The (BoP) Project at Two; New Directions
Well folks, it’s been nearly two years since I founded The (BoP) Project, and you may be curious as to why so few pieces have emerged on this blog over the last few months.
To say the least, it’s been a wild ride. I’ve continued my travels throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, while also venturing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and exploring the vastly different context of social enterprise there. I had a month long visit to Jordan, and several weeks back in the USA. Though I’ve now covered over two dozen social enterprises in different fields, the journey goes onward.
The past few months have been a period of quiet reflection, introspection, and analysis of The (BoP) Project. I have taken many of my findings and experiences, and begun to apply them in different areas. In Amman, Jordan, I taught a 5-day seminar for Columbia University’s Global Center on visual communications & stories of social change as they relate to social enterprise creation. Back in my home state of Connecticut, I gave a working presentation, “Potential over Poverty; New Narratives for Development” at the Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale University, which chronicled the history of narratives and imagery used in development through present day. As I continue with my work, these real world applications and manifestations of my discoveries become ever more important.
These days, The (BoP) Project continues to be funded by and interspersed with a great deal of personal freelance work around the region, both in written and visual journalism. I’ve done my fair share of blogging about interesting things I’ve learned; Perceptions of Africa, the Generation Y ‘social good’ movement, and how some places aren’t always as bad as they seem; as well as working to bring pressing, unique, inspiring, and off-beat stories from the continent to the world.
Here are a few recent highlights; The Global Water Challenge (Public Radio International/America Abroad. Photo-essay), With Conference in Mogadishu, TedX is Officially Everywhere (CS Monitor), The Gray Area of Gay Refugees (PBS Newshour/ Global Post), African agriculture boosted by water pump (Global Post), Kenya’s Upcoming Elections Suggests Troubling Times for the Economy (Think Africa Press), In a Pristine Rainforest, The Rare Okapi (The Boston Globe).
Anyways, as the social enterprise ecosystem of east Africa has grown and shifted during this time, so too has the dynamic of The (BoP) Project’s reporting. Yes, it will continue to document and share the growing stories of social enterprise and innovation across the region. Yet it will also begin to dig deeper into the root causes, forces and drivers of this movement. It will examine the ecosystem as a whole, not solely it’s exciting moving parts. Ultimately it will take, in small strides, a look at the real impact of this movement itself. I will be first expanding, then sharpening and narrowing my lens, probing deeper into physical and social impacts of these enterprises. I will look at the ecosystem as a whole and ask “is this working?”, adding, most importantly, “How can this be done better?”
New social enterprises are springing up nearly every day in Nairobi- currently there are over 50 social businesses started by Americans operating in east Africa alone, and the overwhelming majority have been started by Americans under 30 in the past 4 years. Now, a flood of impact investors are following suit. Everyone is looking for opportunity in Kenya, yet I believe that some must step back an take stock of all the excitement. In the midst of this rising tide, I seek to ask why, and how.
Leveraging my on the ground experiences, conversations, and networks, I will begin to explore the answers to some of these questions- in blog and lengthier feature article format- and provide further insight into the rapid transformation of the social enterprise space in east Africa, and beyond.
Lastly point; The (BoP) Project is beginning to seek places to showcase it’s work and findings- galleries, conferences and more. If you happen to have any ideas or suggestions, please feel free to drop me a line!
I hope you continue to read, engage, and question with me!
With regards from Nairobi,