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Alex Mokori on Pop Up Bus + Innovation Centre: Where Our Journey has Taken Us and Where We are Headed

The Pop Up Bus + Innovation Centre team continues to have vibrant planning discussions on how to move forward. Please stay tuned as Leigh and Alex update their Impact Stories. And, see how you can get involved and help their teams make a difference.

Photo of Leigh Cullen
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Alex Mokori and Leigh Cullen and are partners on the Pop Up Bus + Innovation Centre project.

The following is Alex's Impact Story. Click here to read Leigh's Impact Story. Please stay tuned as both Leigh and Alex update their Impact Stories.
 

WHAT DID YOU SET OUT TO DO

I took the ‘How to Change the World’ class with Professor Michael Roth of Wesleyan University ( https://class.coursera.org/changetheworld-002). Professor Roth encouraged us to sign up for the upcoming opportunity to collaborate with OpenIDEO and the Clinton Global Initiative on building ideas to improve youth employment around the world. Fresh from watching social entrepreneurs making a difference in the world, I signed up for the challenge. My idea—Innovation Centre—which focused on catalyzing the process of building teams of multi-disciplinary youth with a goal of pooling our own resources and use them to generate income, contribute to social change and to mentor students to prepare for life after school.
 

WHAT DID YOU DO

With the idea of the Innovation Centre, I sketched out how I wanted to change the world through and for youth. I knew for sure I had to identify allies to help me achieve my goal. I watched videos Professor Roth shared with us again, of great people around the world who had succeeded in tackling poverty. I realized the social entrepreneurs featured in the videos had two things in common—a dream and alliances with whom they worked. After reviewing some of the past challenges in OpenIDEO, I realized I did not have to have a perfect idea to get started. I also noticed how people had collaborated very effectively from the previous challenges. Hence, I gained more confidence about my journey and went ahead and posted the idea.

Two days into the challenge, other people’s ideas had received numerous views compared to mine. I asked myself what was going on with my idea. I thought about principles of behavioural economics and had to twist the title of my post to bring some freshness into the picture. No sooner had I done this than the views and comments started multiplying. This renewed my confidence and I continued to believe my idea would indeed change the world. I started commenting on other colleagues’ ideas as a result. The turning point was when Rehmah Kasule, Leigh Cullen and I initiated discussions on how to leverage our ideas. Whereas the idea of the Innovation Centre was great, I was faced with challenge of how to sustain it, how to keep the youth motivated for the development challenges in the centre and how to translate the idea into a social enterprise. I continued researching around these challenges and refined the idea to address them.
 
The users I interacted with indicated the idea was great and would make a huge impact in the lives of youth when they finished school. I talked to younger professionals, students, employers, lecturers and colleagues on OpenIDEO and they were all excited at having a centre that would support and add value to what students learn in class. At this point Leigh and I (and our team members) were working offline as one unit. The users were presented with both ideas as a collaborative effort and the feedback was even more positive.

“Wow Alex this is amazing, how I wish I had got the same opportunity during my time at university. I really love the idea. Thank you very much for the hard work, the sky is the limit for you.” (from a young professional)

”Hi Alex, brilliant idea! I love the enthusiasm!!! I think the innovation center meets the need of a transition place between school and career. True to what you said, there's a big group of people that have studied nutrition courses just for the sake, but even those that have the passion for nutrition are caught off-guard by the realities of the working world. Hence, the innovation center can be that place that will refine them and help them define their course. One of the ways could be by providing graduate assistantships where graduates get hands-on working experiences & opportunities in the different food & nutrition areas i.e, community nutrition, clinical nutrition, food science & processing, quality assurance, entrepreneurship, SBCC, to mention but a few; all this under the mentorship and guidance of those who've gone before in these areas. And after going through the whole program, they decide which area suits them best. With the current social & lifestyle trends, well trained and professional nutritionists are vital in society. Being a young field in our country, it’s good to get it right from the start, so again, the innovation center provides an opportunity for people to be trained in professionalism. So, bravo & keep on keeping on, I look forward to seeing this become a reality.” (from a professional medical representative)

 

WHAT DID YOU LEARN

The key things I have learned are the need to believe in my dream, to reach out to others to create synergies, and to share what I know in order to have others share what they know. To change the world we have to be open to working with others who have diverse resources. This enhances what we each have to offer. For instance, Rehmah is endowed with inspiration, Dave has the skills to design and simplify ideas through images, Wekesa is great at networking and research, and Leigh is a good leader and writer. And, I am thankful to my young colleagues who sacrificed their time to help with research.
 
There were definitely insights that altered my assumptions about my initial idea. For example, Rehmah challenged me to transform the idea into a social enterprise that generates money for youth versus just focusing on giving free information. Wekesa had the idea of making the centre a technology hub, which I almost completely ran with, but later realized technology is just one of the tools the centre must offer in order to achieve its goals. I started exploring potential avenues for introducing the idea to Kyambogo University. The fact that my idea was selected among the final 22 ideas mesmerized me because there were so many great ideas there. This made me work harder to refine the idea because I knew the world believed in it.
 

WHO WAS IMPACTED

The idea impacted a number of people—young professionals, university students, lecturers, employers, and participants in the youth employment challenge. As depicted in the user experience mapping exercise, students became emotional when the issue of their hopes and dreams for life after university was brought up, i.e. the mismatch between students’ actual professional goals and what they are doing now to earn a living. When they heard about Innovation Centre and Pop Up Bus, services that would help teach them 21st century professional skills, their hopes and dreams came back alive. Older adults who had gone through a similar university experience, and who are currently working hard in unsatisfying jobs, equally wished such opportunities existed for them when they were younger; however, they were grateful that their young brothers and sisters would benefit. My teammate Leigh was impacted by my idea because her idea was piloted by potential users. Likewise, my idea was impacted by Leigh. I was personally impacted because I am experiencing live the power of collaboration in achieving common goals using diverse resources. Without my OpenIDEO and offline teams I am sure my idea would not have gotten this far. I am also certain that Prof Roth has been impacted by my idea as it provides testimony to how powerful his ‘How to Change the World’ course is in energizing people around the world to rise up against challenges facing the world.
 

WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS

Phase I–Business Model, Brand, and Pilot:
As a joint team, our first goal is to focus on providing sustainable, global, cost effective Innovation Centres that enable youth to gain 21st century skills that will propel youth into careers of their choice. The sustainable business model we are currently drafting revolves around providing social change interventions for community development via healthcare. Our intention is to develop a change package that adapts to different cultures and geographic locations. This will take some time. Therefore, our plan is to test our prototype and theories in Uganda first. Then we will accelerate the process of sharing documentation and lessons learned after we conduct the pilot.

We are also working on our brand. Feedback we're receiving from Uganda is that Pop Up Buses are a critical part of the project. The consensus is that buses are an essential marketing tool, as much as they are a potentially powerful learning tool. We are determining costs associated with, and feasibility of, developing bus specific marketing campaigns.
 
Phase II–Determine How Buses will Play a Part:
Exploring the Pop Up Bus idea further occurs in Phase II. We have received such enthusiastic feedback from around the globe about bus integration, that we wish to determine viable use cases for buses.
 
Alex’s Next Steps for the Pilot include:
  1. Renting a house to serve as office space for the Innovation Centre and Pop Up Bus
  2. Signing a MOU with Kyambogo University to work with students there
  3. Signing a MoU with CEDA International and other agencies to host the students
  4. Recruiting students to the centre
  5. Starting the program within the centre with thirty students and eight coaches/mentors. 

Our Team's High Level Next Steps include:Supporting Alex as he runs our pilot in Uganda
  1. Continuing to build out and test healthcare related business models–with the primary goal of creating a sustainable Innovation Centre for Alex and his team of Community Pathfinders in Uganda
  2. Testing our business model to see if it will scale
  3. Determining a proposed budget for Alex’s Innovation Centre in Uganda
  4. Creating documentation explaining lessons learned during the pilot and documentation for potential investors
  5. Reaching out to potential partners who can share advice and resources
 

CALL TO ACTION

Anyone who has ideas that complement Innovation Centre and Pop Up Bus, please share your global perspectives, ideas/suggestions, experiences, and resources so that we can implement the idea for greater social impact. All volunteers with the needed skills and knowledge such as youth financial literacy training, leadership, communication, business, product/service design, mentorship, etc, are welcome to support the Innovation Centre. Savvy business minds, we would love your inputs on scaling our business model ideas. Lastly, our team seeks funding for kickstarting Alex’s Innovation Centre in Uganda. At this point, Alex and his young team of Community Pathfinders have pooled together their personal resources to try to get the project off the ground. They have rented a space and have tables, but they lack chairs and basic office supplies. Please reach out directly to Alex if you are interested in exploring funding opportunities:  alexkmokori@gmail.com




Icons in illustration from Nounproject:
"Bus" icon by Ilsur Aptukov, "Motorboat" by 1982, "Teacher" icon by Musavvir Ahmed, "Man" icon by Simon Child

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We are moving forward here in Kampala! Our team is registering the project with the government registrar of companies. We are hoping to have the process completed by next week.

The development of the manuals for training the youth is the next milestone we are focused on. Our goal is to get our first lot in the project before end of the year.

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