Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

As I studied Exhibit A over and over again trying to actually decipher which was my favorite secret of social innovation, I realized no matter how many times I went over it, it seemed nearly impossible for me to make one single pick and as I came across different points I totally agreed with, I would nod so hard, smile and say to myself wow that's brilliant. At the end of the day I was able to narrow my favorite picks down to 4, yes one from each group including the group added by the writer, Dave Tait.

Favorite 1- What you have matters than what you lack: I especially loved the example used with a bicycle; if u have a bicycle focus on what you can do with it rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck or a metal shop. I find this secret to be super-brilliant and a very useful tool for anyone interested in being a Social Innovator. This reminds me of the William Kamkwamba story, the story of the Malawian boy who, though lacking in proper education and basic English at the time, built a windmill (out of bicycle parts and scraps) for his home in Malawi. The first time I read about William and watched his TED Conference Talk on the Internet, I remember how blown away I was and kept thinking to myself that wow this is a boy that comes from poorest of the poorest part of Malawi and despite the poverty around him, he was determined to do something so inspiring. William knew he didn't have the resources to build a conventional windmill like those depicted in the textbook he used but he didn't let that stop him. He knew he couldn't understand English to the extent needed to read off the textbook to understand how to build his model but he wouldn't let that stop him either. He instead focused on the things he could use; he had his sight and he knew his eyes would serve him well in understanding the windmill diagrams and measurements in the textbook; he had his environment- he focused on what scraps and junks he could find in his surrounding that would help be a good substitute for the materials needed to build his windmill. He didn't have the support of family and friends who all thought he was crazy. As a majority know, not having the moral backing from family and friends can be such a discouragement for many of us in following our dreams. Although this is only if we allow it to be, still it makes the road even harder and almost impossibe trying to encourage yourself without the necessary support from loved-ones. However William had his determination, his positivity and optimism for the success of his project and to him that was enough because he knew eventually when he did become successful he would finally get support. Even when he got to a crossroad and realized that the most important part of his model (the engine) was missing, he didn't let that deter him but instead kept moving forward till someone literally passed by with a bicycle and he exchanged the little funds he had on him for the bicycle because he knew failure was not an option. As individuals looking to make a difference, this is a brilliant point to embrace about giving more importance to what we have rather than what we lack.

Favorite 2 - Do the Hardwork needed to find a simple solution: I find this post on "rules for design in the developing world" by Amy Smith to be another brilliant secret I agree with. The concept of simplicity being the ultimate sophistication is undoubtedly genius and I tend to find another William Kamkwamba-moment in this post. Infact to spare you the wait, I would just like to throw it out there that I have been able to find a W.K-moment also in my other two favorites. However to delve further into this point, W.K stayed determined to do the hardwork of figuring out how to build his windmill, which he knew without a doubt would provide a simple solution of taking his family out of poverty (the simple solution at that time being "IRRIGATION" needed for farming as a means of bringing an end to the drought his village was faced with). What I have learned from this is that as a social innovator hoping to create something that would bring about a positive change (which you should have at the back of your mind requires hardwork), the question to ask yourself is what simple solution to what problem are you trying to come up with that would necessitate the hardwork you should be willing to put in?

Favorite 3 - Stay positive; Don't be distracted by what other people think: *Chuckles* Do I hear you say "Clearly a W.K-Moment? Haha yeah definitely. A key point for me in this group by Paul Polak is to not let people talk you out of what you think/know you are capabe of doing. As a social innovator or entrepreneur looking to change the world, there would be doubts shown by people around most times because people have different ways of resisting to change or anything new. Instead of focusing on these doubts, find a way to let it motivate you further to stay positive and make a huge success out of your work.

Favorite 4 - Knowledge Sharing: For those of us who have been following the story and works of W.K, we would agree that the concept of knowledge and skills sharing to help continue the innovative process both to and from people and communities, a secret shared by David Tait has been the major premise which is helping to sustain the dream and vision of W.K to take his people and his nation out of the realms of poverty. A key responsibility of a great social innovation is to innovate in a way that you can pass down the success of your innovation, share your experiences, and all you've learned down to others willing to learn. In the process of doing this, more success will be achieved, jobs will be created and the economy of the nation would thrive.

To sum up my four favorite picks from Exhibit A, it is important to note a few things when addressing the concept of social innovation. As individuals looking to change the world no matter how little or huge the impact of our effort is, let's all keep in mind that social innovation to bring about a positive change in a nation, a continent and in the world is possible even in the most difficult situations and the most difficult of times as exemplified by "the boy who harnessed the wind" who has clearly shown that with the necessary determination and education, anything is beyond possible.

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Comment by Ronald Kasendwa on February 15, 2010 at 7:22am

I must say that this is really a good post. Who is this William Kamkwamba? Can you give me a link to where I can read more about him and his works?

The world needs people like William to initiate innovation and change, then the others can adopt the change later on. It is true that most of us give up on our dreams because we lack moral backing from family and friends. But W.K looked at this from another perspective and I think that’s why he was successful – he did not back down. I have actually experienced this personally!

There is a time I wanted to set up an e-Learning centre to teach my peers basic computer concepts, skills, and programming so that they could make some cents here and there for their support. When I shared this idea with some of my friends, they highly criticized it and many of them were very pessimistic about it. I actually did give up on it because I felt discouraged and was also made to believe that it would work out. I believe that if I had stayed strong, I would have caused some change in my society – I should have stayed positive!

I think that there is need to understand the “Innovation Adoption Curve of Rogers.” It is a model that classifies adopters of innovations into various categories, based on the idea that certain individuals are inevitably more open to adaptation than others.

Innovators – Brave people, pulling the change.

Early adopters – Respectable people, opinion leaders who try out new ideas but in a careful way.

Early majority – Thoughtful people that are careful but accept change more quickly that the average.

Late majority - Skeptic people who use new ideas or products when the majority is using it.

Laggards – Traditional people who care for the “old ways” but are critical towards new ideas and will only accept change if the new idea has become mainstream or even tradition
Comment by Yemisi Ajumobi on February 15, 2010 at 8:40am
Thank you Ronald. Exactly the Innovation adoption curve of Rogers which you referenced concisely breaks down the thinking of humans in regards to how we embrace new innovations or a change process. However in our journey through life, it is our responsibility to learn to be more open-minded, which would eventually determine which of the five categories of the adoption curve that really defines us as individuals.

I am sorry your vision for an e-learning center didn't work out for you back then. However so long as life goes on, nothing you really set your mind to do is ever too late and you also have the added advantage of your youth to still accomplish a great deal. The popular phrase "sky is the limit" hardly describes where you are headed once you are determined. If you ever find yourself having another W.K-Moment, hey just go with your gut-feeling for your project along with a positive spirit, get a clear understanding of what you are trying to acheive and eventually just like William's story you would be amazed how great things would turn out.

Here's a link to Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story and from that website you should be able to get lots of information about him including his last TED Conference talk in 2009 in Oxford, England. Also because W.K is my own personal hero, I have chosen him for my second Evoke task of shadowing a Social Innovator which I am currently working on so watch out for more information about him in my second blog post. Cheers
Comment by Simon Brookes on February 16, 2010 at 1:14pm
A fabulous post Yemisi. I have to confess to my ignorance of the amazing William Kamkwamba. I'll certainly watch his TED talk now. Thanks for sharing this inspirational innovator. There is much we can all learn from his example!

Comment by Yemisi Ajumobi on February 17, 2010 at 2:57am
Thanks for your comment Simon. I'm glad you found the story really inspirational :)
Comment by Robert Hawkins on February 18, 2010 at 12:52am
I think Ronald's experience is all too common -- creative, inspired people who lack a support network to give them the encouragement to try. A dream of Alchemy is that EVOKE creates this social capital to nudge potential creators and innovators to pursue their vision despite the odds and the naysayers.
Comment by Josh Judkins on February 28, 2010 at 10:27am
Wonderful post Yemisi - these four principles provide such a strong core for anyone hoping to make an impact on the world around them, and I love how you've linked each of them to William Kamkwamba's example!
Comment by Yemisi Ajumobi on March 1, 2010 at 11:59pm
Thanks Josh,glad I shared this. Hopefully a lot of the players would find the illustration with William's story very encouraging.

@ Robert yes Ronald's example is all too common especially in Africa, where outside-the box thinking is not as encouraged so much as it is in developed nations. A major excitement for me about the EVOKE project is just the opportunity it hands the target audience to actually embrace this kind of thinking and realize our full potential despite whatever challenges we may be faced with. In the coming weeks, I am certain we would be hearing a lot of great ideas from players all over the world and I am very happy to be a part of this.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 4, 2010 at 11:48am
Great post, Yemisi. I actually first learned about William's story here on EVOKE. He's a pretty big inspiration, it seems -- and for good reason!

I gave you +1 Spark for going above and beyond the call of duty for your first mission. We were asked for one secret, and you gave four. Your passion and obvious dedication to the goals of EVOKE will no doubt be a tremendous asset over the next ten weeks. I look forward to your next insight.
Comment by Piratekitty on March 4, 2010 at 3:31pm
Wawh! This was a great read, thank you for making such beautifull posts! (Although i just sat down for one blog today, from this one i just know the others will be very interesting and inspiring too for me!)

A thank you for excisting paw for you!! (And ofcourse W.K. ;))

Comment by David Sahlin on March 4, 2010 at 7:18pm
Wonderful collection. Thanks for writing about more than just one secret.


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