With high unemployment rates, high poverty levels, and seemingly insurmountable social issues, Guinea is a country of great need and limitless possibility. With the aim of fostering positive change in such social problems, US Peace Corps volunteers in the sector of Community Economic Development had been seeking to provide motivated and skillful Guinean youth with the next level of training, equipment, and frameworks. The result was “Dare to Innovate: The Conference for Social Entrepreneurship.” The conference took place in Ferme Fabik, in Condoya between August 11th and 18th in 2013 with the goal of encouraging Guinean youth to “solve problems in creative ways, to introduce social entrepreneurship and to give them the support necessary to launch their own social enterprise.”
Throughout the phases of the conference, participants collaborated with trained mentors and experts in the field of social entrepreneurship, including us. These experts helped participants navigate their development and expand the Dare to Innovate social entrepreneurship movement within the challenging-yet-promising context of Guinea.
Considering the conference`s emphasis on creativity and social mindedness, our mentorship assistance was both practical and relevant for the participants. As it amplified the entrepreneurial creativity in human-centric ways, our design-driven methodology enabled young Guinean entrepreneurs understand local ecosystem dynamics and effectively transform local challenges into applicable and viable opportunities.
During that six-day period of the conference, the participants engaged in creative exercises, group challenges, brainstorming sessions, studies of social enterprises from around the world, submitted well-thought out business plans, and gave a series of superbly prepared and delivered presentations. They came up with concepts ranging from hygiene services to organic and frozen banana production, and from public toilets to production of paper briquettes, all of which addressing positive social change and living in different aspects.
According to Emma Schaberg, the Marketing and Communications Consultant at Dare to Innovate: “One of the most magical sights for me, as a facilitator, to witness was participants challenging other participants to change their own realities, believing that it’s possible by their own hands. They arrived at not only a deeper, widened perspective of their realities, but also of themselves in that context, seeing social problems as opportunities that they, themselves, may seize through social enterprise, providing for the community by also providing for themselves.”
Schaberg claimed that Dare to Innovate had a lot of positive feedback from various ministers and development agencies in Guinea. These people and organizations, along with the organizers of the conference, wanted Dare to Innovate to become a model for the region and hopefully, eventually, the continent.
Emma Schaberg O`Brien later wrote an article about Dare to Innovate in Stanford Social Innovation Blog, which is Stanford University`s award-winning magazine and website that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. The article covered design`s role in boosting innovation and social change in Guinea, as well as our contribution to this end.
Regarding the critical role of mentorship and utilization of a design-driven perspective in the conference, Schaberg O`Brien says:
“This approach leveraged human-centered facilitation techniques such as Open Space and Future Search—methodologies that have been used around the world to address social issues—which allowed them to see potential instead of problems and opportunities rather than obstacles, and then transform their ideas into actionable possibilities.”
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(Image credit: Dare to Innovate)