The Young Changemakers team at Akili Dada attended the 2014 Ashoka Changemakers Program on Tuesday July 8th in Nairobi.

Ashoka provides social change start-ups led by young people around the world with financial support, professional support services, and connections to global networks across business and social sectors.

The sessions of the day focused on what was being done to bring the changemaker mentality to workplaces and learning institutions. A key theme fundamental to the day’s discussions was the aspect of empathy. According to the discussions, empathy was defined as having the desire to always help others in society with the knowledge, skills and resources to make society better in terms of living standards, education, politics etc.

Purity Kagwiria, Akili Dada’s Executive Director, co-chaired a panel discussion on changemakers’ skills with the Kibera Member of Parliament, Ken Okoth. One of the four panelists leading this discussion was the British High Commissioner to Kenya, Christian Turner. According to insights from this conversation, to be a successful changemaker one needs to challenge norms, have self-confidence, have the ability to work hard, and continuously adapt to changing societal norms in order to remain relevant. These tips were in addition to skills such as being visionary, action oriented, patient, and of course empathetic.

The final session of the summit discussed how changemaker schools are re-imagining education. Panelists shared on the importance of innovation in making learning more interesting and useful to students. This innovativeness ensures that students learn how to become productive at an early age instead of having to wait until they finish school. In addition, it was stressed that curricula need to include aspects of empathy meaning that teacher training needs to include lessons on empathy.

A particularly inspiring aspect of the Summit was seeing some of the work that the Ashoka Fellows were engaged in as Changemakers. For example, one fellow, Ann Njogu, is involved in public policy and industry reforms against sexual and gender based violence and had a role in the passage of Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act. Another fellow, David Kuria, is involved in business with social congruence by creating high-quality sanitation facilities that are accessible to the urban poor. David sees sanitation as an aspect of dignity in a community and therefore includes the community in the design, construction, and management of these facilities.

Akili Dada learnt a lot from the Ashoka Summit and we hope to include some of the key lessons into our Young Changemakers Program.

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