Team Gazelle initiates 2012 Development Forum in Malawi

On Saturday, Team Gazelle initiated the first 2012 Development Forum in Malawi.  The Development Forum was a summit with seven participating initiatives and organizations, together with Merry Year International. The conference was hosted by Mr. Jeongtae Kim, a social entrepreneur from South Korea, who is also a member of Team Gazelle. We started with two introductory notes. First, Mrs. Susie Kim, principal of Daeyang Nursing College shared her inspirational personal story with us, on how and why she became a nurse and how she eventually joined the Daeyang Luke Hospital co-funded by the Korean government. Also, the senior advisor to the Millennium Villages Project in Malawi, Mr. Sang Jin Lee held a greeting speech to us, explaining his background and the overall progress in the Millennium Villages. The conference was divided into two parts: First, four organizations reported on their current activities in Malawi, including Team Gazelle from Hult International Business School, Merry Year International from South Korea, Project Malawi, a south korean initiative from Columbia University students and Youjoung Kim, a south korean social entrepreneur from who has lived in Blantyre, Malawi for the last two years and runs a local NGO supporting community based education centers under the umbrella of UNESCO Korea.

Team Gazelle explained their progress in applying the IDEO Human Design Toolkit to do qualitative research on human social and economic behavior in cooperation with the local villagers, to eventually come up with sustainable revenue-generating activities, innovative production processes to decrease costs and initiate extended product usage. For instance, the team thinks about using oil to produce affordable soap, to improve sanitary conditions, through the use of innovative appropriate technology. However, Team Gazelle is still in the research and observation phase, after which prototyping will take place, in cooperation with Merry Year International.

The last-mentioned talked about agricultural improvements, business and micofinancing. They currently test several maize based charcoal production methods to increase heating power, have a positive impact on public health and save the environment. Their microfinance scheme is intended to support local business ideas. They have an interesting model which works as a mixture of membership fees and investments, which eventually gives out cheap loans for members of the initiative.

Project Malawi works in HIV/Aids prevention and education. In Malawi, around 11 % of the population is HIV infected, which is the 9th highest rate worldwide. They run quantitative testings to measure impacts of school scholarships for female students, male circumcision and cash transfers. In their findings, they presented (among others) a significant correlation between male circumcision and the chance of getting infected with HIV: interestingly, the probability decreases by almost 50 %. However, there is much research showing that the infection risk increases with ascending age, which itself correlates with school enrollment, which is why they also invest in scholarships for female students, who generally have a higher infection risk than males. Project Malawi is funded by the korean government and has been doing research for the last two years.

Youjoung Kim works together with AYISE, an NGO based in Malawi. In cooperation with UNSECO Korea, she builds up community based education centers, where teachers are students and vice versa: knowledge is commonly shared to improve the overall education of the communities she works in. She also works together with disabled people, to integrate them better into their societies. As an effect of her work, people improve their knowledge in chichewa, english and sign languages and their understandings in cultural dynamics of people with disabilities.

In the second part of the conference, new projects were presented. Books for Malawi is an initiative of Books International, which has been UNESCO certified as official project for sustainable education in 2011 and recently successfully competed in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, winning the people´s choice award (rank 1 in Europe and placed 8th out of 1783 projects in the absolute ranking). The Team consists of korean members from different universities and students from Hult International Business school. In cooperation with local authors, entrepreneurs, publishers and schools, they provide bilingual children books which educate children in important culturally relevant issues to affect their understanding and also raise their awareness of topics like water and sanitation, to have an impact on their preventive behavior. Above that, specific items which align with the topic are provided, for instance mosquito nets or soap.

Microwork is an idea which leverages the fact that even most of the poorest people use mobile phones. The overall framework is to bring people from the developing and the developed world together. “Earn as you create” is one of the four microwork initiatives which had been presented in detail. Basically, people in the developed world, who want to have their name translated into a specific language, like chichewa (the local malawian language) download a mobile application to send their names and the meaning to a server. A microworker will receive a request in form of an SMS on his or her mobile phone. He then can simply reply to this text, suggesting two names. The receiver can then choose one of them and the “creator” earns up to two dollars per text, depending if he is willing to save the money, or receive it immediately. If he decides to save one dollar, his or her savings will be doubled up, as an incentive to save money, when a certain amount is reached.

LifeNet Foundation is a new initiative from students of Cornell University in New York State. The four members follow a straightforward desire which is to distribute mosquito nets in Malawi, and cooperating with local stakeholders and opinion leaders to educate the people around the reasons for and the results of using them. LifeNet explained that people often do not know what causes Malaria and simply do not use mosquito nets which are provided by other NGO´s. LifeNet Foundation tries to make people understand why mosquito nets are necessary and which significant positive impact they can have on their health, rather than “just” distributing them. Through crowd funding and public presentations, among other strategies, the NGO raised funds for buying high quality nets which don´t have to be retreated with chemicals ever again.

Being comprised of approximately fifty members, it was a really warm and personal atmosphere and Team Gazelle had the chance to network with all participants, The conference will be an annual event from now on and Team Gazelle is looking forward to further cooperate with Merry Year International and other likeminded organizations and initiatives.

Special thanks goes to Mrs. Susie Kim, Mr. Sang Jin Lee and Merry Year International, for their friendly support, their cooperative effort and contribution and for making us feel so very welcome in Lilongwe and Gumulira. Sikomo Kwuambili.

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Field Research Methodology

Friday was one of our highlights so far. We met the local entrepreneurs to introduce them to our market research approach. As we are using the IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit to gather information from the villagers, we apply two complementary strategies: interviewing and observing, which form a coherent approach to obtain information. As we had already been working with the local entrepreneurs in Gumulira village, we gained some valuable insights and personal stories.

The previous workshop topics were agriculture (85 % of the population are farmers), health (Malawi has the 9th highest percentage of HIV affected population, 11%; additionally the people heavily suffer from Malaria), business and household activities, to understand people´s purchasing behavior, business ideas and their daily life. Based on the workshop findings, we came up with a set of questions for the entrepreneurs – their task is to go through their local communities, observe and interview people to gain information. Using the IDEO toolkit, it is crucial to collaborate with the people who are the subject of your research. Above that, we wanted to gather as much information as possible, which is why we needed help anyway, as four people could not cope with the required amount of information. Eventually we also believed that it could jeopardize the quality of the research if we conducted the interviews and observations ourselves, due to time restrictions, language barriers and personal biases. People might have answered what they think we would want to hear, may have felt intimidated or could simply have chosen to not cooperate with us. These considerations convinced us that our idea to engage the local entrepreneurs in our market research was correct.

We asked people about their daily life, their monetary expenses, their personal wishes, their possessions, major source of income, what kind of transport they use, what items they use on a regular basis, for work as for leisure, among many others. The main findings will be presented shortly, as soon as the huge data sets are categorized and evaluated. It is intended to use the data to find feasible business items, establish income generating activities, use existing resources more efficiently and improve production processes with the use of innovative appropriate technology.

Twenty entrepreneurs took place in our research. Most of them were given notebooks and pens. Twenty percent were given single use cameras instead, with slightly different instructions. The entrepreneurs should take photos to visualize their daily life, the products they use and the things they appreciate. In the entrepreneur’s group (which is one out of three research groups), seventeen entrepreneurs took part.

Our data gathering methods are not completed so we have not been able to analyze anything and come up with results yet, but we are very excited about what our findings will be and will keep our readers updated.


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The Business Game

The social enterprise game

Within our overall approach to the field work, we have a host of projects on the go. One of them is the social enterprise game, which took place on friday. The event was hosted by Team Gazelle from Hult International Business School. Twenty two people took part in one or two categories. The first one was to present a business idea, which is feasible, contributes to the community and is well organized and formulated. The award for the winner will be 20.000 Kwacha, which is equivalent to an average monthly income in Malawi. The winners will be announced on Monday.

In the first category, twenty one people competed and pitched their business idea to a judging panel comprised of three members of Project Gazelle from Hult International Business School and two members of Merry Year International. The overall finding was that the entrepreneurs were highly engaged and came up with lots of great ideas, ranging from selling and buying crops, to manufacturing and maintaining bikes, retail ideas and the marketization of other interesting products and services.

The second challenge was to come up with a sales strategy for 100 children’s books. The winner will receive 1.000 Kwacha and the books to implement her / his idea. In this category, ten entrepreneurs competed. The ideas ranged from directly selling books to the schools, go to local markets, different villages and doing commercials on national radio to attract a larger range of customers. In both categories, some entrepreneurs came up with very accurate calculations and business plans, the judging will not be easy, however, the winners will be announced on Monday, when we will also finish our field research with the entrepreneurs and go to the village one last time to “wrap up” everything, both on a professional, but also on a personal level. The results will be documented very soon. Team Gazelle is already thrilled to imagine the entrepreneurs implementing their ideas.

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2012 Development Innovation Forum in Malawi

 

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The challenges to education – talk with the teachers

Within the last days, the team accomplished two very insightful interviews with some teachers in Gumulira. As part of our overall approach, which is the Human Design Toolkit, we want to understand the local stories and surroundings, to get a better understanding of what is happening in the village and why this is the case. This is a result of the underlying assumption that the best approach to sustainable development is information gathering from the people affected, by interviewing and observing them. However, we gained lots of delightful insights and we would like to share some of these:

we found out that the drop out rate in school within the first 8 years is approximately 89 %, which means that only 11 % of the students starting their primary school education actually finish it.

This happens for couple of reasons. First, early marriage and early pregnancies occur constantly, so students don´t find the time any more to visit school. Second, there is a huge lack of educational material: In classes that sometimes have over 60 students, they will have but two books to share. Obviously this is not possible, which as an effect decreases the learning quality. Above that, there are not enough notebooks, which translates into the decreasing possibility of students to practice writing, whereas the lack of books hinders them from learning to read properly. Also, the books the school has are not sufficiently relevant or tailored to the local needs, having the effect that the students lose their interest in learning. However, the teachers try to approach this by adjusting the content and the way of teaching to the dynamic environment and the local needs: medical issues, math, agriculture and english are the most common classes from 1st to 8th grade. In other words, culturally relevant and applicable tools are taught to the best of the teacher’s ability.  This is, however, insufficient due to the lack of available educational materials.  This is the beginning of a vicious circle in which the local government plays a key role.  The teachers say that the government needs to provide more money to provide more educational materials.  What is not known is whether or not there simply isn’t enough money to fund education or if it isn’t properly prioritized by the government.

The students sometimes have to trek long distances to get to the school, sometimes by foot, as their families cannot afford to get them a bike or pay for public transportation that is occasionally available. 85 % of the Malawians are farmers and the average monthly income is around 40 USD, which is why they would actually have to save money but cannot do so because they sometimes don’t even have enough to cover their basic needs. In the dry season, the families often only eat once a day, so the children have to go to school without breakfast, which means they cannot concentrate and focus on the class. Which affects their performance and thus their motivation to continue studying. Above that, the further away they live, the longer they will be away from home and food. However, the children mostly have to help their parents in their agricultural activities, to gain more food and more income, which is another reason the students often do not go to school. Another vicious circle.

The students need role models.

We spoke to around fifty students, Most of them want to be a nurse, sometimes they also want to be teachers. However, most of them have never seen nurses, as the access to medication and health services is heavily restricted for children as a result of long distance, lack of money and lack of time to go to the hospital when the need arises. In other words, the children do not have proper role models. Also, there are only two secondary schools in Malawi which means that not only the drop out rate in primary school is very high, but it is also very hard to get into secondary school. Then again, some families can’t “compete” because they cannot afford the fees. In other words, many of the children who finish primary school (of which there are comparatively few anyway) cannot go to secondary school and finish their school education at an average age of thirteen. As a result, many students don’t even see an incentive in finishing primary school, as they don’t see relevance for their future. As stated before, 85 % are farmers anyway which is why many children rather try to earn money as quickly as possible, than to “waste” time at school.

Teachers also face challenges: they are not well paid, they have to deal with inappropriate educational material and starving, unmotivated children, who do not learn enough at school. Many children don’t even possess one book at all, so reading is not normal to them. The teachers told us that sometimes children hide to read, as it is inconvenient for them to be seen when reading. In other words: the teachers have a very hard job, without getting enough respect (which is maybe both the reason and the cause of “their” lack of success) or an appropriate monetary reimbursement for that.

To summarize, in terms of education, there are many problems occurring of which we try to give a short overview. On the bright side, the solutions are not as complex as the problems. In a nutshell, the biggest issue is money to buy more appropriate educational material and be able to provide a meal to ensure the students don’t have to study with an empty stomach. Also, a higher salary for the teachers would increase their motivation, together with the improved quality when having the proper material. Education in general is one major key for (self) sustainable development which is why other solutions have to be found, if the government cannot come up with proper funding. It will be one task for Team Gazelle to try to come up with relevant and feasible approaches to tackle this issue on a sustainable level. The market research ends in a few days. After that, we are going to evaluate and categorize our findings to be able to prototype ideas to tackle social pressing needs. Ideas, feedback and comments are, as usual, really welcome.

Both interviews will soon be available on this blog for those people interested in education.

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Girls Workshop and the Art of African Improvising

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(Girls dreaming about their future)

We arrived at Gumulira at 10:00 am for the workshop we had scheduled with the girls from standard 8. We were surprised that the teachers were not there yet, but later we found out that one of the students from 1st grade passed away the night before. Sadly this is not an isolated event in this village and many others around Malawi. The day before we met one of the teacher’s youngest son. He had just fallen off his father’s bike because he lost his balance due to the effects of having had malaria. The teacher had already lost a son before, and until now almost every grown up we have met has suffered from different types of malaria. 

The workshop was organised after meeting the group of girls the previous week during our first visit to the village. We didn’t expect to meet them then, so we improvised a small activity in which they presented themselves and told us their favourite subject and what they wanted to be when they grew up. After that one of the teachers pronounced a very moving speech to the girls about how proud he was of them for staying in school and how special that particular group of girls were.  Only around 10% of the girls get to 8th grade, most of them get pregnant or married before this age.  He encouraged them to continue with their studies and not to get pregnant during the holidays.  But the reality is that unless they get some funding, most of the girls will not be able to go to high school. We decided to meet with this amazing group of girls to help the teachers to motivate them into pursuing higher education and as part of our community-driven discovery.  

We were expecting around 27 girls for the workshop.   They started to arrive one by one, and then in smaller groups. Suddenly there were over 100 girls in the room!  There was no point in sending the girls back home when they had already made the trip, so we adjust the workshop design to work with the entire group. Most of the content of the workshop was directed to the standard 8 girls, but in the end things worked out just fine.

After dancing for a few minutes to break the ice we asked the girls to close their eyes and to try to get as comfortable as possible.  None of them spoke english so one of the teachers translated everything we said.  During the visualization they imagined themselves in a few years.  We asked them to imagine what they where wearing and what their profession was.  After that they wrote a letter about their encounter with themselves in a few years.  We were surprised by the great response from most of the girls.  After a very fun break with every sort of attempt to make an activity with about 100 girls we returned to the classroom for our final activities.  With the help of the nursing students from the Daeyang Luke Hospital, we created a very inspiring video for the girls in the village, they encouraged them to stay in school.  The teachers were very happy about providing role models to the girls. After the video most of the younger girls from standard 6 and 7 left and we stayed with  about 30 girls from standard 8. 

During the second part of the workshop we tried to gather information about the use of sanitary pads. Many of the drop outs from school are when a girls menstruation starts.  After that asked them to gather in small groups and asked them to come out with a plan to distribute 50 children’s books per group.  What would they do with the money?  Would they reinvest?  How would they approach their clients?   We were very surprised with the results, especially with one of the groups.   According to their “business plan” they would sell the books in different parts of the village and the market.  With a part of the money they made they would buy some more books and they would lend the rest of the money with interests to people in the village.   We were really amazed with the solution these 14 year old girls came up with.  

It was a great day, we gathered a lot of information, we had a great fun with the girls and hopefully we managed to inspire them the way they inspired us. Tomorrow we will have a workshop with women and we will start to work with our community-centered discovery.

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First Workshop!

Today Hult Team Gazelle held our first official entrepreneurial workshop and formally started the first phase of the Human Centered Design Toolkit, to build on some research we have done in the field. The workshop took place in Gumulira village, with the friendly support of Merry Year International. In total, we had 20 participants, men and women, from the Gumulira village. Our approach was to get to know and to understand their stories. Team Gazelle hosted and facilitated the event which took around four hours. After some ice breakers which we used to create a friendly atmosphere, the participants were divided into four smaller workgroups, each facilitated and observed by one Team Gazelle member. We talked about four major topics, which appear to be the most crucial in the specific case of Gumulira village: 

- Agriculture

- Health

- Household Activities (description of daily life)

- Business ideas. 

We wanted to understand habits, attitudes, work organizations, major concerns and personal perspectives. The results were all documented, had been presented by local team members and are about to be summarized, compared and evaluated by Team Gazelle. This will enable us to identify needs, restrictions, and most importantly, areas for improvement. After having finished this information gathering phase, Merry Year introduced the “Business Game” which is an idea Team Gazelle came up with. As we found out that the community has some feasible business ideas which we want to encourage to go one step further: Team Gazelle will provide 10.000 Kwacha (around 40 dollar – equivalent to one months income) for the most feasible and understandable business plan, which needs to have a social impact for the community. We provided a bilingual questionnaire (to bridge language based gaps) on which participants describe their business idea, revenue streams, estimated costs and other required details. The ideas will be pitched to the judging panel comprised of Team Gazelle and members of Merry Year International on Friday. The second business challenge is  to create a sales strategy for 100 children books in, or nearby the village. The winner will get 1.000 Kwacha and the books will be donated so that distribution can commence immediately. 

Tomorrow, another workshop for female students will take place.  Early on in our fieldwork we have discovered that there is an extremely low completion rate of primary education among women here in Gumulira and as Social Entrepreneurs we aim to understand and hopefully source potential solutions to the challenges these young women face.  In line with our values, we are aiming to listen to the young women and hope to find inspiration and potential solutions that are rooted within them.  We are looking forward to tomorrow.

We will also have meetings with the Gumulira teachers, to understand their motivations, concerns and strategies to motivate and educate their students. We would like to understand how teachers see their own role and which role they would actually like to play. 

As we have mentioned, in line with the Human Centered approach we are firmly within the listening stage of our fieldwork and are learning a lot about the local conditions, perspectives and opportunities.

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MDG Centre and Local Social Entrepreneurs

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Today the Hult team visited the second Millennium Village in the south of Malawi. On the way there, we met Ju Juan.  Ju Juan is a young social entrepreneur who works in a nearby UNESCO village running a program for disabled children in cooperation with a local NGO. After finishing her undergraduate degree in anthropology, she moved to Malawi, where she has been living for the last two years.  Ju Juan was a great source of inspiration for our team and had some great insights into the local culture that we greatly benefited from. 

After visiting the MDG Center in Southern Malawi, we arrived at the Millennium village where we were lucky enough to be able to participate in a cooperative farmer´s meeting in the village which was hosted by the local Millennium Village staff. The farmers had been educated in basic business and accounting by the local staff. In the meeting, they summarized that the last harvesting months were pretty bad with maize, an effect of not enough rain, high transport costs and a low market price. One of their approaches to tackle the last two mentioned issues is to scale up their cooperatives in order to decrease transport costs, and another factor in their favor is that the price of maize has increased by 40 % in the last three months.  They also plan to meet with the main maize buyers to bargain and set up fixed price contracts to increase planning security for everyone. The farmers are also investing into new technology to increase their harvesting efficiency.

The business coordinator of the cooperative told us about two successful social businesses in the Millennium Villages in Kenya and Rwanda. The first one is a localized dairy, the second one extracts cooking oil from ground nuts and flowers to sell it to nearby villages. We agreed to share our cases and experiences in the nearby future for mutual benefit. 

To finish off the day we began preparing for tomorrow´s entrepreneur´s workshop in Gumulira, which will contribute to the core of our project here in Malawi.  Our preparations have gone well and we are extremely excited to see what comes out of our workshop.

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Time and Focus

Today we finally found some time to categorize the information we have acquired thus far. After a meeting with our headquarters in London, we decided to re-adjust our communication strategy to make it more coherent and access a wider audience. We had our first official kickoff meeting with Merry Year International and Project Malawi today, to present our strategic approach, the basic ideas and the expected outcomes of our project. Merry Year International is the sponsor for Gumulira village, being comprised of eight people actually

working in the field. Project Malawi is a social initiative sponsored by the South  Korean government, working with sixteen people in the health and education area next to the hospital, where we stay. The main idea of inviting both organisations was the insight that the success of our project in the implementation phase heavily relies on the cooperation with the stakeholders who will keep on working in the field when the team members return back to London.

We presented our project framework, the IDEO human centered design toolkit, which is used to collect stories and inspiration from the people in Gumulira village in order to come up with a sustainable community driven business solution in line with the objectives of Merry Year International. The toolkit works in three phases, hearing, creating an delivering. The first phase will be accomplished in the next ten days, where we will be in the field.  Whereas the second and third are going to be completed after our field research is completed, from our head office in London. We will conduct three different workshops, for local entrepreneurs, students, and local women, and will identify stories, local needs and get specific information which will eventually foster the implementation of community driven solutions. The local people will visualize and document their activities, based on a given set of questions in line with our strategic framework.

Lastly, we are also going to announce a business game. We will reward the most feasible, viable and sustainable business idea with the highest social impact with 10.000 KW, around 40 USD, which is a monthly income, to implement it. We will also provide ongoing consultancy and measure the project’s success in cooperation with Merry Year International. We also noticed a general scarcity of educational material, which is why we are going to provide 100 children books to the person coming up with the most promising sales and distribution strategy. The judging panel will be comprised of Team Gazelle members and Merry Year International.

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A little bit about Malawi

Malawi is a small country located in south eastern africa which shares a coastline with the lake that shares its name.  Globally it is considered to by one of the least developed nations.  With a population of almost 15 million it is vital for the country to make strides towards sustainable development.  There have been positive signs of development from the small country over recent years.  Good rainfall has allowed for a high yield from local agriculture.  The nation is also making important efforts to improve its performance relative to the 8 MDG goals.  By UNDP estimates, Malawi is on target to meet 5 of them.  Namely a large reduction in poverty rates (from 52% to 40%), reduction of infant mortality and combating HIV, AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  Although there are signs of improvement with regards to the nations environmental stability, having one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa jeopardizes Malawi’s long term sustainable development.

Our Hult team working in Gumulira is aiming to support the MDG targets and we are currently engaging with local community members and groups to try and support the achievement of as many targets as possible with the ultimate aim of ensuring the sustainable development of the region.

At this stage it would be easy for us to begin to jump to conclusions, but it is more important for us to remain open and stay within the hearing phase of our research instead of making the same mistake that many others have made.  We do not know the answers to Malawi’s development, only the locals can provide them, we just have to listen and facilitate the conversations and solutions.

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