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Innovation: Beyond technology.

Last week we made one of the most important announcements in the near-seven year history of FrontlineSMS. As I hinted in my “Rolling Stones School of Management Innovation” post last December, I only felt able to take the project to a certain level and that it required different people with a different set of skills to move it to the next. Last week, with that internal transition complete, we announced that I’d be stepping aside to concentrate on other things, and FrontlineSMS would move forward in fresh hands.

Laura Walker Hudson and Sean Martin McDonald will now drive the project forward as CEO’s of our US Foundation and UK Community Interest Company respectively. You can read their thoughts on the transition, and what they have planned, in their follow-up post here.

Many wonderful messages of support flooded in in the form of Tweets, direct messages, blog comments, emails and – of course – text message. The transition announcement was amazingly well received and the response overwhelmingly positive. Many people commented that the move was “incredibly brave” and “must have been difficult” but as I mentioned in the announcement, I felt it was neither. As I said then, I’ve always maintained that it’s just as important to be aware of your limitations as your strengths, and stepping aside in these circumstances is the clearest indication I can give that I do.

There haven’t been many transitions like this in the m4d or ICT4D worlds that I know of, and if that’s the case it reinforces our commitment to not only be innovative with technology but innovative organisationally, and to also always act in the best interests of the project rather than ourselves. FrontlineSMS, as with many other ICT4D projects, is bigger than one person. I’m excited to see where FrontlineSMS goes from here, and I’ll follow and support it in my new capacity as Chairman of the Board with the same commitment and enthusiasm as I did from my one bedroom flat in Cambridge, or VW Camper at Stanford.

Alongside the congratulatory messages a few people wished me luck and said they hoped to still see me on the innovation, technology, mobile or African scene. Well, they will. I’m not retiring, just handing over the reins at FrontlineSMS. I’ll continue to write, blog and speak about technology, innovation and social change, and maintain a focus on Africa as I’ve done for the past twenty years.

What’s next

As for what’s next, I’m excited that over the past few months I’ve been increasingly drawn into the wider world of innovation and entrepreneurship beyond my technology roots – speaking the other week at the Ashoka/Ben & Jerry’s ”Join Our Core” event, for example, and next month spending time with BMW executives in Munich.

My writing has also started to gain traction beyond the news sites and journals which dominate our discipline, with a short guest piece in Wired Magazine last month. I’m also planning my first book which will focus on “reluctant innovation“, due out later this year. And I’m doing an increasing amount of mentoring with organisations such as Pop!Tech, National Geographic and the Unreasonable Institute, something that aligns perfectly with my long-standing commitment to “give back”.

Project-wise I have a long list of new ideas I’ll be working on. One is just a few weeks away from being ready, so I’ll save the official announcement for then. But in the spirit of my efforts with FrontlineSMS, the overarching focus of my work will continue to centre around how we best apply modern technology for social benefit, both in the developed and developing world. If anything, it’s the additional focus on the developed world which represents the biggest shift in my thinking.

In an effort to stay innovative and relevant, large companies are often encouraged to reinvent themselves. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t apply to individuals, too. The ICT4D sector has shifted focus considerably since I started out all those years ago. When the time is right, there’s no reason why some of the people in it shouldn’t do the same, either.

Further reading
ClearlySo featured our transition on their blog. You can read their excellent commentary here.

52 comments

1 Ben Shoemate { 06.05.12 at 1:11 pm }

Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://t.co/sv9oT7ta

2 changefeed { 06.05.12 at 1:14 pm }

->@kiwanja: Innovation: Beyond technology. http://t.co/fTx1PSrX

3 TechChange { 06.05.12 at 2:45 pm }

More from @Kiwanja on the @frontlinesms transition- Innovation: Beyond technology. http://t.co/zTNLY1iI #m4d #mobile #ict4d

4 Michael Riggs { 06.05.12 at 2:46 pm }

RT @TechChange: More from @Kiwanja on the @frontlinesms transition- Innovation: Beyond technology http://t.co/C8j9soCP #m4d #mobile #ict4d

5 Laura Walker Hudson { 06.05.12 at 2:51 pm }

More from @Kiwanja on the @frontlinesms transition- Innovation: Beyond technology. http://t.co/zTNLY1iI #m4d #mobile #ict4d

6 Jessica Carsten { 06.05.12 at 3:12 pm }

More from @Kiwanja on the @frontlinesms transition- Innovation: Beyond technology. http://t.co/zTNLY1iI #m4d #mobile #ict4d

7 Patrick Meier { 06.05.12 at 3:25 pm }

Way to go, Brad, super refreshing and inspiring. I hope others follow in your wise footsteps!

8 Fr@nthro { 06.05.12 at 3:57 pm }

#anthro blog post: Innovation: Beyond technology.: Last week we made one of the most important announcements in … http://t.co/B22UXZTS

9 Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come... | Innovation & Change | Scoop.it { 06.05.12 at 6:22 pm }

[...] http://www.kiwanja.net – Today, 7:22 PM [...]

10 Innovation: Beyond technology. | Global Health Hub: news and blogosphere aggregator { 06.05.12 at 8:53 pm }

[...] Read this article: Innovation: Beyond technology. [...]

11 media man { 06.06.12 at 7:44 am }

Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come…: Last week we made one of the most import… http://t.co/SHtZytnW

12 Ken Banks { 06.06.12 at 10:00 am }

Why organisational innovation – not just technological – matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E #socent

13 Chris Foote (Spike) { 06.06.12 at 10:01 am }

Why organisational innovation – not just technological – matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E #socent

14 Jaume Fortuny { 06.06.12 at 10:06 am }

100% Agree RT @kiwanja: Why organisational innovation -not just technological- matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology" http://t.co/X0yhSGDk

15 Claire { 06.06.12 at 10:14 am }

Why organisational innovation – not just technological – matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E #socent

16 Jacob Greer { 06.06.12 at 11:29 am }

Why organisational innovation – not just technological – matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E #socent

17 Ken Banks { 06.06.12 at 12:11 pm }

@OutofPoverty @auerswald Thanks! Blogged yesterday about it a little more, and what I'm lining up next. http://t.co/wjGQ109E

18 FrontlineSMS o/ { 06.06.12 at 12:20 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters: "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/dJHgm5ty via FrontlineSMS Founder, @kiwanja

19 Nathaniel Heller { 06.06.12 at 12:28 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters: "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/dJHgm5ty via FrontlineSMS Founder, @kiwanja

20 Monica M. Martinez { 06.06.12 at 12:43 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters: "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/dJHgm5ty via FrontlineSMS Founder, @kiwanja

21 Selma Talha Jebril { 06.06.12 at 12:56 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters: "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/dJHgm5ty via FrontlineSMS Founder, @kiwanja

22 Nicole Rodgers { 06.06.12 at 1:52 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters: "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/dJHgm5ty via FrontlineSMS Founder, @kiwanja

23 Philip Auerswald { 06.06.12 at 3:03 pm }

RT @kiwanja: @auerswald Thanks! Blogged yesterday about it a little more, and what I'm lining up next. http://t.co/ZHTJSVTY (fab. must read)

24 Patrick Meier { 06.06.12 at 4:11 pm }

On moving on: "Innovation: Beyond Technology" http://t.co/p5gKxFEZ by @Kiwanja (who also made me tweet his blog post)

25 Craig Zelizer { 06.06.12 at 4:16 pm }

On moving on: "Innovation: Beyond Technology" http://t.co/p5gKxFEZ by @Kiwanja (who also made me tweet his blog post)

26 PatríciaMMarcos { 06.06.12 at 4:18 pm }

On moving on: "Innovation: Beyond Technology" http://t.co/p5gKxFEZ by @Kiwanja (who also made me tweet his blog post)

27 Chris Diehl { 06.07.12 at 4:52 am }

On moving on: "Innovation: Beyond Technology" http://t.co/p5gKxFEZ by @Kiwanja (who also made me tweet his blog post)

28 Paul Polak and team { 06.07.12 at 5:39 am }

@OutofPoverty @auerswald Thanks! Blogged yesterday about it a little more, and what I'm lining up next. http://t.co/wjGQ109E

29 Ken Banks { 06.07.12 at 1:25 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters (and what I'll be working on next). "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E

30 Megan White Mukuria { 06.07.12 at 1:26 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters (and what I'll be working on next). "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E

31 Djudjur Toto Susilo { 06.07.12 at 1:46 pm }

Why organisational innovation matters (and what I'll be working on next). "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E

32 DaveO { 06.07.12 at 1:55 pm }

RT @kiwanja: Why organisational innovation matters (and what I'll be working on next). "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/1xrlmp55

33 AmbarSD { 06.07.12 at 2:15 pm }

Cc @yanuarnugroho RT @kiwanja: Why organisational innovation matters "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/CIrXC5jk

34 Tech News { 06.08.12 at 2:22 am }

#Innovation #news Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come…: Last week we made one … http://t.co/TxQizpvy

35 Tech News { 06.08.12 at 2:22 am }

#Cloud #Tech #News Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come…: Last week we made one… http://t.co/TxQizpvy

36 simplict Lab { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/9AHJ7RVT

37 simplict Lab { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/9AHJ7RVT

38 socentech { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/9Hazu59P

39 socentech { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/9Hazu59P

40 Cynthia Hellen { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/tj1wkpL1

41 Cynthia Hellen { 06.08.12 at 5:20 am }

Innovation and technology: @kiwanja's life post @FrontlineSMS http://t.co/tj1wkpL1

42 Richard Hoath { 06.08.12 at 6:30 am }

Why organisational innovation – not just technological – matters. "Innovation: Beyond technology". http://t.co/wjGQ109E #socent

43 SaraJoyPond { 06.08.12 at 6:04 pm }

Technological innovation will only get you so far w/o organizational innovation: http://t.co/WFsqfSdQ (via @kiwanja)

44 Paul Brown { 06.11.12 at 8:57 am }

reinventing yourself? I thought that was only supposed to happen when you started a new job. or on your first day at a new school!

45 ringo { 06.11.12 at 9:57 am }

Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://t.co/Uqwpnx7g

46 kiwanja { 06.11.12 at 10:17 am }

@Paul – That’s the problem. Too few people reinvent themselves. It needn’t stop at school, or even with a new job. You can do it any time. :)

47 innovation ideas { 06.11.12 at 6:08 pm }

Innovation: Beyond technology. | Build it Kenny, and they will come…: Last week we made one of the most import… http://t.co/50PwzaeK

48 From text messaging to economic resilience | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 06.18.12 at 11:18 am }

[...] I mentioned in my recent post, I’ll remain involved with the project and will continue to support innovation and [...]

49 The death of the town centre. | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 06.29.12 at 11:17 am }

[...] spending less and less time away from home. This, fortunately for me, has coincided with a recent transition from day-to-day involvement in FrontlineSMS, and a move to a new project – Means of Exchange [...]

50 Ideas vs. execution: A personal history | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 10.08.12 at 9:32 am }

[...] of “going it alone”. There have been plenty of big changes lately – fatherhood, handing over the baton at FrontlineSMS, a new project – all of which has driven something of a rethink, or reinvention, or rebirth, [...]

51 The innovation conundrum | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 11.25.12 at 10:25 am }

[...] because it covers organisational innovation as much as technological innovation. As I’ve written before, organisations themselves need to innovate (business models, organisational structures, funding, [...]

52 After twenty years, time to turn the page. | Build it Kenny, and they will come... { 02.16.13 at 3:00 pm }

[...] changed the way I see the world in ways nothing else has. And on a professional level I’ve stepped back from FrontlineSMS after making an honest assessment that it could do better in fresh hands. It’s been an [...]

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