Monday, February 22, 2016

Twende Tanzania

Hi everybody!

Hello from Arusha, Tanzania, foot of Mt. Meru, neighbor to Kilimanjaro, and hometown of Twende innovation center.

I’m Ad. After graduating from Olin last May, I landed here at Twende. Over the next few months I’ll be giving you a window into life as a starry-eyed 20-something engineering grad, spanner in hand, ready to change the world. Or something like that.

Enough about me. Let’s talk Twende.

The Twende core team. From left to right: Jim, Chris, Bernard, Marko, Debbie, and Frank.

What is an innovation center?
The folks from International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) can explain it much better than I can, and they already have here. But the short answer is that an innovation center is a makerspace driven by a mission to create a positive social impact.

So what does that mean for Twende?
Twende provides three categories of services: tools, facilities, and expertise to support innovative makers; educational programming to train grassroots innovators; and a community space to foster collaboration. Or, as the shoe repairman on the corner near our office described us today, it’s a place that builds machines and has a lot of ubunifu. Ubunifu is the Kiswahili word for “innovation” or “creativity.”

For more information, check out this BBC profile on Twende and one of our founders, Bernard, here. Bernard is a prolific inventor, constant tinkerer, materials hacker, and general problem solver.

What am I doing at Twende?

I have two roles here at Twende. I’m continuing to manage one product, the bicycle-powered maize sheller, which was where I started last June. 

Jesse, my coworker and housemate, trying out the bicycle-powered maize sheller. 

But my role has also expanded to the education and community outreach facets of Twende. I’ll be developing new programs that we can teach, which means I’ll get to spend some of my time building cool things then teaching other people to build cool things. But, more importantly, people at Twende make so many cool things that they don’t have the bandwidth to keep them all going. That’s where I come in as a sort of “cool things accelerator.” In my time here, I hope to take some of the innovative ideas floating around this workshop and help make them a reality for Twende and the surrounding community. I'll keep you posted.

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