If you have been following Young World Inventors, you’re probably familiar with Jodie Wu, founder of Global Cycle Solutions (see video below!). Thus, we couldn’t be happier at camp YWI that the entrepreneur we’ve gotten to know so well over the past two years will soon appear on “Agents for Change,” a series to be broadcast on PBS NewsHour. “Agents for Change” traces the stories of motivated individuals who respond to entrenched social challenges like poverty, food security and access to basic amenities. These entrepreneurs come up with innovative solutions that go beyond short-term fixes to create sustainable solutions that change the system, improve the local economy and impact people’s daily lives.
Jodie, winner of the prestigious Echoing Green fellowship, is no stranger to tackling the social challenges of the developing world. At GCS, she’s gotten to know the struggles and successes of running her own social enterprise in Tanzania. What started as an idea at MIT’s D-Lab has quickly developed into a company that produces simple and effective products to make life easier for folks in Tanzania and beyond. “We are creating technologies that help smallholder farmers take their first step out of poverty, without any dependency on electricity or fuel,” noted Wu in a recent interview. In fact, items in the GCS inventory include adapters for bicycles that can be used to thresh corn, bike adapters that charge phones and solar-powered lanterns and chargers. Adds Wu, “Working in Tanzania and watching people’s faces light up at village (product) demonstrations only motivates me to spread the work of Global Cycle Solutions across the globe.”
This year, Diane will return for her fourth trip to East Africa to profile new startups, develop partnerships and report on how young innovations grow to scale up. In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing some of the teams she’ll be spending time with. Got any leads? Tweet us @ynginventors or send us an email!
Profile: Kenya Stove
Diane talked to Payan ole-MoiYoi in Portland, OR in September and was impressed. Payan is half Maasai, grew up in Kenya and studied at Princeton. As an engineer he set out to solve a huge problem in East Africa – deforestation and disease from cooking fires. These fires trap women and children in toxic fumes at a rate comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day! Thus, Payan set out to launch Kenya Stove. He is building a stove to “improve health, reduce environmental impact, and save families money.”
It’s hard getting started, even with some funds. Erin Engelson, Payan’s partner, said this week, “Things are moving, albeit pole-pole (Swahili: slowly). We have done some cookstove testing with Kenyan cooks to get feedback on our design [and] made some partnerships here in Kenya that will help us get our ideas off the ground.”
Payan’s great Kickstarter page tells it all, and Diane hopes to document the thrills and headaches of starting up Kenya Stove in Nairobi!
Diane Hendrix sat down in January 2011 for an interview with Will Mworia, co-founder of Afrinnovator.com. Afrinnovator.com is Mworia’s outlet for sharing tech news and stories of innovation coming out of Africa. Mworia himself is a visionary and an optimist, confident that advances in computer technology will empower African communities to unprecedented levels. He discusses his views in an inspiring essay titled Dear Africa:
“Africa has been a great puzzle for the entire world. The continent’s history has been riddled with all sorts of troubles from slavery to colonialism to post colonial troubles in many of the countries. Some have thought Africa to be accursed while others have given up hope on the continent completely. So is there hope for Africa in this new continent? Living in Africa, it is very interesting to witness the newly rising interest in Africa. There seems to be another wave of interest coming up, one that is hopefully going to benefit the continent more, and one that is driven by technology and the Internet. Perhaps for the first time ever, there is actually an equal playing field for Africans to engage in!” Read more here.
“Every entrepreneur who creates employment and opportunity where it’s needed is a social entrepreneur,” says Rob Salkowitz, author of the book Young World Rising. “Young world entrepreneurs show a particular genius for finding market opportunities in developing solutions to social problems,” he adds.
The rapid spread of computer technology around the world has allowed for tremendous growth in innovation and local social entrepreneurship opportunities in developing countries. In Africa, Internet access, especially through mobile phones, has created a new generation of “cheetahs” who are no longer waiting for government to solve their social problems.
This so-called “Cheetah generation” is taking matters into their own hands: through the Internet, Cheetahs are learning to Continue reading →