Yes, six weeks are already over. In the beginning, time couldn’t go fast enough. But then, after familiarizing myself with Eldoret, a totally new environment, I had the feeling time is running. I wanted to leave Kenya with a clear goal and future plan, but teaching and preparing for consultancy took most of the time available. And that’s exactly one of the things I’ve learned in Kenya: things always take longer than expected, especially in Africa.
Right now, I’m sitting in my Berliner flat, trying to figure out my next steps. As mentioned in my very first post of this blog, I quit my secure job and left the company in October. That was even before I decided to join as a Social Enterprise Consultant. And even if the job as a photographer is a creative job, I wasn’t happy. I had the feeling everything was revolving around profit. I was looking for something more meaningful. I wanted a job with purpose. I wanted to have a positive impact on people. The positive news is, I’m still very happy about that quitting decision. But as expected, after living in and traveling a bit of Kenya, my bank account looks pretty empty. As interesting as a voluntary position can be, it doesn’t pay the bills.
However, working as a Social Enterprise Consultant was interesting and pretty much what I expected. Together, we worked with 5 unemployed youth and 2 other independent youth groups (registered as self-help groups) involved in waste management. We trained the VSO ICS youth by introducing them to the concept of Social Entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial mindset (incl. traits of an entrepreneur), creativity, innovation and business planning. We also introduced them to the BMC (Business Model Canvas), the Experiment Board by Javelin and to the SWOT analysis.
During the 6 weeks, each of them came up with different business ideas and created different BMCs. Over time, we started to mentor each of them individually and supported them in their testing phase. The testing took place in different ways, depending on the business idea. Some of the VSO ICS youths created questionnaires and talked face-to-face to potential customers. Some others went straight into selling products, like bananas, maize or charcoal. Another once took pre-orders to create tailor-made bracelets. By the end of the programme, they all pitched for funding and we handed over certificates of completion at an evening ceremony at Poa Place in Eldoret.
But what is it that I learned during the programme?
1. Things take longer than anticipated
It is very difficult to estimate the time needed to train youth (and probably any other group). It all depends on the educational background of the participants, their motivation and language skills. Obviously, if participants are not familiar with the language (we taught in English) you will struggle to communicate the content properly. In our case, the level of English was alright, and improved over time, but it did slow down our process.
2. Know your programme participants
As mentioned above, it’s difficult to teach something if people do not speak or understand the language properly. In addition to that, it is crucial to know your participants and know what they expect from the training to avoid disappointments. The better you know your participants, the better you can estimate the time needed for teaching.
3. Build a good relationship, create a personal atmosphere
You’ll work with people you haven’t met before. Be open-minded. Share some personal insights. This will relax the atmosphere and allows in particular quiet and shy people to feel good. The better you know each other, the easier it will be to start conversations and discussions and the less it will be a lecture-style teaching experience.
4. Make sure you have a proper teaching venue
To avoid long travel distances or noisy venues, make sure you have a proper teaching venue. Do you need a laptop for showing videos? Then make sure you got enough battery or have a room with power. Do you need a white- or blackboard? Make sure the room you use is equipped with that. If possible, have a Plan B for the case the venue won’t be available for certain days or unexpectedly.
5. Communicate clearly
Just like in an ordinary workspace, it is important to communicate clearly. Explain things, if necessary, in different words and phrases. Reframe. In my view, it is also important to give an overview of the programme content and the goals and objectives of each week to course participants, so they know what to expect.
6. Combine different teaching methods
This isn’t anything new. Everybody learns best in different ways and in their own pace. Therefore, it is best to include different teaching methods. Watch videos, have discussions, have practical tasks and let them do research on their own and present their findings. Again, who can concentrate and wants to listen to a lecture all day long? In our case it was very helpful to provide handouts by the end of each session.
7. Involve or consult experts
In case you don’t have the right answer, seek advice from experts from the field. They simply know best. You can also introduce those two parties, so they stay in direct contact. Sometimes the best you can do is using your network. You really don’t have to know everything.
8. Give room for feedback
Receiving feedback is very important. You want to be good at your job and you want the teaching be of value for your participants. There is always room for improvement, so listen to your participants and even team members. Ask for ‘what went well’ and ‘what could have been better’. Let them give examples.
Have a look at the updated Kenya gallery, if you are interested to see some pictures of the 6 week pilot in Eldoret, Kenya: “Social Starters – Social Entrepreneurship Training & Consultancy“.