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Reaching the many
Lessons from AMUA Accelerator

AMUA accelerator is a UNFPA Innovation accelerator platform that helps to source and accelerate Innovative Ideas targeting to solve challenges around Sexual reproductive health and rights(SRHr). The platform is implemented by Sahara Ventures and it is running its second cohort with a call on solving SRH challenges faced by people with Disabilities (PWDs).

The platform ran its first cohort focusing on SRHr challenges to youth zooming into teenage pregnancy. Learning from the first cohort has moved us to gauge ourselves as we are implementing this second cohort popularly known as AMUA II.

Amongst key learning includes geographical reach during project implementation where few regions participated in sending their Ideas. As part of the learning from the first cohort, the AMUA II project team has scaled in almost all corners of the country dividing the nation into six major zones: Southern Highlands, Central, Lake, Northern, Coastal, and the Isles Zone Informing communities, entrepreneurs, innovators, people with disabilities and Government personnel on the opportunity behind AMUA II as we call it the Community engagement phase

During this phase, the project team engaged the following activities;

During this phase, the project team engaged the following activities;

  1. Visiting traditional media houses
  2. Preparing informative sessions
  3. Conducting hackathons (two days of intensive training on design thinking, team building, and pitching skills for the purpose of creating the right innovative solution)

Furthermore, all the engagements were objective in guiding all applicants to capitalize and focus their ideas on challenge statements. The Challenge statements are statements that outline the focus areas of the submitted ideas. Challenge statements were co-created by persons with a disability, representatives from organizations dealing with PWD, Government officials and parents/guardians of children with disability.

After a series of discussions, info sessions and meetups, the cohort was able to have five challenge statements that clearly clarifies all the major areas that Persons with disabilities face in respect to Sexual reproductive health.

And this is a story that captures the insightful lessons that have emerged as the team engaged with the community for over two months

  • The community of persons with disabilities is shifting from expecting to get help to wanting to give help to others. Indeed, the adage: Disability is not inability is deemed to be very true as the team constantly ran into people with disabilities that were positive, enthusiastic and energetic. Reflecting on individuals like Adil, from Zanzibar; A young man (In his early twenties) moving from one place to another in a wheelchair who is vibrant and strongly believes in his ability to inspire others, hence dedicated his life to being an inspirational speaker. In Dodoma, a woman who was involved in a car accident that led to the injury of her right leg is a passionate entrepreneur relentlessly running her restaurant in the capital city.
  • Problems and challenges facing people with disabilities are over discussed. With almost every encounter with the community, there is a common unconscious reaction of glorifying the problem. Visiting different parts of the country, the team constantly encountered communities that want to talk about the problems facing people with disabilities over and over again. AMUA Accelerator is not designed to be a platform for discussing problems. Alas, this is a platform where solutions are built. Sustainable solutions that largely impacts the community. This is where innovative, brilliant and entrepreneurial ideas are birthed. Mkwawa arts space,eshangazi, Maisha package, and Harakati za lucy are breathing definitions of the ultimate purpose of AMUA Accelerator

    When you feel the need to talk about your problems over and over again, they often seem much worse than they are.
  • Engaging with the community at a local level allows applicants to apply ideas that are relevant to the stated challenges more effectively. The community had a broader understanding of what were the requirements for the ideas, this led to a 24% decrease of applicants compared to the first cohort of AMUA Accelerator. With over 368 applicants that sent their innovative ideas on how they can solve the issue of sexual reproductive health and rights to youth, zooming on teenage pregnancy, the second cohort of AMUA accelerator window of application has collected 280 online applications and 13 offline applications that were obtained through hardcopy forms, this equals to a total of 294 applications.

Below is an illustration of the online geographical distribution of applicants.

With the 24% decrease, the ideas collected on the second round of this project are much more convenient and relevant to the focus areas and the concept and requirements of the application are much understood. In every 10 ideas, an average of 4 ideas stand to be relevant to the focus area compared to the first cohort, wherein every ten ideas, only 1 or rarely 2 ideas were relevant to the focus area.

  • The male gender remains the dominating gender of all the submitted applications.

Why? Is it due to the nature of the requirements? The distribution of male and female applicants is 71% to 29 % with the male gender taking the lead. This shows that most teams have a male representation of leadership compared to female. However, 99% of all the applicants have a female in the team composition

Conclusively

Combining together the concept of Sexual reproductive health (SRH) and persons with disabilities has not been an easy ride for the entrepreneurs, innovators, and community of persons with disabilities. Both of these subjects are sensitive and need enough basic information before designing the right idea. The availability of SRH and PWDs awareness presentation during this phase helped the Innovators and entrepreneurs to get clarity of the problem they are trying to solve and hence increased the quality of applications received.

It was crucial to have enough time to engage with the community and have a larger geographical coverage. This allowed the implementing team to have more time to clarify and effectively communicate the requirements and the concept of sexual reproductive health and the specific areas of focus for all the applicants. Not only that but also, the geographical reach has helped the project to be inclusive through different diverse of the country that has managed to capture different challenges and solutions covering a different geographical sample.

Feedback from Involvement of other key stakeholders at the regional and district level through intensive stakeholders visit and info sessions have made other development actors to seek potential ways of adopting some of the tools and innovation as well, This could be useful for the sustainability of those Ideas that might not make it to the Bootcamp (next phase) but as well as to the team that will manage to go through the training and mentorship stages.

The AMUA team is thankful to all the entrepreneurs, organizations, youth, innovators and persons with disabilities from across the country who have taken the time to think and design innovative ideas and submitted them through the forms.

The 10 best ideas will be announced soon. Stay tuned!