Solutions to society’s most pressing problems are often found by those most affected by them. Many “new” technologies are really combinations and modifications of existing, independent ideas. Innovating means tweaking. In Ghana, as in many other countries, innovative tweakers are already working locally to improve the lives of children. What they need is support to take their solutions to scale.

An incubator to identify and support local innovations

I-Imagine-Ghana Logo LTo address this need, UNICEF Ghana has partnered with the Reach for Change foundation and the European Union to establish the I imagine Ghana innovation incubator.

200 applications were received from all over Ghana, covering the priority areas of education; health & nutrition; child protection; water, hygiene and sanitation; and youth expression and participation.

Seven social entrepreneurs were selected in a multi-stage process to join the incubator programme. They will receive seed funding and tailored business coaching and mentoring to grow their solutions ‘from idea to impact’.

A proven model to nurture lasting solutions

I imagine Ghana is built on the innovation incubator model that has been successfully deployed by Reach for Change in six African countries.  Rather than financing the operations of social entrepreneurs, the incubator supports them to develop sustainable business models.

Special value is placed on transferring relevant skills; therefore the social entrepreneurs get connected to personal advisors from corporate partners who provide business expertise and strategic advice. The seed funding will gradually decrease as the entrepreneurs are expected to develop other sustainable revenue sources.

Ten ideas for a better Ghana

According to UNICEF Country Representative, Ms. Susan Ngongi, who chaired the final jury panel, “It wasn’t easy to select the best ideas because there were many great contestants who would have deserved a chance. But we had to identify the ideas that have the potential to become sustainable after one year of support from Reach for Change and partners, and that can be replicated to reach all children”.

In the end, the jury selected seven passionate, committed and competent entrepreneurs who will work to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of children in Ghana.

The winners of 'I imagine Ghana' with UNICEF Ghana Country Representative Susan Ngongi (centre), Reach for Change staff, and Joe Jackson from Dalex Finance (rear left). UNICEF Ghana/2015/CGros
The winners of ‘I imagine Ghana’ with UNICEF Ghana Country Representative Susan Ngongi (centre), Reach for Change country manager Samuel Dogbatse (5th from left), and Joe Jackson from Dalex Finance (rear left). (c) UNICEF Ghana/2015/CGros

In addition to the seven entrepreneurs, the jury identified three ideas with potential for impact but which need for further support in refining their pitches. These three applicants were offered the opportunity to enter the Reach for Change Accelerator programme for 6 months. Sam Dogbatse, Country Manager of Reach for Change, explained that “during this time, they will access business support to refine their pitches and develop their ideas further for future competitions”.

The seven entrepreneurs who make up the first cohort of I imagine Ghana innovators will soon enter their “incubation” period are awarded with financial grants ranging up to 10,300 USD, depending on their needs. Their ideas span across different categories and all address critical issues.

Meet the 1st cohort of “I imagine Ghana” innovators 

Bernice Dapaah: Producing sanitary pads locally to keep teenage girls in school
Bernice Dapaah: Producing sanitary pads locally to keep teenage girls in school. (c) Reach for Change

Bernice Dapaah: Producing sanitary pads locally to keep teenage girls in school.  Bernice wants to help teenage girls to stay in school by addressing their challenges related to menstrual hygiene. Through her business, she will set up small manufacturing plants of sanitary pads, produced with local materials using a technique piloted in Kenya. She will employ women from rural communities, thus providing employment opportunities. The pads will be the first local brand, and will be significantly cheaper than any brand currently available in the market. This will make them accessible to young girls, and help to keep them in school and to keep them healthy through appropriate menstrual hygiene management.

Cordie Aziz: Environmental education for a healthier Ghana. (c) Reach for Change
Cordie Aziz: Environmental education for a healthier Ghana. (c) Reach for Change

Cordie Aziz: Environmental education for all, for a cleaner and healthier Ghana. Cordie is passionate about environmental education, and believes that a cleaner and healthier Ghana is possible if we engage with children. She will open a centre that will provide a safe and stimulating space for underprivileged children, who will be taught about environmental protection, sanitation and creative use of recycled materials. Her organization already runs successful seminars and camps for children in private schools, at a fee. Through the opening of an educational centre, she plans to expand her outreach and includes children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access this type of education.

Ernest Gavor: Improving availability of blood to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. (c) Reach for Change
Ernest Gavor: Improving availability of blood to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. (c) Reach for Change

Ernest Gavor: Improving availability of blood to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Ernest is the founder of an organization called Moja, which means ‘blood’ in the Twi language. In Ghanaian hospitals there is a chronic shortage of blood, which poses a big health risk especially for mothers and their babies during birth. Many Ghanaians have direct experience of urgent requests to donate blood to save the life of a relative or a friend in trouble. For this reason, he believes that many Ghanaians are ready to become blood donors, if given the possibility. Ernest has developed a mobile app through which he will register potential donors, link them to the blood banks closer to them, and in exchange for a small fee, provide them with online medical advice 24/7.

Ishmael Hammond: Using local language phonetics to teach dyslexic children to read. (c) Reach for Change
Ishmael Hammond: Using local language phonetics to teach reading. (c) Reach for Change

Ishmael Hammond: Using local language phonetics to teach dyslexic children to read. Ishmael is one of the creators of an offline methodology that uses the phonetic sounds of the Twi language (the most commonly spoken language in Ghana) to teach children with learning difficulties how to read. Once the child has learned through this method, s/he is able to read in any other language. Now Ishmael will make a digital version of his methodology, which will allow him to make it available to a larger number of children.

 

 

Randolph and Wolanyo Rodrigues: Promoting literacy through an offline/online storytelling platform. (c) Reach for Change
Randolph and Wolanyo Rodrigues: Promoting literacy through an offline/online storytelling platform. (c) Reach for Change

Randolph and Wolanyo Rodrigues: Promoting literacy through an offline/online storytelling platform. The two cousins are passionate about education. They believe that a different, more engaging approach can help children become more articulated adults. They have observed that children love social networks and like to share their stories, so they have created an app that fosters collaborative writing, and can also support inputs from offline storytelling (for example, from rural setting with limited mobile penetration). Through the app, children will have fun while learning to write and exercising their creativity.

 

Linda Ansong: Science and ICT education for children. (c) Reach for Change
Linda Ansong: Science and ICT education for children. (c) Reach for Change

Linda Ansong: Science and ICT education for children. Linda has a passion for IT and believes that everyone, girls and boys, young and old, can learn how to code and create apps and IT objects. She thinks that if children received a more solid S.T.E.M. education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), they would have more chances to succeed in adult life. Therefore, she will open a centre where children will be taught ICT and STEM in a fun and very practical way, through the actual production of products that can eventually be sold on the market.

 

Wilson and Zakyia Amooro: music education with instruments from recycled materials. (c) Reach for Change
Wilson and Zakyia Amooro: music education with instruments from recycled materials. (c) UNICEF Ghana/2015/CGros

Wilson and Zakyia Amooro: music education with instruments from recycled materials. Wilson and Zakyia will bring classical music to remote areas of Ghana. Providing children with musical training will help them to express themselves in a creative and stimulating way. They will make this accessible by creating musical instruments from recycled materials, thus also helping to reduce the amount of waste in Ghanaian communities – stay tuned!

 

We will provide regular updates on all seven social entrepreneurs throughout their journey with the ‘I imagine Ghana’ incubator.

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