Akili Dada Alumna Ignites Innovation at Harvard

By November 19, 2013 No Comments

Sharon Adongo was in the very first class of Akili Dada Scholars.  She’s now in her 4th and final year at Vassar College, and has founded Tuchangane, a fundraising and volunteer platform to track the social impact of Kenyan NGOs.  The below post was written by Sharon about her recent experience pitching Tuchangane at Harvard University during the Igniting Innovation Summit.

My Experience at the Igniting Innovation Summit by Sharon Adongo

Last weekend, I had the incredible experience of pitching my project, Tuchangane, at the Igniting Innovation Summit, held at Harvard University. The summit convenes students, academics, and leaders in the field who are passionate about developing innovative solutions to today’s most urgent issues. It is run entirely by Harvard students and has grown into nationally recognized forum for social change. I applied for this opportunity through my involvement with The Resolution Project.

First, let me share a bit about my project. Tuchangane is a fundraising platform and volunteer network that I have been working on since August. Our mission is to track the social impact of Kenyan NGOs by creating a feedback mechanism where NGOs, beneficiaries, donors and volunteers can interact. All participants are eligible to win up to $3000 in funding, mentorship and pro-bono services from Resolution Guides.

On the first day, I pitched Tuchangane in an informal session to judges, Harvard students and resolution fellows from previous years. The audience voted and I was one of 6 teams that proceeded to the finals. This time it was a room full of judges and social entrepreneurs ranging from startups to established companies, professors and students. The energy levels were high as I sat through the pitches.

It was fascinating to hear my peers articulate their passions for social justice and their plans to implement projects – I heard everything from revitalizing the image of an inner city to public health and energy solutions. These founders had thought hard about their community partnerships and 10-year plans. And just like me, they’re working on their projects full-time while being full-time students. During our breakout sessions we brainstormed about how we could increase impact, and discussed tips for avoiding burnout while juggling school, work and future planning.

At the end of the day winners were announced, and I was runner-up! While I’m still awaiting detailed feedback, the initial advice I’ve been given is to refine my business model and work on outreach to our target audience.

This was the first time I’ve ever pitched to an audience (outside of family and friends), and for me, it felt like a success. I have lots of work to do, but I now have a renewed energy this venture.  I also have an increased willingness to connect with people, grow and truly make an impact in the Kenyan NGO industry.

See more photos.