Dr. Michael Zisuh Ngoasong
Principal Investigator and Technical Lead UK
Senior Lecturer in Management | Open University Business School, United Kingdom
I’d like to thank you for choosing to join AESU Kenya’s accelerator programme. In this short welcome, I want to highlight four key points.
First, reputation – the Open University Business School represents an excellent choice for Riara University to partner within ensuring that students develop careers in entrepreneurship. We are a highly-regarded triple accredited school (AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS) and the most established in the online market, providing supported and practice-based learning. We also have a strong social impact mission. In December 2019, as part of its 50th Anniversary, the Open University hosted an Open Impact Conference in Kampala, Uganda, where it established a vision to collaborate and co-create learning for the next 50 years and beyond in Africa. Our AESU Kenya delivers on this commitment in creating this space to prepare you for the job market.
Second, identity with the bigger whole – the accelerator programme, the academic and industry experts (some will mentor you directly) and the AESU network bring extensive experience of supporting student entrepreneurs. For instance, I have published extensively on entrepreneurship. My donor-funded projects created a FabLab for students to create engineering designs and develop entrepreneurial skills. However, this accelerator programme is about you. An individual who is looking for a career path by developing an entrepreneurial venture, whether commercial or social.
Third, career aspiration – Whenever I’ve attended one of many award ceremonies I’m always very moved seeing the ‘joy’ on the faces of our graduates. Seeing their rewards from learning, becoming part of an alumni network to continue life-long learning. You are making an important step towards becoming one of our first and valued life-long alumni. Upon completing the programme you will continue to draw on our expertise and networks throughout your career.
Fourth, a note about pedagogy – you have to join in the networking with other student entrepreneurs. Joining in means learning by sharing in the group forums, online seminars and workshops. Your ability to achieve and act – both independently and as a member of a multicultural team anywhere in the world – is what will make you stand out. You will have opportunities to interact with academics, industry mentors and fellow student entrepreneurs who will contribute contrasting perspectives to enrich your experience. Your fellow student entrepreneurs can even be your best teachers!
A final few words of advice. This accelerator is a safe environment for you to play, share ideas, take risks, trial new approaches, and be open to new experiences. Find time to reflect and capture your experiences along the way. Considering and drawing on different and alternative perspectives to challenge yours will help you to successfully leave this programme, ready to thrive and succeed as an entrepreneur.
I wish you luck with your entrepreneurial journey.
Prof. Abel Kinoti Meru,
Former AESU Technical Lead & A/g Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Riara University, doubles as the founding Dean of the Riara School of Business, and founding Chair, Academy of International Business – Africa Chapter. He is a seasoned innovation and social business incubation consultant in Africa.
I am excited to welcome you all to the much anticipated six (6) months Virtual Accelerator programme, a key pillar of the Accelerating Entrepreneurship Support in Universities in Kenya (AESU) project, under the British Council, Innovation for African Universities funded Programme. AESU is a partnership between Riara University (RU), The Open University, UK (OU) and Ashoka East Africa (ecosystem partner) that seeks to address the persistent problem of graduate employability through adaptation of entrepreneurship and innovation curriculum, and the AESU – Virtual Accelerator programme that puts into practice hard-learned traditional classroom-based/current blended learning environments with a view of producing enterprising students and graduates for direct employment (intrapreneurs) or empowered to access and utilize available resources to establish, manage and grow innovative social and commercial enterprises. Therefore, the overarching goal of the AESU project is to translate societal problems into solutions, at the same time addressing employment and employability challenges in Kenya. The AESU – Virtual Accelerator is a technology-enabled collaborative space for addressing the challenges and providing effective solutions.
Riara University endeavours to take a systemic approach to align curriculum and projects with societal problems. By solving problems at their source, the potential for a positive impact is optimised. With this in mind, creating a Virtual Accelerator in which students/graduates can put into practice what they have learned through creativity, has become a crucial part of providing a curriculum focused on its context. This is something we want to share with our partners and so scale the potential. Rather than view the current situation as costs/challenges to avoid, we see opportunities to co-create solutions. First, building relationships with a UK University and Ashoka East Africa, a local ecosystem so that Kenya Faculty learn from sharing teaching methods. Second, the trained staff develop more relevant curriculum and teach in more practical ways. As a result students develop the aptitudes necessary to be creative, entrepreneurial and employable. Third, students/graduates not only find employment but create it too, through starting their own businesses. The net effect includes creating more jobs and developing economic activity. This is the only and best way that Kenya can, and will, develop. The key benefits of AESU – Virtual Accelerator Programme include:
- State of the art digital infrastructure, the core of digital innovation, for delivering blended learning within a virtual accelerator, that comprise an open access AESU website, with sections for mission, activities, services, social media and links to external partner websites and resources.
- A Well trained RU Faculty/Staff and Accelerator Management Team, and capacity development through virtual train the trainers’ (coaching and facilitation) workshops and online discussion forums.
- Entrepreneurship competition, selected student led businesses group lessons, pitching, advice or mentoring sessions over a six-month acceleration period.
- A fully online course on Accelerating Entrepreneurship for Changemaking that comprise curated educational resources from OU’s OpenLearn and OpenLearn create platforms.
- Blended learning Ashoka East Africa Changemaker Employability Journey, centered on four phases; Dream it, Do it, Grow it and celebrate it.
- Blended learning and writing of business plans and other business development opportunities including navigating the legal environment.
- Active participation and peer-networking through the Centre of Excellence (CoE) action learning sets and Community of Practice (CoP), run by University of Nairobi, City University London, UK and Change School, UK under the IAU project.
- A Strategic Advisory Board (SAB), which provides strategic direction, stakeholder engagement and resources mobilisation to sustain the partnership beyond the funded period. This is in addition to an Accelerator Management Team (AMT) that manages operations on a daily basis, track work completed against deadlines, review and act on risks, request and address blockers and overall progress, create and disseminate project activities and learnings.
- A co-working space for knowledge sharing and collaboration, while on campus.
- Ashoka East Africa led mentorship and coaching programme from the leading industry players and practitioners.
- Stakeholder engagement events, a ‘Demo Day’ to show student start-up businesses to local ecosystem stakeholders and the final dissemination event. These hybrid events (face-to-face and online) will engage other universities, policy and industry practitioners, with outputs made available as links on AESU’s webpage.
- Funding opportunities (where possible) towards paying for some of the expenses incurred when implementing what you are learning in the accelerator to develop the startup business.
Looking forward to nurturing successful businesses.
Thank you for choosing to walk with us.
Vincent Otieno Odhiambo
Ashoka East Africa Regional Director and AESU Ecosystem Lead
On behalf of the Ashoka East Africa team:
welcome to AESU Kenya’s Accelerator Program! It is a true honour for us to partner with Riara University and Open University, United Kingdom in the program supported by the British Council through the inaugural Innovation for African Universities (IAU) Program 2021.
Founded in the early 80s by Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s work strives to shape a global, entrepreneurial, and competitive citizen sector, one that allows entrepreneurs to thrive and enables citizens to think and act as Changemakers. Changemaking is the superpower of the 21st century. We call “changemaker skills” a combination of empathy, purpose, agency and teamwork. Ashoka Fellows as leading social entrepreneurs are role models in changemaking. They inspire and engage many around their work. To do this, we focus on the following areas:
- Spot, select and support leading social entrepreneurs to drive positive change at scale. We identify and support East Africa’s leading social entrepreneurs (Ashoka Fellows) at the cutting edge of today’s most pressing problems.
- Ensure that young people grow up developing changemaker skills. We highlight the critical skills needed to succeed in the new game: empathy, leadership, teamwork and changemaking. We support adults, learning institutions and other agents of socialization to transform growing up experience for young people towards changemaking in order to prepare the next generation of changemakers.
- Support collaboration within and across sectors in accelerating solutions, transferring and scaling impact for the common good of all. We spot changemakers and build teams-of-teams in key organisations and communities to help them become powerful game-changers. More problem solvers and barriers torn down between sectors will result in safer, happier, more equal and more successful societies.
- Engaging private, public and citizen sector leaders in creating an EACH world. We empower individuals and institutions—business entrepreneurs, philanthropists, educational institutions, media organisations—to be leaders in the business of changemaking. We help the public see this change in the strategic environment—to see differently, so they can do differently.
In AESU program, Ashoka East Africa will support with linkages with the innovation, impact, and entrepreneurship ecosystem, among them leading social entrepreneurs (Ashoka Fellows) and a changemaker journey drawing from Ashoka’s Youth Venture’s Dream It, Do It, Grow It, Celebrate It curriculum. that is designed and content curated in such a way to support you in every step of the way with resources, tools and connections.
It is our sincere hope that you will find the support we are bringing into the program valuable and that you will enjoy the overall experience the program promises. Above all, we hope that you will find the experience valuable for you in your journey as a changemaker entrepreneur with the requisite skills, knowledge and network to grow your venture. At the end of this journey, we hope that you will have a renewed sense of mission, vision and purpose as an entrepreneur with a social mission.
Wishing you the best in this journey.