Accelerating the Innovation Capacity of African Social Entrepreneurs

Stanford ChangeLabs partners with the ResilientAfrica Network to boost entrepreneurship and build resilience to uncertain futures.

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Update
Theodora Gibbs
January 12, 2016
Photo Credit: ChangeLabs

The impacts of climate change are already being strongly felt across the African continent, and they are expected to worsen as global temperatures rise and weather patterns shift. The World Bank stated that Africa is becoming the “most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change.” In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter. As much as nine to 20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land will become significantly less suitable for farming by 2080, and yields will drop by 50 percent in some areas. By 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Building community-level resilience to climate change impacts is critical, given the severity of challenges ahead. Fortunately, the Africa continent has a growing network of globally-recognized universities and institutions. There is a massive opportunity to leverage the ingenuity and local knowledge of African scientists, engineers, and social scientists to increase the continent’s resilience to the climate challenges ahead.

The ResilientAfrica Network in partnership with Stanford ChangeLabs, is tackling this challenge. USAID awarded $22 million, as a part of their Higher Education Solutions Network, to create four Resilience Innovation Labs in four different regions of the African continent: South (South Africa), East (Uganda), Horn of Africa (Ethiopia), and West (Ghana). The goal is to support African scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to create innovative solutions to complex resilience challenges in Africa, such as agricultural productivity, low-cost healthcare technology, and renewable, reliable energy.

Stanford ChangeLabs is the Innovation Partner for the ResilientAfrica Network. We work closely with the RAN teams in Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Ghana to build their ability to apply our System Acupuncture (also known as the Deep Change Model) to the complex challenges that their local communities face.

Ugandan entrepreneurs learn the basics of human-centered design through building rapid prototypes with ChangeLabs Senior Strategist Theodora Gibbs.
Photo Credit: Stanford ChangeLabs

In 2015, the ChangeLabs team designed and delivered 10 in-person trainings on key innovation topics and skills, such as design ethnography (“needfinding”), rapid prototyping, business modeling for social ventures, techniques for monitoring innovation performance, and scaling strategies. We also produced two web-based training courses on Needfinding and Rapid Prototyping for RAN’s entrepreneur teams. These courses will be launched in January and February 2016, and will provide a strong foundation of knowledge and practical techniques for the entrepreneurs to apply to improving their solutions and responding to ground-level challenges in a human-centered way.  

2016 will be an exciting year for Stanford ChangeLabs’ partnership with RAN. RAN will double the number of entrepreneur teams that it is supporting, and its current teams will move into field prototyping and early-stage piloting of their solutions in communities in Uganda and South Africa. The ChangeLabs team will train and mentor the teams in topics such as advanced business modeling and developing strategic scaling partnerships. In Ethiopia, we will help launch the Collaborative Resilience Innovative Design program—a unique and novel funding structure that aims to bring together social entrepreneurs to work with technology platform designers. The goal is to create integrated packages of diverse social services that are accessible to African households through a single access point.

One of RAN’s entrepreneur teams holds a prototyping session with urban chicken farmers in Kampala in August 2015, to get their feedback on a new low-cost earthworm production system
Photo Credit: Stanford ChangeLabs

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