Inspiring youth to drive Positive Impact - the Mawazo Challenge
Positive Impact is the intentional creation of enduring social and economic value. Palladium’s Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF) has launched the #MawazoChallenge to inspire and empower youth to bring their ideas and social innovations to life. Following a successful launch, HDIF’s Team Leader David B. McGinty and Strategic Partnership Advisor Emma Davies explore the importance of youth engagement in discovering and supporting innovation for Positive Impact.
Creating jobs and building skills for the growing youth population in Africa is critical to development in the coming decade. HDIF is investing in innovation, which is a key driver of new markets with the potential to create formal and informal jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.
In many instances, donors engage experts to design programmes that focus on the success and failures of past designs. But, they often spend limited time with the intended customers or clients of their new programme. With the #MawazoChallenge, HDIF has turned the paradigm upside down: our goal is to help youth move their social enterprises from concept to prototype and scale. The #MawazoChallenge is an open competition for youth to submit thoughts on what support they need to bring their ideas to life. In the second phase, HDIF will run a competition for organizations – like incubators and start up hubs – to partner with the successful #MawazoChallenge participants to implement their ideas.
By specifically identifying youth as the designers, not just recipients, of HDIF’s programme, the #MawazoChallenge demonstrates how youth can be engaged to break down barriers that may exclude them from active participation in building a prosperous future.
Investing in innovation can create jobs
Nearly two-thirds of Tanzania’s total population is under the age of 25. The country stands to gain from its untapped people power but only if these young people have the opportunity to fully participate in the country’s development. Whilst it’s true that Tanzania has enjoyed healthy economic growth in recent years, there is a real and urgent need to engage and prioritize young people in long-term development and unlock their potential. With over 800,000 young people entering the job market every year, but only 40,000 of those securing formal employment, investment in the development of work-ready youth and job creation is crucial.
Investing in innovation is an investment in job creation and economic growth – social enterprises working with HDIF are live examples of this reality. On the surface, HDIF’s grantee Maji Safi kwa Bora Ifakara (MSABI), a Tanzanian community-based social enterprise, could appear to be distributing water systems, promoting behaviour change for the adoption of appropriate water and hygiene interventions, and reporting data for monitoring and evaluation – a typical community development model. However, branded Pump For Life, MSABI is also a job creating machine for youth – delivering incredible development outcomes by establishing micro-enterprises to promote and sell safe water products and services. Entrepreneurs are identified to own and manage the micro-enterprises, sales teams and technicians are trained, customers are collaboratively developed and on-boarded to Pump For Life’s subscription-based profit model, and thereby new businesses are stood up and jobs created. Most of Pump For Life’s team members are from the same or similar rural communities that they serve.
Digital Opportunity Trust Tanzania (DOT) is also investing in job creation and readiness by harnessing the power of youth. Together with the Vocational Education & Training Authority (VETA), DOT is delivering a unique programme to equip young people with much-needed entrepreneurship and ICT skills to better prepare them for informal work or formal jobs. We are constantly and consistently blown away by the young people graduating from DOT’s training; they exhibit job-ready technical skills as well as confidence, agency, and excitement that are hard to find en masse amongst the youth population.
These partners are exemplars of HDIF’s value proposition: investing in innovation to concurrently drive opportunities for youth, human development, and economic development. HDIF enables Positive Impact.
Marketplaces for ideas can inspire and empower
Development practitioners have for a long time been engaging with their clients and stakeholders to help design programmes that address the roots causes of poverty by seeking community input. A key intention of this approach is to get funding strategies better aligned with the needs and demands of beneficiaries.
An early example of this was the Development Marketplace at the World Bank, originally set up in 1998 as the brainchild of Mari Kuraiashi and Dennis Whittle to solicit new ideas and strategies to tackle poverty. Employees from all corners of the organisation were encouraged to participate in an open marketplace and a panel of judges from the World Bank’s product team awarded grants to the winning ideas – ranging from $29,000 to $380,000. The initiative led to the funding of many ways to fight poverty that would have had a difficult pathway to scale within the World Bank’s typical approach. Such success led the World Bank to think bigger, and in 2000, the scheme was opened to anyone, anywhere in the world with a viable idea. The Development Marketplace was a step towards democratizing funding decisions and recognizing the value of user input. It also offers a valuable example of how large organizations can make space for radical, low-cost innovations.
More recent trends focusing on engaging beneficiaries in the development of solutions include the prioritising of human centered design (HCD) and feedback loops. For a few examples, take a look at Amplify, Feedback Labs (of which our friends at Twaweza are founding members), and Palladium’s Spring Accelerator. At the core of these approaches is a common thread: democratizing idea generation and prioritization by giving customers and clients a stronger, leading voice.
#MawazoChallenge engages and empowers youth
From day one HDIF has used an adaptive programming approach. It’s through listening and learning from our community that we are tackling several key barriers to youth inclusion and feedback. What we are often seeing is a disconnect between communities that have problems, and people with ideas and funding to potentially solve those problems. Even if these people find each other, problem solvers often don't have the type of resources to experiment with innovations to serve the communities most in need.
The #MawazoChallenge aims to put the process in the hands of the community themselves, to design a marketplace for finding and catalyzing early stage ideas for Positive Impact. In phase one, youth submit ideas on how they need and want to be supported to take their ideas from concept to prototype and scale. For example, ideas could be around establishing Living Labs, mobile science fairs, or hackathons. That’s up to the youth to decide! The three winning ideas receive between TSH 1,500,000 and TSH 5,000,000 to reward the sharing of ideas. Once announced, HDIF launches the second phase – an open competition for organizations to partner with the #MawazoChallenge winners to implement their ideas. This crucial phase provides investment, resources and market intelligence to ensure concepts become viable financial prospects. This challenge fund approach empowers youth to design and become the vehicle for youth job creation and skills building.
Tanzania is at a special moment in time: the new government is finding its feet, the economy is growing, the youth population is swelling, businesses and governments are looking to invest from within and without the country, and Tanzania’s profile is growing in the region and globally. The challenge we see is whether growth will be inclusive of the most vulnerable; including among others the poor, the youth, and women and girls. Growth must take advantage of the great human potential within Tanzania to tackle basic needs in health, education, and water and sanitation. We encourage you to visit places like the BUNI Hub (virtually or physically), a tech start up space at COSTECH in Dar es Salaam, to witness the energy of young people who are creating and innovating, developing new solutions to everyday challenges, and all keen to be the next big thing. There, you will find why HDIF is betting on, and investing in, the youth of Tanzania.