Delegate Spotlight | LEGO® and the House it Built: Netia and Mbadika, Fostering Youth Empowerment Pt. II
by Zachary Thomas
I recently had the opportunity to sit down again with Netia McCray. This time, Netia asked me if she could discuss more about her company Mbadika and her journey to get where she is now. Naturally I agreed and was met with an amazing and inspiring story of one person’s experiences with the Millennium Campus Network and all the opportunities it placed in her path.
"I'm a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I could have gone to a big firm like Google or Facebook, but I'm trying something innovative. It all started back on campus...As a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), my path could have led me to the prestigious halls of Oxford University pursuing a doctorate degree in International Studies or building the future of technology at Google HQ. However, I decided to travel the less beaten path of becoming a social entrepreneur. My unique journey began a few years ago on MIT campus, when I was struggling to decide whether I would take a chance on my idea for a youth-focused NGO. "
"In Fall 2011, I've just returned from implementing a pilot workshop in Brazil in which participants designed and developed hardware solutions for challenges facing their communities. During the semester, I was unsure if I should continue to develop and expand the program, despite the positive results of the program. This changed upon attending the Millennium Campus Conference 2011 at Harvard University, where I was inspired by the experiences of my peers launching impactful initiatives around the world and realized there was no reason why I shouldn't take a chance. The cherry on top was when one of the MCC 2011 speakers, Saran Kaba Jones (Founder and Executive Director of FACE Africa) agreed to become my mentor and help me develop my organization: Mbadika."
Fast forward to Fall 2013, I've been accepted into the inaugural class of Millennium Fellows as the leader of the student organization, Mbadika. Mbadika provides aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs a platform to obtain the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to develop impactful solutions for themselves and their communities. One of our initiatives, a line of DIY (do-it-yourself) kits which includes a Solar USB Charger for Mobile Devices, is presently being used in Sub-Saharan Africa as a tool to teach design thinking and tap into teens' entrepreneurial abilities. However, at the time, our organization was struggling with the diminishing impact of our initiatives in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the turbulence and disorganization inherent in the majority of student-led organizations. Our Millennium Fellowship allowed for us to properly re-structure our organization, develop a sustainable business model to support our workshops, and gain knowledge regarding tapping into off-campus funding sources. As a result, Mbadika was able to leverage $7,000 in funding from MCN's partner, The Jenzabar Foundation in order to conduct customer trials of our Solar USB Charger Kit in South Africa. On behalf of MCN, Mbadika was invited to the State Department in Washington D.C. in order to share our progress."
"Upon graduation last September, I made the decision to become a social entrepreneur and manage Mbadika full-time. Since then, Mbadika has held workshops for over 450 youth around the world and launched its regional manufacturing center in Cape Town, South Africa in order to locally manufacture our product line of DIY kits while providing local youth skillful employment opportunities. Our network of local and international partnerships have expanded to include the City of Boston, the U.S. State Department, Microsoft, the Fab Lab Foundation, Empower Peace, and many more. These partnerships, including our current programming partner EduGreen have allowed for Mbadika to have a year along presence in South Africa and increase our social impact on South African youth and youth around the world. However, none of this would have been possible without the assistance and guidance our team obtained from the Millennium Campus Network through the Fellowship program. "
"As a result of the Millennium Campus Network Fellowship program, I've grown from a timid leader of a university international development organization on the brink of chaos to an aspiring social entrepreneur whose social venture has made a tangible impact on the lives of her fellow aspiring young innovators and entrepreneurs. Since our participation in the inaugural Fellowship program, to develop and implement a sustainable leadership and operation model that allows for our team (on and off campus) to operate across the globe towards our mission. As a result, we have been able to reach 4 times as many youth as virtually three years of our previous workshops and efforts in the past year. Mbadika is currently positioned to expand its reach throughout Sub-Saharan Africa through our local and international partnerships to impact over 1,500 youth in the next 12 months. The credit for our breathtaking progress belongs to MCN and this incredible community that we are all investing in together. We know that by 2017 there will be over 360 Millennium Fellows like me across 12 cities; I'm truly honored to be one of the first in this growing student movement for global development. Together, we can ensure that every aspiring young innovator and entrepreneur with a revolutionary idea to tackle global poverty and adversity has the tools to bring their idea to reality. As John F. Kennedy says, "Things do not happen. Things are made to happen."
"Let's make things happen, join us in tackling the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 and beyond. "
If visitors to this blog post would like to build their very own, our instructions are now available online; http://www.wfeo.org/build-solar-powered-usb-charger-phones-small-devices/