Is it possible to be an expert in innovation?

September 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Reporting from Cinton Global Initiative

If so, Ashoka, the leading organization for social entrepreneurs, is an expert. Founder Bill Drayton defines innovation as a combination as: change making, empathy, teamwork & leadership.

Drayton believes that the world is currently going through a breakthrough – from being run by just a few people, to a world that is being run by teams of teams.

If there is one word that sums up this year’s CGI, it is ‘Innovation’.  John Kao, the founder of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, believes that innovation cannot be learned, instead it is a combination of factors that all have to be woven together. He thinks of innovation as a ”property of society, as a set of muscles or capabilities to drive progress.”

It seems the discussion becomes, not what is innovation, but how can we build infrastructures of innovation?  Here’s the criteria I heard from various speakers at CGI:

-technology
-globalization & interconnectedness
-universities, research, subsidies and venture capitol,
-rotating leadership and teams,
-multi-disciplinary and horizontal approaches,
-policies that support for small and medium businesses,
-coalitions of private sectors, NGOs, government
-crowd-sourcing, user-generated and design thinking

A face to face with Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles

July 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Had the pleasure of meeting one of my blogging heroes yesterday, Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles. A self titled venture catalyst, he is the director of TED Africa, an African food imports entrepreneur, and connector of innovators.   Elizabeth from Sustainble Health Enterprises and I tracked him down to discuss all things Africa and entrepreneurship.

He is concerned about the missing links in the chain of innovation in Africa.  In the US we take this chain for granted — the university systems, funding for research, business plan competitions, labs where discoveries are made.   With all these pieces working together, a breakthrough idea can become a business.  But in Africa, many of these links are missing.

One thing he is doing is looking at how to invest in large scale women traders.  In Francophone Africa, these women are “cash madams” — moving thousands of dollars of merchandise through selling basic staples like salt, soap and plastic sandals.   In Eastern Africa they call these women “Dubai mamas“.  Like SHE, he is interested in proving that these are viable business networks ready for investment.   He says what these women are doing is not new, that in many parts of Africa, women have been the traders for centuries, patriarchy as a business model is a product of recent times.

To talk to him was to glimpse a community that he is slowly building – one where innovation and ideas are invested in, and business and creativity drive problem solving, not development aid.   Through him, I learned about a ning site for venture capital in Africa, and he is one of the people behind Maker Faire Africa a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention, will take place August 14-16 in Accra, Ghana.   It was inspiring to meet him, I hope to keep in touch.

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