If you would have asked my former self in November 2011, as I stepped foot on the campus of Harvard University for the Millennium Campus Conference (MCC) that this conference would change my life, I would have given you the most skeptical of expressions. However, almost three years later, as an inaugural Millennium Campus Network (MCN) Fellow and routine attendee to MCC, I can honestly state that myself and my international organization, Mbadika, would not be where we are if it wasn’t for MCN. Hence, our MCN journey has been not only been enlightening but transformative as well.
My first encounter with the Millennium Campus Network was in the Fall of 2011 via a Twitter post by a well-known speaker and figure in international development, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, advertising the Millennium Campus Conference. The post caught my attention as I had just returned from launching Mbadika’s first pilot program in Brazil guiding aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs through the process of launching their startups. Hence, I was highly interested in learning from other student organizations working on domestic and international challenges as highlighted by the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, after noticing a high-profile social entrepreneur in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Liberia, Mrs. Saran Kaba Jones of FACEAfrica, would be presenting on her work at the conference, I immediately registered for MCC 2011. It’s safe to say that MCC did not disappoint.
As a relatively shy and socially awkward aspiring young global leader, socially interacting with my peers was a daunting task. Nevertheless, in a matter of a few days of immersing myself into the field of humanitarian and international development amongst the best and brightest young leaders the world had to offer, I emerged from MCC 2011 determined to leave my mark on the world. Armed with my newfound courage, after the closing ceremony featuring a performance by special guest K’naan, I gathered my courage and contacted Mrs. Jones in order to ask if it was possible she could be my mentor and assist me in fulfilling my own aspirations for Mbadika.
If MCN through the Millennium Campus Conference can showcase the ability of youth around the world to tackle the challenges facing themselves and their communities, why couldn’t Mbadika showcase the untapped of potential of youth to tackle the very same challenges through innovation and entrepreneurship?
Since 2011, Mbadika has assisted over 250 aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs in over 6 countries throughout Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in launching over 35 start-ups ranging from a line of visual and auditory disability friendly recycling containers to automatic soda can cleaners for restaurants preparing to serve tourists during the 2014 World Cup.
Since my first Millennium Campus Conference, I’ve continued to be involved in the Millennium Campus Network. Through MCN, I was made aware of the inaugural Millennium Campus Network Fellowship program for student leaders in Boston aiming to increase the social impact of their student organizations last Fall. Mbadika and myself were fortunate enough to be selected alongside nine other amazing student organizations, such as ChangeFire (Harvard University) and Global Medical Brigades (Boston University), to participate in the inaugural MCN Fellowship program.
Through our MCN Fellowship, we were able to learn and develop proper organization management procedures, international development projects, as well as grant writing skills in order to increase the efficiency as well as social impact of our respective organizations. In collaboration with the Jenzabar Foundation, Mbadika’s participation in the MCN Fellowship program was truly transformative and prepared our student organization to launch our for-profit social venture, developing and selling consumer hardware development kits to aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs, in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Fall.
As you finish reading my MCN story, I would like you to ask yourself; What will be your MCN story?
Like Netia, all it takes is a few steps in the right direction and a little bit of courage to make a HUGE impact. Apply to MCC2014 here and YOU can start your MCN story...