and sharing.
  • Both teams could further leverage Social Media including creating a YouTube Channel where all short informative videos can be shared aiding sharing of all work being done in different places, lessons learned and experiences too.
  • Share events showcasing the two teams’ activities so that others can plug in where necessary and possible. In so doing, contribute to translating knowledge into business.
  • Leveraging both MIT and Open Ed teams’ expertise to facilitate sessions with either team and these sessions can be virtual or face-to-face.
  • Explore student exchange programs to benefit many.
  • Participants agreed to keep lines of communication open so that the conversation can continue and they shared contacts to support further chats and collaborations which can easily mushroom from the initial engagement.

Both teams were grateful for the opportunity to meet, greet and engage at the RAN Innovation Lab. They thanked the RAN team for always being supportive and welcoming noting that whoever offers you a platform to meet, greet and engage with another person or group of people wishes you good and in particular growth and development. ‘Visiting RAN and having interacted with the RAN innovators has always been a huge highlight of the trip for the MIT students. More so, being able to host two innovators from the RAN Innovation Lab was also a huge highlight for the young participants and which I think enriched the youth innovation workshop immensely. Featuring the voices of Ugandan entrepreneurs and Makerere students was very inspiring’ shared Nai Lee Kalema.

This year too, the MIT team hosted two RAN student innovators who are also former RAN Student Interns 2017 Cohort to work with them to implement activities of the Youth Innovation workshop in Soroti. This is also part of capacity building for the students as workshop participants. The two students are from Makerere University; Tonny Muwonge, Bachelor of Environmental Health Sciences at College of Health Sciences School of Public Health and Yashimin Mafadi, Bachelor of Commerce at the College of Business and Management Studies. These students also joined in and benefitted from discussions at the meet, greet and engage session at the RAN Innovation Lab.

The 2016 piece is shared on https://www.ranlab.org/mit-d-lab-students-the-ran-innovation-lab   and https://www.ranlab.org/collaboration-enhances-knowledge-generation-and-sharing-ran-innovators-at-the-creative-capacity-building-training-of-trainers-ccb-tot-design-summit.

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