Developing Entrepreneurial Projects to Assist Slum Dwellers, Tanzania
Georgia Ware (2012, Engineering)
The Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI) is a student run charity that was established last year by two Cambridge undergraduates. CDI believes that students can have a far greater impact in the developing world if they apply their bright minds to solving problems rather than doing manual labour, which displaces skilled workmen out of a job. CDI also recognises that volunteering should be a two way learning process where the volunteers gain as much from their experiences as the intended benefiters. Both sides gain from the experience creating a sustainable transaction.
I was part of its first cohort for CDI of 30 students working in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this summer. The initiative ran four projects under the titles of health, education, engineering and entrepreneurship. I became a member of the entrepreneurship team in February and worked for the last two Cambridge terms planning the project as well as receiving training. I worked within a team of five aiming to improve entrepreneurship within the city.
Urban youth unemployment is exceptionally high in Dar. Something really striking about the city is the amount of opportunity available for enterprise, particularly at the bottom of the pyramid where there is very little competition. We believe entrepreneurship is the best method to reduce youth unemployment and also improve the prosperity of the city. We believe that the most effective and sustainable way for Dar es Salaam to develop was by creating future socially minded entrepreneurs, putting the power back into Tanzanians and creating change makers of the leaders of the future. Although we had been advised that any improvement in Entrepreneurship within the city would have a positive effect on the low income communities, we didn’t agree. We specifically ran our course on Social Entrepreneurship to show students how businesses can both be profitable to the owner and beneficial to low income communities.
We ran a six week long programme for 22 students from the University of Dar es Salaam on Social Entrepreneurship. The students were from a wide mix of backgrounds, educationally, geographically and financially. We used a local slum area called Manzese as a design focus, basing all our ideas on problems found around this area, utilising the theory of Human Centred Design. The first half of the course consisted mostly of teaching the students creative skills, learning how to ideate and work within teams. Our course was very different to the rote learning the students had been used to the whole way up the Tanzanian education system and hence many unanticipated skills lessons were implemented into the programme such as networking, public speaking and team management. We conducted regular site visits to Manzese, showed the students around local enterprise incubators and organised local entrepreneurs to come into the University and talk to them. This helped to break up the classroom atmosphere.
The second half of the program was focused on the ideas the students generated. We switched from being teaching figures to being facilitators, guiding the students through the initial phases of building their companies. The students formed five teams. I mentored four students who were trying to solve the problem of poor water supply. We interviewed people from Manzese, researched online and continuously prototyped our ideas. At the end of the six weeks my group had a formed idea to create a desalination system for well owners in the slum areas. They had a financial model, a business plan and a well thought through idea.
DARE to Change DAR Conference
On 25 August we ran a Social Entrepreneurship conference
titled DARE to Change DAR. We had a turnout of 200 people. The aim of the conference was to inspire Tanzanians within Dar, particularly the young, to use entrepreneurial solutions to Dar’s ever growing problems. We hosted two panels on health and technology and persuaded two high profile speakers, Rakesh Rajani and January Macamba, to speak at the event. The highlight of the event was our student pitches. Each team had 10 minutes in front of an audience of business men, academics, politicians and their peers in which to pitch the idea they had been working on.
Impact evaluation has been one of the biggest challenges for our project. Our work in Tanzania uses a very indirect approach. We ran our course for, whom some may see, are the more privileged members of society, those who managed to struggle through the Tanzanian education system to get to University. Many of our students were ‘well off’ for Tanzanian standards but others grew up in poverty. Running a free course for them to fulfil their summer Practical Training assignment, may have gone no further than that. After the conference our impact became more apparent. We had linked our students’ ambitious and bright minds with the necessary connections to make their ideas possible.
We had changed their mind set on social entrepreneurship, made them interested and aware of the problems and opportunities in their own city and generally reached out to a larger Tanzanian audience provoking a conversation about how they can change Dar. We assisted them in setting up their own society for social entrepreneurship within the university to spread the word further and have already seen actions from the new president and committee.
In many ways I think our approach is important in the developing world. We assisted Tanzanian students in coming up with their own solutions to Dar’s problems, despite at times having to restrain from planting our own ideas within them, it gave them the power and ownership required for many of them now to move on and develop their own businesses. We gave them a skillset with which they could start building ideas from in the future. It was not our intention to push start-ups out of the course nor is the number of established businesses a good measure of our impact. With our focus on the individual people, who I watched progress and improve over the six weeks, we have inspired a new generation of social entrepreneurs, who I hope will spread their passion and ideas onto the rest of Dar.
As with any development work, a huge amount of personal development comes with that. I had never travelled outside of the western world before and found the whole experience engaging and exceptionally exciting. From running the course, I improved my public speaking, teaching and group coordination skills. From running sessions on prototyping, ideation, communication and group management I learnt a huge amount from my research when preparing for the classes and am now far more comfortable with course material I had to teach. I also learnt a lot about finance and various other business skills from my fellow team mates from participating in their workshops. I organized the venue, publicity and ticketing for the conference event and ran the event on the day coordinating a team of six people. It was a fantastic experience for me to have so much responsibility and an opportunity that I doubt would ever have come to me in any other internship. I have learnt that I am good at, and even enjoy managing people and logistics despite thinking this was something I previously struggled with.
Quantifiable skillsets aside, I feel I gained a cultural sensitivity which I did not previous possess. I realised the value of adapting knowledge and expertise to the individual environment and culture. The ‘how to’ method for success will vary in every setting. I gained a deeper understanding and insight into a new culture that really challenged my previous misconceptions of Africa and the aid system.
Thoughts for the Future
I currently want to set up a social enterprise in the developing world. What struck me so much about my experience was the enormous amount of opportunity that there is in Tanzania. I have found it frustrating being back in England, part of an over materialistic culture where we are so wasteful in our purchases, and where so many bright minds are spent on over designing the latest products which have no real benefit to society. I believe we have been provided with enough resources in this world for poverty, as we know it, to be eliminated. The next steps are about getting bright minds to allocate these resources and utilise and manage the opportunities and resources effectively. There are countless opportunities in the developing world where bright minds can have a substantial impact in designing and implementing new products that can have a real benefit to society. Tanzania is caught in a bizarre transition at present. The enormous growth of the telecommunications networks has allowed people to have complete freedom of knowledge as the internet is becoming accessible to almost the entire population through smart phone devices. Those in poverty are starting to demand more. I hope that Tanzanians will start taking advantage of these opportunities.
I would really like to thank the Trinity Hall Association for their award supporting me on this project. I have loved the work I have engaged with this summer. It has been a truly unforgettable journey.