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.