Wenjing Yang - Changemaker in Slums
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Wenjing Yang - Changemaker in Slums #1
Describe the idea:
Changemaker in Slums () is a for-profit venture aiming to help low-cost private schools to become self-sustainable.
In Kenya, 90% of private schools shut down after 3 years. We currently work with 2 private schools there to co-create a revenue generation plan, provide microloan, training and project management service, so they can survive in the long term. Our pilot proved successful in generating 23% of revenue per $1 dollar invested.
Who are you? Previous education/jobs/ experiences etc.
I am Wenjing, master student of innovation and special dynamics at Lund University, also founder of this Changemaker in Slums.
I have 3-year project experiences in the field of social innovation in East Africa and China. I have co-published papers under the topic of social innovation in both Indonesia (2014) and Macau (2015). I have been involved in NGO in Kenya since 2016, it opened the door of opportunities for me to put ideas into reality.
What will you do during these three months? How will you spend the time?
I will spend 2 months in Kenya. We are trying to scale-up by partnering with 4 more private schools, and I will be conducting due diligence as well as delivering training on co-creation principal. Currently we are trying to enhance core competitiveness by rolling out an online training platform, to deliver standardised training online. This will be the focus during these three months, or in fact the coming year.
What do you expect to achieve during Leapfrogs?
With the Leapfrogs grant, I am able to go on-the-ground in Kenya for the summer. It helps to build trust as I normally only interact remotely with schools through Skype / whatsaap. With the Leapfrogs events, I am able to build up a network of social entrepreneurs. This resource is important as they sometimes in turn have network in Kenya – which makes our journey a lot easier
Tell us what you have done on your projects so far during the Leapfrogs time:
We went to Kenya for project scale-up. We expanded our partnership from 1 to 4 schools across 3 cities. With the help of collaborators we have also generated more innovative solutions with our partners, from sack gardening in 2017 to hydroponic farming in coming year. Being on the ground means that we were able to build trust with schools, and stay intact with latest development in Kenya. We have also met universities and NGOs for potential partnership opportunities.
Has everything gone according to the plan? Has anything unexpected occurred? Has something been easier/harder than expected?
We were surprised to discover many unexpected opportunities from friends’ network. For instance, the roommate of us has referred people to join our team, the person we met on the plane happened to work at a related NGO. Although going to Kenya helped us to bridge the communication gap with current ground staff, it turned out that we wrongly assessed the situation for long. In particular, the previous passive approach now seems to be ineffective, so we will need to re-think the management approach
What will you focus on during the remaining time? Will you follow your original plan or has anything changed along the way?
We will focus on team building and management first, to recruit more local staff in project coordination. In addition we need to systematize the management approach, for instance by holding a weekly call. One of our partner schools, White Kids Academy, has reported insufficient harvest due to heavy rainfall in the past two months. We decided to pay an unplanned visit (15 hour by bus) to the school, and try to motivate the teachers / better understand the situation.
How did you experience the three months?
We have set small incremental goals and kept learning from the field.
06/20 – 07/05
- visited pilot school in Homa Bay (Kenya)
- connected with 4 more partner schools in Nakuru and Nairobi (Kenya) for partnership deal
07/06 – 07/19
- started partnership in a new partners school in Nairobi (Kenya).
- collaboration with a Kenyan University
- technical partnership with a local organization
07/20 – 08/20
- recruited 5 local coordinators
- systemized project monitoring platform
What has been hardest/most enjoyable?
To deliver a clear message of what and how CIS does things. As most people living in slums have been familiar with charity organizations, they are preconceived that CIS is also a charitable organization, therefore understanding CIS is there to give out funding. However, once we make the distinction clear in the first place, we are glad to see people are actually excited that CIS is here for empowerment, and will be working together with them.
Did it go as expected? Will you continue working on your project in the future?
In the coming weeks, 2 of our partner schools will harvest their production from Sack Gardening Program. At the same time, we are going to,
- conduct individualized training workshops for different partner schools
- conduct a new pilot for hydroponics in Nakuru, Kenya
- work on new sustainable solutions for CIS upcoming third innovation (2019-2010)
What would you say is the most important lesson learnt while working on your project?
I would say communication. The more you communicate with your customers, the more you know about them. During this summer field work, we created a project committee board (composed by the school director, parents representative, and student representative) in every partner schools. Through the discussion with them, we are surprised to see how much we learned from them, and how creativity they are in coming up with new ideas in tackling with the school’s sustainability issue.
Do you have any tips to other ”new” entrepreneurs?
- Talk to your customers
- Set small incremental goals and keep goin
CIS weekly blogs:
- Aug 24: Stay tuned for CIS’s new intake
- Aug 18: Empower a school, built a community
- Aug 11: Hydroponics - the CIS innovation
- Aug 4: Open call for proposals - innovative ideas from the grass
- Jul 18: Co-designing solutions with our partner schools
- Jul 24: Annual agricultural training