Building the Skills of the Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurs in Cameroon

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

“You must never doubt your ability to achieve anything, overcome anything, and inspire everything, because the truth is, there are no superheroes. There is just us, and too often we are the ones that we keep waiting for.”

Shiza Sahid, Co-Founder of the Malala Fund

When it comes to challenges like poverty and inequality, no one has a better understanding of the realities of these issues than the communities experiencing them every day. Social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool to translate that lived experience into scalable solutions, and in Cameroon, Action Lab for Development (ACTLAB) was founded to empower local innovators to become the ‘superheros’ their communities need.

“We believe everyone, at any moment, has the power to be an innovator, despite skill sets, education, experience, creativity, or status,” Action Lab for Development President Cornelius Tawong explained. Continue reading to see how Action Lab for Development empowers its community to create change, and how hosting an experteer helped the Action Lab for Development team build capacity to have an even bigger impact.

Igniting Innovation in Cameroon 

Action Lab for Development grew out of an existing social enterprise called Tobby Vision Computers Institute (TVC), a technical and vocational training school founded in 2002 to train Cameroonian farmers, youth, and civil society in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). TVC hosted MovingWorlds experteer Jamie Garcia in 2018 to co-create an intensive workshop for students and institution staff focused on design thinking and social entrepreneurship. “Topics included how to observe local issues and analyze them by validating community assumptions, how to develop value-add solutions, and taking the leap to entrepreneurship by employing new business models to scale your idea,” Cornelius shared. 

Based on the response to that workshop, Cornelius explained that “Action Lab for Development was created with the goal of making everyone aware of these innovative approaches, helping them become a conscious creative act. It exists to support local initiatives through the exchange of ideas on creative innovation and youth social entrepreneurship.”

Janek (fourth from left, back row) with Action Lab Team members

Action Lab for Development’s main goals include:

  • Supporting local initiatives oriented towards creative innovation and entrepreneurship, by providing tools and opportunities for development
  • Facilitating knowledge-sharing between entrepreneurs, institutions and other partners by enabling networking and training activities
  • Educates and promotes the training of entrepreneurs in terms of social welfare and fair business participation
  • Mentoring young entrepreneurs on skills and techniques that can grant a more clear view of the local social/business environment.
  • Promotes skilled-based volunteering in youths and universal access to research and education by building digital platforms for community knowledge sharing to support local ingenuity 

Action Lab for Development works with multiple stakeholders to achieve these goals. Cornelius explains, “We mobilize young people to enroll in workshops, seminars and other training related to social entrepreneurship, and then to participate in training projects (ACTLAB projects) sourced from Tobby Vision Computers and other partners. Once these projects are operational, the Cameroonian Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training monitors the progress against established learning outcomes”

The positive cycle of capacity-building

With a strong foundation in vocational and technical training, Action Lab for Development chose to host an experteer to further build the skills of its staff specifically related to social entrepreneurship. Reflecting on the Matching process, Cornelius shared, “After a few interviews, we connected with Janek Andre, a serial entrepreneur looking to give back what he had experienced and learned in terms of building sustainable business innovations. We had a Skype discussion to make sure it was the right fit, after which we mutually confirmed to the MovingWorlds Match team that we wanted to move forward. From there, a planning guide was sent to us which we completed with Janek, along with several skype calls to discuss and interactively plan until he arrived on site in Cameroon.”

While on-site, Janek trained twenty-one members of the local Action Lab for Development team on business modelling, business innovation, financial planning and basic terms of fundraising, marketing, sales, value chain management, and personal planning. Janek and the team also held training sessions in Douala at one of Action Lab for Development’s collaborating institutions, the Access Higher Institute of Professional Studies, covering topics like marketing and ethics in business for hundreds of students.

Janek with colleagues at Access Higher Institute of Professional Studies

Reflecting on the value of Janek’s support, Cornelius shared, “Janek helped us develop new ideas and strengthen our value chain management, fundraising and personal planning skills. By giving us practical information to help build companies based on the social entrepreneurship model, he also affected our personal lives and has changed the way we think and work. It is an experience we would definitely recommend and we plan on working with more MovingWorlds Experteers.”

Apart from the great updated knowledge which our local Action Lab for Development team members received, Janek also has left a mark in the minds of the staff and students at Access Higher Institute of Professional Studies. In the follow-up assessment to the training, teacher Achanyi Andre shared that, “Participating at the training program gave me an in-depth knowledge into modern techniques of business planning and development. It also gave me the opportunity to have a one on one exchange with the Experteer, sharing with him and learning from his experiences. It was an experience well lived.”

“Janek helped us build the skills of twenty one trainees and more than 200 academic students,” Cornelius shared – an investment that will continue to have positive ripple effects throughout the community long after the project has ended. 

If your organization exists to create social good, MovingWorlds can help you connect with capacity-building experteers like Jamie and Janek to accelerate your impact. Create a profile on our platform to get started!