The first steps of the Iringa Living Lab

I visited Iringa over the weekend and one of the highlights of my visit was a workshop with the community. The workshop had been put together by the head teacher of Ukombozi school, Mr Martin Yesaya, and Mr Yusuf Ssessanga who has been volunteering as the coordinator for the emerging Living Lab.

Most of the participants were the parents and teachers of Ukombozi and Mkimbizi schools. In addition, there were church leaders, representatives of local NGO’s, Tumaini University and school district office. As many participants were not comfortable with English and I was the only one not fully comfortable with Swahili, the workshop happened in Swahili.

Warm-up: various uses of the hole-puncher

Martin and Yusuf facilitated the workshop with my support. We did a simple warm-up exercise first to get the creativity flowing, and that created a lot of smiles. After that the participant listed in small groups the problems and challenge could identify in the community, and all together they came up with 19 problems:

  1. AIDS
  2. Orphans
  3. Price inflation
  4. Unemployment
  5. Transportation, especially for students to get to schools
  6. Leadership is not good, leaders are not good
  7. Lack of creativity, especially towards income creation
  8. Sexual harassment
  9. Poor infrastructure
  10. Laziness
  11. Gossip
  12. Drug addiction, alcohol, marijuana
  13. Crime
  14. Disabled are not getting education
  15. Climate change
  16. Quality of education
  17. Lack of health care
  18. Lack of quality teachers
  19. Lack of laboratories in schools

Working on the challenges

The next phase was thinking about knowledge needs in the community, which knowledge and learning would help people to address these issues, as well as what knowledge resources and other resources are available in the community. The groups used this information to identify opportunities for action, possible projects and initiatives which could be started immediately.

All the opportunities were listed on the wall, and the participants voted on which initiatives they would be willing to work for. The four opportunities which received the most votes addressed HIV/AIDS, orphans, drugs and entrepreneurship skills. These were given back to the groups for some more detailed planning, and in the end an action plan for each project was presented by the group.

The groups exchanged phone numbers in the end, and I have heard the groups have already been meeting. We agreed that when we go back in a month’s time, they will present on the progress and we can together see what should be done next.

It was great to see the commitment of the community. One of the church leaders present commented on how he had not realised before, that his congregation could actually take ownership this way and participate in defining what needs to be done. He had thought he should always provide the ideas and initiatives for them. So to support the leaders and champions in the community, next time we plan to do also a bit of facilitation training to enable them to run similar workshops and ideation processes on their own in the community.

Great start for Iringa Living Lab!

Click to see all photos

Click to see all photos

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10 thoughts on “The first steps of the Iringa Living Lab

  1. This is a great thing you people are doing giving the society the important thing that they never had, Information and the opportunity to open up.
    Iringa the right place to have something like this, but please think of Dodoma also…it’s a good region lots of challenges and it’s a University City with more than 6 universities located in town center. Start give the youth and people awareness and you will be amazed of what they can do.

    Again, this is Awesome Kristiin, you people are awesome!

    • Thanks for the feedback! Dodoma definitely could be a potential place for a Living Lab, but it is not something we as TANZICT can start. If you know of local people or organisations who are already working to address the problems, please encourage them to get in touch with us. We are happy to visit to see how we can help.

  2. Great work and initiative, this is what needs to happen in Africa to solve the biggest problems – Ownership of the solution. As a technology & mobile expert, I would love to offer technology skills and work with interested groups to see how technology and mobile technology can be used as a tool in solving or facilitating solutions.

    I believe there is alot of potential in the community and they are the best people to solve their problems. They understand them best.

    Keep me posted on up-coming events.

    Keep up

    • Hi Dickson, if you want to help let us know what you think concretely would be feasible. Drop us an email, they are in the Contacts page.

    • Hi Mikel! I believe ICT will come in when it is needed, for example when groups working on the issues get bigger, or when they want to start reaching more people. Social media and other mobile solutions will probably be helpful after a while. We will probably talk about social media and blogging when I next visit Iringa, and have someone from RLabs do a workshop on that. To get things started, face-to-face interaction probably works well.

      • Cool, any RLabs folks based in TZ now?

        We’ll be at the African Media event at COSTECH on Saturday, hope to talk more about all this then

      • Hi Mikel, Rene from RLabs Cape Town is currently here and she’s coming for the ANIC event as well so you can talk more.

    • And just to add: Ukombozi does have their One Laptop Per Child -laptops, and they have been planning how to use those to train other people, for example teachers in other schools. So that will probably also start happening soon.

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