At a time when demonstrators are thronging the streets of London in protest over the global banking crisis and its impact in deepening the divide between first world and third world countries, a group of 3rd world entrepreneurs and innovators are convening across the ocean, right here in Cambridge, MA. This week, I am delighted to be hosting Jacqueline Akello, from the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT). I can't wait to get an update on all the activities that have taken place on campus since my last visit. Jacqueline Akello has been named a Harvard University International Bridge Builder in 2009. She is one of 10 social entrepreneurs to receive this distinction. She will be participating in two exciting conferences at Harvard over the next 10 days.
The first conference is Creating Opportunities: Education for Development in Africa.
This is a one-day conference (Saturday, April 4th, at the Harvard School of Education). Jacquelyn Akello, from the Uganda Rural Development and Training programme (URDT) will be presenting on the topic of Girls' Education in Africa. She'll describe URDT's innovative Girls' School with its 2-Generation Education. These girls from disadvantaged rural families quickly become knowledgeable and respected community leaders, armed with practical know how about organic farming, solar energy, water sanitation, carpentry, and construction. Their families' incomes increase while the girls are at the boarding school because each family undertakes a "Back Home Project" that improves their living conditions and generates more income from cash crops, livestock, or a home business. Jacqui will also describe the African Rural University which is just completing its successful pilot phase, with the first class having co-designed and completed three years of study and practicum to become Rural Transformation Change Agents and Entrepreneurs.
Unlike other universities in Africa, ARU is unique in that its degree program prepares graduates to be rural leaders and social and business entrepreneurs; not to head to the big cities for jobs! Other notable speakers at this one-day conference include Calestous Juma who is Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director, Science Technology & Innovation, at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Marie Da Silva, a former nanny, who returned to her native Malawi to open a school for AIDS orphans and was recognized by CNN as a Hero of 2008. Here's a link to a video in which she describes that project. You can see all of the speakers' bios here.
Each Spring, the graduate students at the Kennedy School of Government, many of whom come from all over the world, select a handful of change-agents/bridge-builders to honor and to learn from. The students manage this event, including raising the funds to bring these role models to Cambridge, MA. Here's how they describe these Bridge-Builders on their Web site:
"The 2009 International Bridge Builders Conference invites innovative pioneers from around the world to share their successes in fostering positive social change within and beyond their communities. These leaders are the ‘Bridge Builders’: rare individuals who cultivate solidarity between the multiple stakeholders involved in international development, grassroots movements, and social justice campaigns. This year, the 10 Bridge Builders exemplify commitment to public service and bring to Harvard a wealth of practical experience on many critical issues. The Conference, organized entirely by students, aims to broaden understanding of diverse cultures; inspire the translation of ideals into action; and contribute to a rich dialogue between theory and practice in international development."
This year's 10 Bridge Builders will be attending a customized-for-them/by-them conference at the Kennedy School of Government next week. They will be presenting and learning from each other as well as from development professionals and luminaries. The schedule has been organized to enable the public to participate in some of these discussions. Every day, there's an open panel, luncheon, or presentation. Here's the schedule of these open events for the week of April 6-10, 2009. All of these events are open to the public and will be held at the Kennedy School of Government.