02 Apr Asking A Big What If?
What If The World Paid More Attention To West Africa?
[Part 4 in a series of 6. Read Part 1 here.]
What if? This is a quintessential question we must constantly ask ourselves in order to continuously discover, grow, and evolve. We at Hack For Big Choices always ask: What if we paid more attention to emerging economies whose talented people are pushing out new innovations? It was this question that recently led us to hold the largest hackathon ever on the continent of Africa. West Africa is an important area of the world to pay attention to. They have a rapidly emerging economy and thriving startup ecosystem. New innovations are being created at a rapid pace and we have a chance to learn from them as they address sustainability needs in their communities.
Prior to the hackathon, we held a session in Ghana to ask the entrepreneurs of West Africa: What if? The session was held in conjunction with our partner and collaborator Matt Murrie, founder of the engaging curiosity engine What If?…360. He had come to help us spark the participants of the hackathon and focus them on asking important questions about their entrepreneurial endeavors. His workshop was on systems thinking and the lean canvas business model. The workshop was immensely important in helping to prepare these dedicated entrepreneurs, not only for our hackathon, but beyond as they acquired necessary skills to perfect their entrepreneurial skills. The preparation showed at the hackathon and made the process smoother for participants.
We asked Matt to share his thoughts on the growing startup ecosystem and what he discovered in Ghana. The following is his blog post on his recent experience. The post can also be found here.
What If We Turn On the Power in Ghana?
The evening I got back from Ghana, participating in one of the largest hackathons to hit West Africa, my dad asked me: “What should I tell the people I meet about Ghana?”
It’s a very simple question, but I struggled to answer it. And it wasn’t the jet lag.
In a single, flooding second, the volume of answers I wanted to give crashed the computer in my brain. There is so much to tell people about Ghana, I was almost insulted by the simplicity of the question.
Of course, the question isn’t insulting; it’s difficult. Ghana is difficult.
Reflecting on the question and my four days in Ghana working with the kick-ass start-up, Hack for Big Choices, I realized the answer wasn’t as difficult as the question. But it was challenging.
What if turning on the power in Ghana will unleash the power of Ghana?
Ideas, energy, motivation, clearly defined problems, clearly defined solutions to those problems, the people and organizations to solve those problems? Check, check, and more checks. What if Ghana has got all of them, but when the power goes out for hours–if not days–at a time, the power goes out on their potential to solve their simplest of problems, much less their most wicked ones.
Start-up entrepreneurs in the States routinely complain about bad WiFi. Forget bandwidth. What if you didn’t know if you’d have enough electricity to turn on your laptop?
I’ve never seen a darker capital city, not even streetlights to shed light into its streets.
But I saw far more smiles than frowns while in Accra. I sat in an incubator lit only by laptops as busy fingers coded and communicated in a race against their battery life.
What if, the question isn’t what to tell people about Ghana, it’s how we respond to the answer they’re providing us?
There is power in Ghana. Tremendous power.
When you think about it, the Foosball tables, ergonomic chairs, meditation rooms, and murals of start-ups in the U.S. are cute. But how many of those entrepreneurs would still plug away at their business if the plug were pulled on their electricity?
What if their power were pulled? Would they still have the power to push forward?
Today, I’m incredibly thankful to Hack for Big Choices, for partnering with me to bring What If…?360 to Ghana. And I’m thankful to know there are organizations like WordPress and Facebook who are jumping in to support events like this around the world who are helping not to just turn the power on, but to turn it up.
I’m also grateful to all the people I met in Ghana who showed me how to find strength in the struggle. Whether they know it or not, they’re represent the future of this planet. They’re providing power for others in more ways than they realize.
Thank you for the power you’re supplying.
What if, working together to provide power to the people of Ghana will also flip the circuits on powering the world?
We thank Matt for helping us ask: What if? As we continue forward and expand into newer regions where talented entrepreners need that extra push and spark, we ask that the rest of the world pays attention and asks about the possibilities for the future. What if?
[Next up: The winner!]