Year 1 student and Student Government Secretary Tania Twinoburyo reflects on the highs and lows of the culmination of a year-long entrepreneurial course that tests ALA students’ creative, innovative and leadership acumen.
Entrepreneurial Leadership festival, or E-Fest, is an annual festival where Year Ones showcase what they have been doing in their team OID (Original Ideas for Development) – and the buildup is 5 intense weeks of preparation.
E-fest teams are formed of year one individual OIDs – for example, my individual OID was based on a smart filtration system that would be able to recycle and reuse water from any source, around the world. It tackled economic and physical water scarcity in the sub-Saharan African regions. This had to with the environment, so one Build Lab afternoon we had to divide ourselves into categories various categories such as Environmental, Agricultural, Art, Social and many more. Teams are divided based on the category you choose – in my case, it was Environmental.
Building on an innovative foundation
The first leg before getting to the finish line is to work on the first part of the BUILD process which is Believe. Here, you need to identify a problem in society and write your need statement. Ours was “Africans in the sub-Saharan region who suffer from economic water scarcity need to have access to enough water for domestic use in order to satisfy their basic necessities and avoid harmful diseases for example typhoid.”
Understand, the next leg, requires in-depth research into the situation. The worst thing you can do when creating a solution for a problem in society is make assumptions; your product will fail. You need to know what caused the problem, why it persists and what is currently being done about that specific problem.
Next you Invent: here, you brainstorm a minimum of a hundred different possible solutions, which you keep narrowing down until you get to your one solution. This then leads to Listen; it is important that you get feedback from other people about your solution and the process in which you came to the solution – this helps you enhance your product.
Finally, you Deliver. At E-Fest, we had to deliver our idea to our audience which where made up of the the judges, other E-fest teams.
The last week building up to E-Fest was a high pressure one; you could feel the tension and the students’ need to get their PowerPoint presentations, rehearse slides and prototypes done. My team were under stress because we were trying to come up with a solution that would be affordable for lower-middle class income earners, and we spent a lot of time arguing about the product instead of rehearsing, until we got someone to help us. We then decided to have two products on the market: one, which we would sell at a higher price, to subsidize the cost of second product, which would be affordable for the majority of the African population.
The big day dawns
On E-fest day students were looking dazzling in the afro-formal attires, ready to present from 8h30. The Year Twos had workshops running for those who were not judging at E-Fest. Each team had 20 minutes for presentations: 7 minutes to present their solution and 13 minutes to answer questions. Each room had about 5 teams which were going to present their ideas.
‘Many of us felt as if we were at Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den because the judges asked really intimidating questions. But I think it made all of us more aware of how much we had been learning from the course.’
Her advice to youth seeking to build their own inspiration tanks? “Invent ideas you care about. Solve solutions you are passionate about. Come up with solutions you can spearhead.”
One of the prelim judges, Natsuno Shinagawa, who recently joined ALA as Special Projects Consultant in the CEO’s Office, says she was truly impressed by the presentations: “I particularly enjoyed hearing how the students analyzed the identified issues, and came up with the solutions. It was not only based on solid logics, but also, very creative and original. It reminded me of the importance of thinking out of the box.”
The Year Two Social Enterprise (SE) Fair offered an inspiring, fun-filled break before the five finalist teams presented their projects to the judges, the entire student body and visiting parents.
In the Winner’s Circle
INRECO walked off as the winners, with the judges proclaiming that their presentation on their Waste Management project stood out for: ‘good research, and it’s promise of future opportunity to develop and grow as the team gained expertise.”
The team is made up of Fatoumatta Jobe, Beryl Nyamemba, Kayo Kamguem and Lobna Jbeniani. Fatoumatta believes that it’s the team dynamic, and the idea, that makes for a winning E-Fest presentation. “I think if you have a good idea and a great team to make it come to life, you have a winning E-Fest presentation. There’s no particular software or site that will tell you how to win, it’s your idea and your team that make you win and in my case both were amazing.”
Fatoumata agrees that while the day itself was a memorable highlight, the runup was, in a word, “Stressful”. “From the outside looking in, solving problems seems easy, presentations look effortless and public speaking seems like no big thing – but, trust me, it was anything but. Sleeplessness nights, thinking till your head hurt and a great amount of effort had to be put in to make our E-fest a success. Adding to the fact that the term was almost over and we were being bombarded with assignments, projects and tests galore, the weeks before E-fest had to be used very wisely,” she adds.
In the end, it was all worth it, agrees Fatoumata: “E-fest pushed me outside my comfort zone and had me thinking outside the box, and that’s something I highly appreciate. After going through the process I would encourage future competitors to put their heart and soul into it, as it’s a chance to showcase your ideas to the entire community, get feedback, and build on your idea – and even if you don’t win, to still gain a great amount of knowledge just from participating. The whole process was a way to have us focus on an African problem, something that affects where we come from which to me, is what made E-fest so special.
E-fest wouldn’t have been possible without all the Entrepreneurial Learning teachers who were there to coach through each and every step of the way. Without them I personally do not think any of the teams would have been able to deliver the inspiring, professional presentations they had. They are truly superstars.