After one year working as community and hub manager at Buni there is a lot to tell. It has been a tremendous experience working at Buni hub. Working as a hub manager is one of those rare jobs that come without job descriptions until you, yourself you decide to create one. Some few things we have learnt in our first year of managing Buni hub.
Composition of Buni Community, Buni as a community is composed by different kind of people with different potentials and backgrounds. We have been categorizing them in few working groups so that we can add value to these individual groups through our daily activities at Buni. The largest group of Buni community is the students group which takes over 35 percent of the population, mostly college and university students and the smallest group is employed individuals who are using the hub on their free hours, making 5 percent of the population.
We have been establishing a lot of initiatives and activities targeting the students group including the Intern programme, the boot camps and project development support programme. We have the entrepreneur group making 20 percent of the population. These are individuals with start-up companies and others are doing freelancing activities at Buni hub. For this group we have been organizing training, workshops and special meetup sessions to help them improve their businesses and run them in a more professional way.
The main aim is to make them work in teams and add more value to what they are doing. The remaining group is the technical group which is composed of developers, graphic designers and programmers which in total takes almost 30 percent of the population, with this group we are more focusing on helping them to make innovative products instead of just offering services. Although the task is difficult since they need incentives to keep them focusing on building products rather than doing daily ICT services businesses which generate quick incomes for them.
Gender distribution at Buni Hub, ladies at Buni share only 13 percent of the total population, something we want to work on this year. is to improve the number of ladies using the hub. We recently formed Buni ladies community which is aiming at encouraging ladies at the hub to form a sustainable ladies community within the hub that can help to encourage more ladies to join the community. The current leader of the community is a girl called Grace Makanyaga, she is the winner of the Agrihack competition in Kigali, Rwanda with their product called Agri-Info. We already have nine ladies who are active to the community and we are looking forward for the number to increase this year due to the different activities and awareness programme that will be organized with the ladies of the community themselves in support with hub managers.
The mindset of the community members, one of the biggest challenges we have faced in our first year as hub managers, is the different perceptions of the users of the hub on what is the proper way of using the hub. Over 50 percent of the users of the hub they are not sure if what they are doing at the hub is the right usage of the hub. The initial concept of running the hub as an open and free space for everyone to use has led to this challenge. Although initially it was a good concept to get all the people in the community to use the hub. Now it becomes a challenge especially when you want to measure the progress of the hub in terms of individual success stories. Since the hub is focusing more in groups and sub communities within the hub rather than individuals performances of teams or entrepreneurs. To overcome this, this year we are planning to create focus groups and mentoring programme that will highly focus on adding values to individual teams and groups. We will accept four teams that requires mentoring within one quarter of a year.
Members participation in projects and hub initiatives, on our first quarter almost every training and activity organized at Buni was facilitated with either me or Brian. During the second and third quarter we pushed to the community members especially those with high level of competency in their field of expertise, to conduct sessions to other hub members as their way of giving back to the community. Currently we are encouraging people to form teams and work in projects instead of just using the space to surf on the internet and do other unproductive activities. Our aim this year is to generate more products and projects that will have real time impacts to the community and help create more job opportunities to the community members.
Membership and Registration, we have gone through the registration process few times and enhance its efficiency and make it more productive so that we can have competent individuals using the space. The aim is not to limit people using the hub but to help them have a clear vision on what ways they can benefit from the hub facilities and resources including the professional assistance they can receive from the hub managers. It is very easy to create and add value to someone’s idea, business or project, if it is very clear what that person want to achieve, within what period of time and if the person is competent enough. Our new registration form support this concept.
Success stories, the fact that the space has been running and activities are happening for over 12 month itself is a success. Most of the programme targeting students have been successful, the intern programme, college community mentoring and projects support programmes has proven productive. Projects like AfyaMap, Agri-Info, Habari Mazao, Buni Visualization Projects have been received well by the community and some of them receiving prizes in major competition.
We have been working with international and local communities that collides with what we do including Africa-Hack-Trip team, Tech in the World, Aalto University and individuals looking to share their experience at the hub. Local initiatives like KINU co-creation hub, DTBi, COSTECH and our supporting organization TANZICT have given positive recommendation about the operations of the hub.
Buni provides a working platform for over 200 entrepreneurs and freelancers currently, and over 10 early stage start-up companies. Most of these companies are still at very early stage of operation.
Still there is a lot needs to be done to improve the status of the hub, to create more values and to make it sustainable but it was a great first year as a Buni hub manager, looking forward for more success in the working year (2014-2015).