After winning a prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship for her start-up Global Cycle Solutions, Jodie Wu sat down with Echoing Green and answered some questions about her inspiration and experience.
Moment of Obligation: What experiences led to the desire to start your own organization?
Throughout my college career, I designed a lot of products as a mechanical engineer, but what I soon realized was that no matter how great of a technology we created, it was not going to make an impact unless the product was brought to market. Seeing the reactions of the Tanzanians I showed our prototype to, I realized that this was something they really needed and if I didn’t bring it to them, who would? Because the foundation of our business was so unique in leveraging the bicycle to create simple, affordable, income-generating technologies for the bottom of the pyramid consumer, I knew I had to start Global Cycle Solutions, no matter the challenges ahead.
Gall to Think Big: What has given you the ability to dream big and take on deeply entrenched social and difficult problems? (Such as experiences, skills, events, etc.)
I owe a lot of my work to Amy Smith at MIT and her D-Lab program. Amy gave me the opportunity to travel to Africa, and it was through these experiences in working in the villages of Ghana and Tanzania that I realized that there were desperate needs for simple technologies. For the case of maize, the staple food of East Africa, their most accessible technology for post-harvesting was beating their maize repeatedly with a stick. Seeing this injustice, I realized that I could apply my engineering skills to create social impact. Working in Tanzania and watching people’s faces light up at village demonstrations only motivates me to spread the work of Global Cycle Solutions across the globe.
New and Untested: What’s innovative about your new idea for social change?
We are creating technologies that help smallholder farmers take their first step out of poverty, without any dependency on electricity or fuel, and we are doing this by bicycle, meaning there are no barriers to the scalability and flexibility in the future products to come. The bicycle gives the power of mobility, allowing us to bring technologies where even automobiles can’t reach. And our attachments create the entrepreneurial opportunities for bicycle owners to generate income while improving the lives of the people around them.
Seeing Possibilities: What are the most important qualities to be a successful social entrepreneur?
Diligence, resilience, and humility. Success as social entrepreneur comes with diligence to make your dreams come true, with the resilience to overcome the challenges that come your way, and the humility to recognize your weakness and faults so that you may improve your efforts with each passing day.
Which musical artists/albums get you going and keep you inspired?
Music doesn’t keep me inspired, but playing piano and guitar, and listening to…] Sean Kingston, and basically any artist with a good beat, keeps me going.
What books do you recommend (pleasure, work and anything in between)?
My favorite author of all time is Roald Dahl. His books, filled with adventure and imagination, tend to always revolve around a character who rises to overcome the challenges before them.
Which websites do you visit often (work and/or personal)?
In Tanzania, internet can be quite a headache, but I must admit that some of the most useful tools on the job are dropbox and data.worldbank.org. In terms of personal use, I always enjoy my google apps.
What advice or quote do you keep close to your heart as a social change leader?
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mohandas Gandhi
Stay tuned for more about Jodie, Bernard, and the rest of the GCS team!