In the spotlight: Two female warriors of social innovation

Youth Skills

In the spotlight: Two female warriors of social innovation

Janet Longmore of Digital Opportunity Trust and Anne Githuku-Shongwe are two recipients of the Schwab Foundation's Social Entrepreneurs of the Year Award

Two leading ladies were recognized last week for using supreme social innovation to connect youth with technology.

On February 15, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced the 2013 recipients of the Social Entrepreneurs of the Year Award. The 24 winners of this honor are selected based on the innovativeness of their approach to social change in the realms of health, education, employment, and the environment.  Among these giants in social innovation are two dedicated to combining the blossoming powers of youth and technology in the developing world. Here's a spotlight on their stories:


Janet Longmore - Digital Opportunity Trust 

Longmore's vision for Digital Opportunity Trust was born from her frustration with a typical approach to solving global unemployment and development issues. She argues that the most powerful ideas for advancing communities around the globe come from those communities themselves--and more specifically, from their youth.

DOT  seeks to empower youth through technological training and education. DOT ReachUp!, the organization's foundation economic program, trains university graduates, known as DOT interns, in basic business, mentoring, technology and communication skills. Equipped with new resources, as well as an inherent and personal understanding of the needs of their communities, these interns are ready to make a big impact.

Monica Mwangi, a DOT ReachUp! participant in Kenya, used new-found IT knowledge, business savvy, and self-confidence to create a social enterprise that is now helping keep girls in school. Prior to her intervention, Monica discovered that monthly menstrual cycles were keeping many young women in her community at home and causing them to fall considerably behind in school. With a little product investigation and forum communication, Monica found an affordable and practical way to provide menstrual supplies. Hers is just one individual story of entrepreneurial empowerment and community improvement in a slew that DOT hopes to tell.

"This award recognizes the critical role that young people, linked with technology, can play in designing solutions that seize the social and economic opportunities that exist in their communities," said Longmore, accepting her award.

Longmore has formed partnerships with the Canadian International Development Agency, The MasterCard Foundation, CISCO, IBM, and AmeriCorps to ensure the funding of future DOT projects.


Anne Githuku-Shongwe - Afroes

Her young son's obsession with FIFA was the first hint to help Shongwe realize the potential of mobile games as a means of education. After discovering that youth have nearly universal access to mobile devices in Africa, Shongwe decided this was an opportunity she didn't dare miss.

In a recent TEDx presentation, Shongwe cited one definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results." Shongwe is focused on getting different results. In this day and age, she argues, our beliefs are limiting. Creating an entrepreneurial public service with imaginative leaders is essential to inspiring real social change.

The rapid growth of mobile access in Africa has made cellular communication and activity a primary means of reaching young people, including those at the "bottom of the pyramid." Even without their own mobile devices, millions of youth in Africa hold onto sim cards they can place in any phone to easily access the mobile world.

Combining three words--hope, prosperity, and possibility--with mobile technology, Shongwe came up with Afroes. Through partnerships with organizations such as UNWomen and the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Afroes develops cutting-edge interactive digital media solutions rooted in Africa’s heritage and designed to mold young citizens. Afroes’ mission is "to inspire the conversations and actions of youth across Africa with a message of possibility and pride".

You can play Moraba, one of Afroes' award winning games, here.
Inspired by a popular South African board game, Moraba uses questions based on the latest gender research to help identify gender violence, motivate action, and address gender stereotypes.

  • Follow Afroes on Twitter @AfroesGames

As awardees, both Janet and Anne will now be part of the broader Schwab Foundation community of social entrepreneurs, welcomed into peer-to-peer exchanges with other social entrepreneurs as well as interaction with top leaders in business, government, civil society and the media.

The Schwab Foundation's next big event, the 2013 Social Innovation Summit, will take place in Lima Peru on April 23 before the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Latin America. Founder Hilde Schwab hopes this forum will bring further government support to social innovations. 

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