Exchange and Support: Earthbeat Foundation meets like-minded people

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Earthbeat‘s very own Julia Gajewski attended a workshop for sustainable social entrepreneurs in Tanzania. Creative and committed people from many African countries and Germany came together with the goal to exchange ideas. Read her report about impressive projects, new friends and how exchange fuels our work.

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship

How can we increase impact and grow our network? What do we need to make Earthbeat even more sustainable? And what does it mean to found a sustainable business in Africa and lead it to success? In order to find answers to these questions, I participated in the Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship 2017 just a few weeks ago. I know, the name sounds a bit dry, but the event itself wasn’t at all. On the contrary. For the second time (the first time was 2016 in Berlin), representatives of social and sustainable businesses from Germany and various African countries have met, this time in Dar es Salaam, a lively metropolis on the Tanzanian coast in East Africa.

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship: A (sustainable) business for each problem

I had the honor to represent Earthbeat Foundation this year and had barely time to catch my breath during a truly inspirational week. The overall climate at the Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship can best be described in one word: fruitful! The 22 participants embraced the opportunity to exchange ideas about their work and projects. The core problem for all is climate change, which has a massive impact on peoples’ lives in many African countries. That’s why the changemakers in Africa also address social issues. I realized how little we know in Europe about the many, inspirational, creative, agile and progressive people who put Muhammad Yunu’s words into action: “Every time I see a problem, I create a business to solve it.”

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship

 

With this philosophy in mind it suddenly becomes possible to produce stable building material from plastic waste, extract energy from biological waste or even make “shit to gold.” There are countless ideas for a wide range of challenges. Each country, though, demands an individual solution. I have learned about many projects that kill two, well, several birds with one stone. Tillmann and Gabriele e.g. provide drinking water solutions for the rural areas of Kenya with their membrane filters. At the same time they educate about the importance of clean drinking water and they strongly support women’s rights. They specifically support ‘womenpreneurs’ in founding their own, sustainable business in the field of drinking water sales.

I was particularly impressed by Selina, a 25 year old Maasai. With incredible courage, she has freed herself from the clutches of a rigid, misogynist tradition. How she did it? Well, she had the opportunity attend a progressive boarding school. This way she escaped the horror of child marriage and genital mutilation. In the meanwhile, she has founded her own boarding school and saves young Maasai girls from their fate. Part of the school is a community garden. There,the people of the village learn about the so-called permaculture. This means that land is sustainably cultivated, i.a. by taking into account the cycles of nature. At the same time, it provides solutions to food shortages in her drought-stricken homeland in southern Kenya. I accompanied her for some days and had the honor to support her.

Sustainability through experience and exchange

I could still talk about so many projects that have succeeded in combining efficiency with innovation, ecological responsibility and participatory elements. Earthbeat Foundation fit in really well . After all, the goal for our partner communities is also to develop sustainable business models as an alternative to gold mining.

In each free minute, whether on the bus, or waiting in line for the bathroom, we engaged in thought exchange. But also the workshops, the presentations and the whole program of the Autumn Summer School were well designed and highly informative. Additionally, we were supported by  last years’ participants, and by mentors from the renowned Ashoka network and numerous well-established social entrepreneurs. They shared their experiences with us and were able to give valuable feedback on our projects.

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship

One focus of the Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship was put on the question of “scalability,” finding answers to how and if the individual projects can grow in order to strengthen  positive impact.
The synergies and opportunities that emerged were presented at the end of the week at the Kaleidoscope Conference to a public audience. Unfortunately, there were fewer potential financiers than some of the participants had hoped. Nevertheless, the exchange with local businesses and political actors has paid off for everyone.

Thousands of new ideas in mind

Not only as project manager of Earthbeat, but also for me personally, the week in Dar es Salaam was highly enriching. I have a lot of new ideas in mind that will help us in our approach and help us reach even more people. Of course, for us as a Swiss-German NGO, it is particularly exciting to ask: How do we form partnerships  with small-scale gold miners living at the other end of the supply chain? What role do cultural differences play in our collaboration? What do we have to consider in order to motivate other gold-mining regions through our projects?

Autumn School for Sustainable Entrepreneurship

From my own experience, I know that such challenges are best met with open-mindedness and open eyes and ears. The methods of design thinking also help and – perhaps most importantly – building stable local partnerships. At the Autumn School for Social Entrepreneurship I found friends and supporters who gave me invaluable input for our project in Uganda. Now it’s time to get to work! Continue increasing our network! And let the ideas grow steadily into inspiring projects!

Do you want to participate in this change and support us? Here you can read how to do so.