TATA Social Enterprise Conference – 7th December 2013

On Saturday I had the opportunity to travel to London for TATAs Social Enterprise Conference, hosted by NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs) held at City University.

The hardest bit of the event was setting my alarm for 05:20, as our train was booked for 06:25 to ensure that we were ready for the 10:00 start in the capital.

Upon arrival at City University it was great to see the Balloon Kenya team who were exhibiting at the event, who welcomed guests with balloon shaped cookies. It was great to see Maxine too, who was another Fellow on my programme over the summer.

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The event started at ten with a welcome from NACUEs Head of Community, Amy Watson. The welcome was followed by Jaguar Land Rovers, Director for Corporate and Social Responsibility, Jonathan Garrett who spoke about the importance of preparing for 2050. The population will reach 9 billion and he spoke of how there is plenty of opportunities for social entrepreneurs to exploit the rise in population.

Arthur Kay of Bio-Bean, a company that recycles coffee grounds into biodiesel and biomass pellets introduced the keynote speaker, Robin Shelley. Robin who is regarded as a ‘Global Shaper’ by the World Economic Forum has worked as Chief of Staff to former President of Costa Rica Jose Maria Figueres, supporting international initiatives in climate change and energy. He currently works in investment banking and is interested in how finance can create economic development and social change. Robin spoke about ‘Social Intrapreneurs’, people working within large organisations that push for social good.

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Following the morning keynote was a panel of social enterprise experts taking questions from the delegates in regards to ‘Working towards a greater social impact’.

Coffee and networking concluded the morning sessions in which I was asked to speak to The Guardian in regards to the conference and about the work I did in Kenya, which I look forward to seeing.

Breakout sessions followed the networking break, with a selection of different topics being discussed in different rooms across the University. I chose ‘The Naked Debate’ hosted by Solitaire Townsend, the founder of Futerra, a sustainable development communications agency. Solitaire looked at making social enterprise sexy, how to win the status fight of social media and why you have power to change the world.

Lunch followed, allowing everybody to get some food and visit the varying stall that were available to view in the Social Enterprise Marketplace. I stayed with the Balloon Kenya team and shared my experiences with students who were interested in joining the project next summer.

After lunch was the presentation that I’d been looking forward too, with Rob Forkan the founder of Gandys Flip Flops and their investor Dominic List, a former Secret Millionaire. Rob went through Gandys interesting story, talking about how a family tragedy encouraged them to set up a business with social good – check out their story http://www.gandysflipflops.com/our-journey

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Unfortunately we didn’t have time for the last set of talks as we had to get back to Sheffield, however I did have an attempt at running into a wall.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the day out in the capital and thanks to Hallam Union for allowing me to represent them.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Ten Sugars or Twelve – Rural Adventure

Tea served in the early morning sun in Lalwet, a small rural community on the banks of Lake Nakuru must have been the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted. The drink is so sugary that the area would be a dentist’s paradise. Kenyan ‘chai’ is renowned for being sweet, however.

Our trip to our rural retreat started early on Monday morning with a bumpy Mutatu (a small minibus), a journey that half of the group had to complete by motorbike as the driver refused to drive on the roads. We arrived to crowds of children swamping our exit from the bus. Our football was snatched, booted into the air and chased by around twenty children. They were excited by the ball as their normal ball was plastic bags squished together, held by a number of elastic bands. The large smiles made up for the snatching!

Our welcomes to the village were accompanied by the very sweet tea and Ndazi’s (Doughnuts without jam)! The welcome was a lengthy procedure as we were introduced to about half of the village. Although it was time consuming we felt warmly welcomed into their community and everyday life.

The second stop was to a mud hut that was undergoing an extension. The extension consisted of a wooden frame, which needed filling. Earth had been disturbed near to the extension and water was added to allow the fellows to get their hands dirty and help to construct the muddy walls. It was enjoyed by all and many of the girls would have paid a couple of hundred pounds in a fancy spa for a similar treatment.

After walking around further and freeing a Goat from a fence (our Welsh fellow sorted this) we entered a field full of kidney beans drying on plastic tarpaulin, we were handed sticks and told to beat the pods. When the pods are beaten the beans fall onto the plastic and can be easily collected, this is a job the women of the family carry out.

Lunch followed our morning of hard work and one of the ladies of the village ‘Muma’ had prepared lunch for the thirty hungry fellows. A typical Kenyan meal of beans, rice and potatoes and was enjoyed by all, fuelling us for the rest of the day.

Following lunch we took to a slightly overgrown field, littered with cow pat for a game of football which was labelled ‘Mzungus vs Lalwat’ – Mzungus being the Swahili term for white people or aimless wanderer. Many of the village turned up for the game that had a cup final feel about it. Away from the football the local children pestered the female fellows for sweets.

The football finished around half past five and we were then paired and walked to our host families house. I had been paired with Chris who I share a room with in Nakuru, along with Thach and Hymn. We were heavily welcomed by our family and our first activity was to milk the cow before dinner. The milking was good fun and something that none of us had done before. We later helped prepare Ugali (a mix of water and maize) and then sat down for a meal of beef stew that they normally only make at Christmas, so we were very honoured.

After lunch we sat in the living room and watched English dubbed Italian soaps and amazed the families children with our cameras. Kenyan children love digital cameras as they can see themselves on the screen after. A newly constructed room had been given to Chris and I, in which we shared a double bed and made a short video blog about the day’s activities.

We awoke to farm sounds of cows and chickens in the yard outside our window, unfortunately the cow had already been milked by the time we woke up. Breakfast was served with a less sweeter tea, similar to traditional English tea and Ndazi’s. Local rap artist Freddie met us to escort us back to the village centre to rejoin the other Fellows.

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After joining the Fellows we left the village for a hike up a nearby hill which provided great views of the neighbouring Lake Nakuru. After our decent we headed for lunch, which was the same as the Monday, but at a different household. Following the lunch we reintroduced ourselves to the village before saying our goodbyes and being given the invitation of being able to visit in the future and then shared a prayer before departing.

The community of Lalwat is united as one with a high level of trust between everybody in the community. Although some of the families may not have much they were willing to share what they did have with us, which was really nice to see.

The trip provided an insight into Kenya away from the hustle and bustle of Nakuru town and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.