Maduabuchi Ubani writes on Google’s practical approach to innovation and promotion of efficiency among innovators and social entrepreneurs

The Google Impact Challenge train is presently sweeping through Africa; from Nigeria to Kenya and then South Africa. For the beneficiaries, it is particularly exhilarating because this is the first time it will be brought home for Africans to participate in the training for social enterprise and innovation, with thousands of dollars up for grabs by the resilient and innovative.

The workshop, which is a recent project by Google across Africa, is aimed at helping organisations in social works, alongside innovators and developers to fully understand the nitty-gritty of writing proposals when looking for funding, how to pitch their ideas to receive funding, and ways of building strong solutions that will stand the test of time. This goes to explain why Google has moved one step from just instructing people to go online and fill out forms for funding, into helping them through practical workshops to fully understand what is expected of them when filling out the forms and pitching their ideas.

The challenge, which currently includes participation from African countries like Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, will have 12 ideas from Nigeria alone. The participants will receive $125, 000 each to work on the projects they pitched to Google.

But it only gets more interesting. Two out of the 12 winners will again get a separate $250, 000, which is an addition to the $125, 000 earlier received.

This by every means is a win-win situation for organisations involved in building applications or bringing to the table innovative ideas to change the present condition of the communities where they are in operation.

Impact

At the workshop held recently in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, the room was filled with innovators, developers and social entrepreneurs. Executive Director of Open Arms Initiative for Sustainable Development (OPAISD), Ms. Okiyi Juliet, who was one of the participants at the Google Impact Challenge, said she was impressed by the turnout of persons from different states. Juliet said it was an exhilarating, yet humbling experience. For her, the event presented a grand opportunity to bring active players in the development sector together and have pragmatic talks meant to encourage a proactive approach to issues faced in the different communities.

Juliet said, “The reason I decided to come is because I want to make a change and impact in the life of young girls. I am privileged to be here, because it has, indeed, given me another dimension of how to do things differently and efficiently.”

In the hall filled with participants from nearby states where the event could not hold, Ndifreke Patrick who works with a foundation focused on youth, leadership and community development in Calabar, told THISDAY that he was present because he wanted to upgrade the level at which he operated.

Patrick said, “I came all the way from Calabar because we want to take our work to the next level by the level of impact for the target audience we serve. It is an opportunity to advance the cause that we do.

“What you have here today is a conglomerate of people from different states with mind blowing ideas that would help you even in your area of development. We have people that are passionate about the social issues in this country, and our gathering here is because we are looking for solutions and how to bring about succour.”

Patrick believed that the workshop was an ample opportunity to actively interact, share viewpoints and proffer solutions to prevalent issues in the different.

According to him, “So far the workshop has been good. But for me, because the development sector is one that we have been into, we will continue to seek ways to make the solutions more impactful. This is because, it’s a problem when you are doing something, but it still seems as if the issue keeps increasing. It makes you feel as if you are not really doing anything.

“This is an opportunity to improve in the areas we are functioning so that we can have measurable impact that we can be proud of at the end of the day. For those that are here, it is paramount we take the lessons we are getting from the programme seriously, and apply them accordingly.”

Partnership

In Nigeria, Google is not working alone. They are partnering an organisation called the Paradigm Initiative, which in turn is holding the workshops across major cities of the federation where they enlighten the applicants on what is rightfully expected of them in order to make it to the top 12 persons that will emerge from Nigeria.

“At the end of the programme, participants are expected to leave with skills to be able to make quality applications for the Google Impact Challenge,” L.I.F.E Programme Officer at Paradigm, Initiative Ihueze Nwaobilor, the told THISDAY.

Nwaobilor has been travelling to the different centres where the workshops are expected to run across the federation. He is hopeful that applicants will go home with the skills to be able to make a quality application for the Google Impact Challenge Africa, because the whole idea is to prepare the organisation and answer any question in any grey areas where they are having challenges in the course of the application.

He said, “Google is partnering Paradigm Initiative to help interested organisations across Nigeria to be part of the Google Impact Challenge. The workshop we are holding across Nigeria is what we call the Application Workshop, where we get to teach NGOs how to send in quality applications.

“Google Impact Challenge has been running before, but this is the first time it’s coming to Africa and its taking place in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. It’s going to run for six months, from June to November 2018.

“The challenge is meant for social enterprises, non-governmental organisations and innovators, who are expected to come up with ideas that can change their community and beyond.”

Nwaobilor understands the hurdle that many organisations go through while trying to scale the hurdle of applying for funds, which in most cases does not even go through.

He said, “Most times what we see is that when things like this come up, people are only told to go and apply online. But this time around, Google has organised it in a way that they will give applicants support through the application process till the time that winners will emerge. The workshop is preparing people even before they apply and also showing them how to apply.

“What Google is trying to do is to also help NGOs and persons creating economic opportunities with what they are doing and that is why you see people from other states coming, making out time from their strict engagements to be here today.”