These Hands champion grassroots innovation
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana
Botswana Innovation Hub continues to nurture grassroots innovations and advance the ‘Made in Africa’ theme of the recent Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2016 that heralds a message of enterprise and prosperity for African innovators.
In his keynote address at the launch of the D’Kar Innovation Resource Centre and the official opening of the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) Botswana in D’Kar, The hub’s CEO Alan Boshwaen said the partnership between Botswana Innovation Hub and an innovation initiative called ‘These Hands’ was nurturing grassroots innovation.
These Hands is a social and sustainable development enterprise that is also a member of the Botswana Innovation Hub’s entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC). “A key feature in the partnership between Botswana Innovation Hub and These Hands is the development of a local Innovation Resource Centre in D’Kar. The Centre’s development was initially done through the support of the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAiS) facilitated by Botswana Innovation Hub in 2015,” explained Boshwaen. He added that the Hub sees opportunity for outreach through the Centre and the IDDS Botswana Summit.
The IDDS Botswana Summit is an initiative of the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) and its partners led by the D-Labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, USA. The programme is part funded by the United States of America International Development Programme (USAID)’s Global Development Lab and is implemented by a global consortium of academic, institutional and innovation centre partners. IDIN empowers a diverse, global network of innovators to design, develop and disseminate technologies to improve the lives of people living in poverty.
“The IDIN method of identifying local solutions for local challenges is unique and involves a multidisciplinary approach which Botswana Innovation Hub intends to use to model long term partnerships that facilitate the process of problem identification design thinking, rapid prototyping, leading to full commercialisation of products.”
Boshwaen said it was commendable to see how the community of D’Kar had embraced innovation by accepting to co-host the IDDS Botswana 2016 with the Kuru Development Trust. “Botswana Innovation Hub has a mandate to facilitate growth of entrepreneurship and commercialisation of local grassroots innovations. The company has keen interest in the IDDS programmes and sees true value in this initiative, which focuses on design innovation, rapid prototyping and product development that directly address immediate social needs,” he said.
This is not the first time Botswana Innovation Hub has participated in the IDDS initiative. The company first supported These Hands in acquiring their entrepreneurship development programme milestones and contributed to capacity building on design innovation as well as sponsoring the previous summit.
This year, These Hands identified a need for a physical co-creation space in the form of a local Innovation Resource Centre in D’Kar. The social and sustainable development enterprise sought a donation of computers for the D’Kar Innovation Resource Centre from Botswana Innovation Hub and the company donated computers and software to the tune of the price of about $6 700.00
Boshwaen said, “Botswana Innovation Hub has established key programmes offering innovation support to entrepreneurs, individuals, companies and NGO’s. Notable and most relevant to IDDS initiative is the further refinement and the commercialisation of innovations from the D’Kar Innovation Resource Centre through our National Technology Transfer Office.”
“In donating the computers, we believe these will be of great value for the daily operations of the D’Kar Innovation Resource Centre. This is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility as well as our Outreach initiative to further communicate the roe of our Science and Technology Park to Batswana across the country. It is our commitment to the Summit and its relevance to unearthing need based innovations and the partnerships towards ‘social upliftment’ of rural and marginalized communities,” he said.
Boshwaen said he hoped the D’Kar Innovation Resource Centre will facilitate innovation deal flow into the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park for commercialisation purposes.
Botswana Innovation Hub has partnered with Botswana Institute of Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) and the University Of Botswana Department Of Industrial Design in sponsoring the IDDS Botswana Summit 2016.