Monday, July 4, 2016

Representing Twende in Dar es Salaam

Twende workshop is located in Arusha, Tanzania. It’s our office, shop, and showroom, and home base—our only location. In addition to travelling out to more rural areas, we occasionally travel to advertise Twende and meet like-minded people. And that’s how I ended up spending a week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s industrial capitol and largest city.

I spent the first half of the week in a USAID “co-creation workshop” about improving adolescent girls’ education in Tanzania and Malawi. The idea was to bring together a bunch of organizations addressing girls’ education from different angles and put them to work together to come up with unique, holistic ways to improve enrollment and retention in schools. Twende was definitely one of the smallest—if not the smallest—organizations there. But I think we did have a unique perspective from being more on-the-ground and community-focused than some larger organizations. The workshop itself was interesting. We were told this whole collaboration ideation thing is a new method USAID is trying. It was all very “design” in a way that I think Oliners are used to—lots of butcher paper and Post-it notes.

I spent the second half of my week at a conference on Tanzanian startups. This one was very much aimed at young entrepreneurs. I’m not sure how to describe it except that it looked like a startup conference pretty much anywhere else in the world. I met lots of young people who were just overall very excited about the idea of starting their own businesses. There, I spent a lot of time talking about Twende, and I realized just how different we are in the field of startup incubators, innovation hubs, or whatever you want to call them, in the area. Unlike these others, Twende focuses on mechanical innovations, and many people (at both conferences) told me they knew great resources for business, web design, and coding support but nothing for mechanical innovators. The most common comments I received about Twende were: “Why are you only in Arusha?” and “Everybody should know about this.”

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