Check out HUB JoBurg’s crowdfunding efforts to build a new space for collaborative social impact here
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Late one Friday afternoon, as the sun sets on a busy Johannesburg week, I’m surrounded by a roomful of creative thinkers, innovators, techies, and social entrepreneurs, all admiring the golden view of downtown Jozi though the double-volume loft windows of the HUB’s President Street premises in the CBD.
This habitat for entrepreneurs is part of a global network of 25 HUBs across five continents fostering opportunities, inspiration, support, incubation, learning and collaboration, all in the name of launching new ideas and ventures. It was also the venue for The British Council’s Culture Shift – an initiative aimed at driving social innovation through digital technology currently being piloted across Africa. Their approach is simple: group digital innovators, creatives and a whole lot of entrepreneurial energy in a weekend long think-tank, and see what happens next.
Guest speaker and ex-Google South Africa CEO Stafford Masie conveyed a key message to the enthused crowd: “As an entrepreneur you need to wake up each morning assuming your businesswon’t survive beyond the next 36 months. This will keep your thinking current, relevant and innovative.”
36 months is the period necessary for a significant shift in technology to occur, levelling the playing field and allowing entrepreneurs to find gaps and seize opportunities. For example, consider that in three years’ time the entry level mobile phone will be the current IPhone 4, and Africa’s connectivity and bandwidth challenges will be a thing of the past. The British Council is well aware of this, hence an initiative called Culture Shift. The organisation committed R50,000 seed capital and six months of mentorship to the top two ideas born from the Johannesburg event.
“Culture Shift has been a great leap forward in focusing on digital innovators and entrepreneurs and combining them with artists from the music, publishing, and design worlds,” says Carly Frey – British Council Creative and Cultural Economy Advisor for sub-Saharan Africa. “Through this unique combination we’ve created new ways of viewing problems, solving them, developing new ideas, and most importantly of creating new networks.”
The three day initiative received over 100 applications, with only 35 candidates being accepted. The initial ideation day led into a ‘hackday’ where concepts were tested and fleshed out. The weekend culminated in a final pitching session, where ideas were assessed by a panel of experts.
Curious about who won? Well the winning idea hinges on human curiosity, or QRiosity as it is aptly titled. The concept marries the technology of QR codes (those new age checked square barcodes that keep popping up in magazines and such) with easy access to information about historic sites, buildings, sculptures and even flora that are peppered around our cities. Imagine walking up to a building in Jo’burg, photographing a plaque-mounted QR code and receiving immediate access to historical information as well as past visitors’ comments.
Winning syndicate leader Stacy Rosen commended her team on a great effort which included: Stuart Minaar, Nhlanhla Sibiye, Khulile Nondabula, Same Mdluli, and Vivid Tjipura.
In the spirit of networking, winners from across Africa will be introduced to one another, and possible collaborations explored.
HUB Johannesburg is also currently involved in relaunching at a new location. You can contribute to making this new space for collaborative efforts for social impact a reality by checking out their crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.