kiwanja.net has a long and proud history of student support and mentoring going back over a decade to the early days of ICT4D and mobiles-for-development. We continue to offer that guidance and help today.
However, much has changed over the last ten years. For a start, we now know that owners of the problems – and those living closest to the problems – are often the ones best placed to find the most meaningful solutions. The days of people from afar developing solutions to ‘the problems of others’ are ending, and the support that we provide students is changing to reflect that.
Before reaching out for advice and support, students are encouraged to check out kiwanja’s Donors Charter to help them think through what they’re doing, for who, and why. Although the Charter was originally designed as a checklist to help donors determine whether or not a project had done enough due diligence before applying for funding (see this article), it is also a useful tool for students and entrepreneurs looking to develop solutions – tech-based or otherwise – targeting communities in the developing world.
The Donors Charter is already being used by some academic institutions to help guide their student’s thinking, including those taking the Interactive Design for the Developing World course at The College of New Jersey.
You can download a PDF of the checklist here. Feel free to print, share, re-post and distribute anywhere you think it might be helpful.
If your answers point to you not being best-placed to solve ‘that problem’ in a far-away land, you have two options. Firstly, you could take some time out and go and live in the places (and with the people) where you want to focus your work – admittedly not always an easy thing to do. Alternatively, you could pick a problem closer to home, perhaps in your own community.
kiwanja also recently launched a site, Everyday Problems, seeking to highlight the fact that people around the world continue to suffer even if the newspapers aren’t reporting it. You can read the launch post here. Its main message is that we all need to be paying more attention. In particular, in relation to everyday problems, it recommends you:
If you’re a student interested in helping make the world a better place, this site is for you. If you’re an educator please make use of it as you encourage your own students to take an interest in, and build solutions for, the kinds of problems people face around the world on a daily basis – whether those problems are in the news or not.
If you’d like our help thinking all of this through we’d be more than happy to chat. You can find our contact details here. But please don’t email asking for advice about a solution to a problem ‘somewhere in Africa’ if you’ve never been there, or never spent the time trying to understand the problem. If we’re honest, those days should be over.