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Enabling the inspiration generation

During one of my many epic walks around Palo Alto last week, I stopped and tapped this into my phone:

Note

Let me explain.

When I started out in mobile almost seven years ago, there were very few people working in the space, which meant there were very few people to turn to for support, guidance or advice. In fact, there were so few people with any meaningful experience I was offered my first major piece of mobile work based on my IT knowledge and conservation/development experience alone. Today, there would have been dozens – if not hundreds – of applicants for that job and it’s unlikely I’d have stood a chance.

But getting a chance is what it’s all about. When kiwanja.net officially came into being towards the end of 2003, it took me almost four years to get any serious traction, let alone funding. Emails went unanswered, requests for charity-rates at conferences were snubbed, begging letters to mobile operators and handset manufacturers were blanked. It may be hard at the top, but it’s harder at the bottom. That’s why, today, I never forget what it was like when I started out. And that’s why I never take anything for granted, and why I never forget to make time to help students, researchers, NGOs, organisations – anyone from all walks of life, in fact – who find themselves working their way off that first rung of the mobile ladder.

UN Youth AssemblyLast Friday I attended the UN Youth Assembly in New York. If there’s one thing I love – other than having my own name plate, of course – it’s talking to a room full of fearless students. I spent the best part of this morning following up on their emails, the fallout of my short talk on kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS.

If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should. Whether that be giving advice or a positive critique on an idea, helping raise awareness through blog posts, giving tips on fundraising, making introductions to other projects and people with the same interests, or offering to be a future soundboard as their ideas grow and develop. These are all things I didn’t have when I started out, and using them productively now that I do is one of the biggest contributions I believe I can – and should – make to the future growth of our discipline. Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create, but in the people we serve and inspire.

In the mobile world we talk a lot about project sustainability, but little about human sustainability. If we’re to have any chance of ongoing success then we need to attract the brightest young minds to the “mobile for development” field, and then give them all the support they need to keep them there. Empowerment isn’t just something we do in a distant land. There’s plenty we can be doing on our own doorstep.

It’s a different kind of empowerment, but that doesn’t make it less valuable. If anything, it’s more so.

65 comments

1 Michael Riggs { 08.12.09 at 6:50 pm }

Kudos to you for writing this. Too often we get caught up in our day to day work and forget it’s just that – today’s work – with not enough thought about “tomorrow” and who will follow us. Yet it is the essence of development work is it not? Working today for a better tomorrow.

Being able to inspire, motivate and guide younger people is a real gift that individuals often overlook and many organizations fail to nurture. Here’s to developing in that area as well! :)

2 James { 08.12.09 at 7:09 pm }

Inspirational post. Needs to be said, and you said it! It’s so easy to forget that we all had to start somewhere. Thanks for this..

3 Mike { 08.12.09 at 7:29 pm }

Bravo, Ken!
In an era of instantaneous, always-on connections, the ‘urgent’ can often crowd out what is actually important.
Thanks for the reminder.

4 Charity Fundraising Idea :: charity fundraising { 08.12.09 at 9:51 pm }

[...] Go here to read the rest:  Enabling the inspiration generation [...]

5 Joshua Cohen { 08.12.09 at 9:52 pm }

Yes, yes, yes.

6 Twitted by ganogirl { 08.13.09 at 12:42 am }

[...] This post was Twitted by ganogirl [...]

7 JScarantino { 08.13.09 at 12:45 am }

Great post Ken. Very inspiring words.

8 Twitted by ttsiuqmlap { 08.13.09 at 1:17 am }

[...] This post was Twitted by ttsiuqmlap [...]

9 paconmiller { 08.13.09 at 2:48 am }

RT @kiwanja Why it’s important to help the leaders of tomorrow. Latest post on "Enabling the inspiration generation" at http://is.gd/2dSkw

10 Laura Nicol { 08.13.09 at 2:50 am }

RT @paconmiller: RT @kiwanja Why it’s important to help the leaders of tomorrow."Enabling the inspiration generation" http://is.gd/2dSkw

11 hopeangrcourage { 08.13.09 at 2:50 am }

RT @paconmiller: RT @kiwanja Why it’s important to help the leaders of tomorrow."Enabling the inspiration generation" http://is.gd/2dSkw

12 Priyanka Matanhelia { 08.13.09 at 6:22 am }

I love this, very inspiring :)

13 Ken Banks { 08.13.09 at 8:22 am }

Why it’s important to help the leaders of tomorrow. Latest post on "Enabling the inspiration generation" at http://is.gd/2dSkw

14 kiwanja { 08.13.09 at 8:22 am }

Why it’s important to help the leaders of tomorrow. Latest post on "Enabling the inspiration generation" at http://is.gd/2dSkw

15 Paul_S { 08.13.09 at 9:14 am }

Have to agree with all these comments.

Wonderful to read an inspiring post about the need to be inspiring! This is a message we all need to carry with us. Negativity is easy. Positivity takes more effort.

Thank you!

16 nbhan { 08.13.09 at 11:02 am }

Enabling the inspiration generation | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://bit.ly/JSyAF

17 emergingfutures { 08.13.09 at 11:02 am }

Enabling the inspiration generation | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://bit.ly/JSyAF

18 Miraj K { 08.13.09 at 11:06 am }

thank you Ken! this was truly inspiring & gave me renewed confidence. to keep trying to convince people that mobile [+social] computing is the future.

19 Ivo Mortani (Movere) { 08.13.09 at 11:44 am }

“If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should.” @kiwanja on chances, giving back and inspiration: http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

20 Ivo Mortani (Movere) { 08.13.09 at 11:44 am }

"If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should." @kiwanja on chances, giving back and inspiration: http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

21 ivomortani { 08.13.09 at 11:44 am }

“If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should.” @kiwanja on chances, giving back and inspiration: http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

22 David Isaak { 08.13.09 at 12:32 pm }

RT @ivomortani: "If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should." @kiwanja http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

23 sixblue data { 08.13.09 at 12:32 pm }

RT @ivomortani: "If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should." @kiwanja http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

24 Ivo Mortani (Movere) { 08.13.09 at 1:56 pm }

@SixBlue_Data thanks for the RT my friend and @kiwanja for the inspiring post: http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

25 ivomortani { 08.13.09 at 1:56 pm }

@SixBlue_Data thanks for the RT my friend and @kiwanja for the inspiring post: http://bit.ly/4cyBDP

26 Twitted by ivomortani { 08.13.09 at 2:00 pm }

[...] This post was Twitted by ivomortani [...]

27 Bill Siemering { 08.13.09 at 2:16 pm }

Thanks, Ken Banks of frontlineSMS for lots of help: http://bit.ly/hlfCz

28 bsiemering { 08.13.09 at 2:16 pm }

Thanks, Ken Banks of frontlineSMS for lots of help: http://bit.ly/hlfCz

29 Parthibhan Amudhan { 08.13.09 at 4:27 pm }

that just became one of my favorite quotes… really inspiring… kudos!

30 Mark Lundy { 08.13.09 at 10:56 pm }

Words to reflect on, often, for those of us lucky enough to make a living working with and for others. As a friend in Colombia once said when I was an intern at the NGO where he worked, “I’ll pay for lunch today because I have a job and you do the same for other young people starting out tomorrow”. Saying thanks and helping others not only empowers but it also keeps us grounded despite the rush of events.

Kudos on a great post.

31 kiwanja { 08.14.09 at 7:31 am }

Thanks everyone for their kind comments and thoughts. Great to know there are so many people out there with similar passion and drive. :)

32 Maxine Lyseight { 08.14.09 at 11:18 am }
33 maxilyse { 08.14.09 at 11:18 am }
34 Patrick Meier { 08.15.09 at 3:07 am }

What a great post, thanks for sharing, Ken!

35 Mary { 08.15.09 at 7:28 am }

great post Ken!

36 Charles Baker { 08.19.09 at 4:24 am }

Incredible, and so true! —–> “Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create, but in the people we serve and inspire.”

37 nanoturkiye (Ahmet Yükseltürk) { 09.03.09 at 1:06 pm }

Why you should never take anything for granted – http://bit.ly/lnQS9.

38 Can Sar { 01.03.10 at 2:20 am }

Just rediscovered this, worth reading: Enabling the inspiration generation http://bit.ly/lnQS9 by @kiwanja

39 cansar (Can Sar) { 01.03.10 at 2:20 am }

Just rediscovered this, worth reading: Enabling the inspiration generation http://bit.ly/lnQS9 by @kiwanja

40 Social Enterprise Conversations 4: Ken Banks, CEO of Kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS | The Social Entrepreneurship Exchange { 02.02.10 at 9:12 pm }

[...] of it.  Elevator pitches, business plan, how to run an organization.  I actually wrote a blog post about the mechanics versus the passion of social enterprise.  But I think you have to get out in the world, and find something about which you say – holy [...]

41 Celebrating the “enabling environment” | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 07.11.10 at 2:00 pm }

[...] Related posts: Mechanics vs. motivation: The two faces of social innovation Enabling the inspiration generation [...]

42 From Jersey to Riyadh: A tribute to a friend | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 01.23.11 at 4:14 pm }

[...] over thirty years ago. And it’s because of this that I believe so strongly that we need to help everyone along on their own journey whenever and wherever we can. As Tim Smit reminded me [...]

43 The rise of the reluctant innovator | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 02.24.11 at 12:24 pm }

[...] Further reading Cometh the hour. Cometh the technology Mechanics vs. motivation: The two faces of social innovation Enabling the inspiration generation [...]

44 Mechanics vs. motivation: The two faces of social innovation | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 02.25.11 at 5:25 pm }

[...] [Related post: "Enabling the inspiration generation"] [...]

45 Charles Baker { 08.18.11 at 8:29 am }

"Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create, but in the people we serve and inspire." http://t.co/CBmxCEu

46 White Label Space { 08.18.11 at 8:44 am }

"Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create, but in the people we serve and inspire." http://t.co/CBmxCEu

47 Charles Baker { 09.03.11 at 5:05 pm }

@Cateria "Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create, but in the people we serve and inspire." http://t.co/oUL7TgG

48 Ken Banks { 09.04.11 at 9:11 pm }

@charles_baker Glad you liked the "Inspiration generation" post. Were you trying to direct it to @Cateria or @Caterina? http://t.co/ApUvIye

49 Ken Banks { 09.05.11 at 5:37 am }

@andrewjdupree Best read this, Andrew. http://t.co/ApUvIye #youth #development

50 “Mechanics vs. motivation” in social innovation « ICT4D @ Tulane { 04.14.12 at 4:07 am }

[...] Enabling the Inspiration Generation Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted on Friday, April 13th, 2012 at 11:05 pm and tagged with conservation, inspiration generation, mechanics vs. motivation, thought leader and posted in ICT4D Course Lessons, Resources, Technology Tools, Theory & Framework. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « Facebook reads your text messages? [...]

51 “Work. Life. Balance”. An interview with Voice America | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 05.06.12 at 11:38 am }

[...] Everyone should be given a chance to maximize their potential. Inspire people to feel they have something to contribute to the world and help them find ways to make it happen. Read Ken’s blog post, “Enabling the Inspiration Generation.” [...]

52 Pitching social entrepreneurship in the Den | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 05.25.12 at 10:12 am }

[...] how important I believe it is that we help them reach their potential. Three years ago, in “Enabling the inspiration generation“, I wrote: If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should. Whether that be giving [...]

53 #JoinOurCore: Talking social innovation in the Dragons Den – News Watch { 05.25.12 at 12:35 pm }

[...] how important I believe it is that we help them reach their potential. Three years ago, in “Enabling the inspiration generation“, I wrote: If we can help anyone on their journey, then we should. Whether that be giving [...]

54 Ken Banks { 05.30.12 at 3:00 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

55 Ken Banks { 05.30.12 at 3:00 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

56 DRAW@FID { 05.30.12 at 3:03 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

57 Mugendi K. M'Rithaa { 05.30.12 at 3:03 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

58 Ray Gorman { 05.30.12 at 3:15 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

59 peter otieno kisare { 05.30.12 at 4:26 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

60 AfricaGirlsEducation { 05.30.12 at 5:02 pm }

Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/SRMtbxvL

61 Moffat Ngacha { 05.30.12 at 6:38 pm }

“@kiwanja Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/PfbVruZd”

62 Ryan Turner { 05.30.12 at 7:35 pm }

RT @kiwanja Our legacy shouldn’t be measured in the projects or tools we create but in the people we serve and inspire. http://t.co/mAxmeJUB

63 Good idea, bad idea or no idea? | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 07.25.12 at 2:35 pm }

[...] of young entrepreneurs and innovators who approach me for thoughts on their big idea. As I’ve written before, whenever I can add value to someone else’s work I’m more than happy to. Giving back is [...]

64 Spirituality, being human, and how to change the world. | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 04.02.13 at 12:28 pm }

[...] engage, support and mentor the next generation of planetary problem solvers (something I’ve written about before). As if that wasn’t enough, the trip gave me the chance to re-immerse myself in the kinds of [...]

65 How to Change the World: Perspectives from an Archbishop, an Author and a Technology Innovator. – News Watch { 04.03.13 at 11:10 am }

[...] I’ve been home for about three weeks since leaving the Unreasonable at Sea ship in India. I spent just over a month helping mentor eleven technology start-ups as they sail the world taking their big ideas to new markets. That alone made it a memorable experience, but what really stood out for me was the interaction they had with the hundreds of students aboard. This left me with a stronger sense than ever of how important it is that we encourage, engage, support and mentor the next generation of planetary problem solvers (something I’ve written about before). [...]

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