Social Innovation Safari

Social Innovation Safari

What do you get when you combine an Iraqi, 3 Kenyans, a Canadian & a person from Botswana?  A Social Innovation Safari of course.

That’s my small group above.  From left to right: Elizabeth (Kenyan lawyer), Bestoon (healthy environment consultant from Iraq), moi, Tim (Kenyan IT guy), Peter (Amani coach, from Botswana), & Brizan (social justice activist from Turkana, Northern Kenya).

I was one of 20 international participants, from East Africa, Iraq, Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina & India, to take part in the Amani Institute’s first ever Social Innovation Safari in Africa.  Through 10 intensive, chaotic, emotional, capacity building, fun loving, exhausting, energizing, adventure filled days we learned an eight step process to create innovative ways forward & through social challenges.

  1. Burning; understanding what lights your fire, what your purpose/passion is
  2. Sensing; understanding the problem including assumptions, taking a deep dive to gether the information you need
  3. Questioning; reframing the problem
  4. Idea Networking; structuring the information, mapping the system & leverage points
  5. Associating; framing & reframing
  6. Idea Creation; finding solutions to the problem (I love how far down the list this is!)
  7. Experimenting; testing your solution, creating & using prototypes
  8. Impacting; solving the problem, looking at impact from various perspectives including the beneficiary, organization, society etc.

We applied our new found knowledge to partner organizations who had social challenges for us to work on.  Our challenge was how to increase the number of urban & rural girls accessing a local reproductive health information hotline & website.

Social innovation safari



Team building happened throughout, including on our way to Naivasha for a retreat.  It was great having Jika onboard, for many reasons, including the fact that because she’s a postgrad student in public health, she had hand washing supplies (where there were none in the public toilets).




We started learning about the social innovation process in the best classroom of all …. the innovation safari




And we were reminded that sometimes, as Stone is visually represented below, the solutions can be right under our noses.

Social innovation safari







We paired up & tried our hand at making our partner’s idea of an ideal wallet, learning valuable lessons about prototyping & deep diving along the way.  See our masterpieces below.






social innovation safari




We did a ‘deep dive’ into the minds & hearts of our many stakeholders, trying on their perspectives for size & analyzing the repercussions.  Many sticky notes were used in the process.

social innovation safari




Back in Nairobi we headed into the field to conduct focus groups with young people at a university (picture to the right) & in a slum.  My heart broke hearing stories of young girls getting pregnant & being kicked out of their village & of a 13 year old mother & sex trade worker.


social innovation safari




We saw the results of many minds & hearts hard at work on the social challenges, including a young artist who’d made this poster for the health centre we visited.
















I invited my team over for dinner one night & chuckled as the guys helped with the cooking … for the very first time!





In amongst the chaos of learning & relearning I was able to interview Emmanuel Jal for an article on peacebuilding & the arts in Africa.




Kindly, he also agreed to sit on the panel, who listened to our presentations on the last day. (That’s Roshan to the left above, co-founder of the Amani Institute, with Jal & I.)  That’s our team below presenting our results.

All in all it was a magical, mystical experience.  I’ll be unraveling the many, many lessons learned & working to apply them to upcoming projects.  I’m so loving the adventure that this learning brought & continues to bring.  Here’s to social innovation!

social innovation safari

social innovation safari


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One Response to “Social Innovation Safari”

  1. Can you connect all 9 dots? In more ways than 1? | Rock.Paper.Scissors.Blog Says:
    June 16th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    […] a popular exercise.  I’d seen it years before when I saw this time around during the Social Innovation Safari.  And that, was precisely my […]

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