“So many women in the settlement do not attend antenatal care due to the long distance to a health center, and so many of them even give birth at home. The village health teams only take them to the health centers after delivery”, says Sonic Olara, a refugee living in Palabek Refugee Settlement in Lamwo District. As a former Clinical Officer in Awil hospital in South Sudan, Sonic Olara believes he has a responsibility to address this problem.
“We attended a conference on the need for inclusive communication especially for people with special needs and hearing impairments. We started thinking about the deaf in our community; who was telling them about the risk of HIV and how to prevent it? Then we thought to ourselves, how about we come up with a way to artistically illustrate such messages to the deaf living in our community,” says Adwar Debra, a student of Economics also from Lamwo District.
It is stories like that of Sonic and Debra that motivated our partner UNFPA and Outbox to experiment with making our social innovation incubator called Up Accelerate more diverse & inclusive. In this case, diversity is about involving the youth in areas of Northern Uganda and West Nile, from largely rural and non-major urban centers - and refugee settlements. These are underrepresented founders in social entrepreneurship initiatives within the country. Inclusion is about giving them the opportunity to speak and lead, as they contribute to the solutions to challenges in their communities, by giving them equal access to resources, stakeholders and markets like other entrepreneurs.
This month of November, Outbox selected a team of forty (40) youth, comprising eight social enterprises, to participate in the next cohort of Up Accelerate known as Up Accelerate WAY Edition. The initiative supports the teams with business incubation, mentorship, seed funding and go-to market support to realise their solutions to market. The participants also have an opportunity to connect with the alumni from previous cohorts of the initiative.
Up Accelerate WAY edition is a nexus between Humanitarian Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship. The initiative sought to engage the youth from refugee and the host communities in the development of solutions to challenges in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Gender Based Violence. It is implemented with support from the Government of Denmark as part of the larger under the Women, Adolescents and Youth program.
This edition started off with a call for applications that saw the Outbox team traverse eight districts in Northern Uganda and West Nile, delivering information sessions and interacting with potential applicants. This later transpired into a shortlist of teams that were invited to participant in a 3-day co-creation workshop so as to refine their submissions. The shortlisted teams were given two weeks to submit their refined solutions, and sixteen (16) were finally selected to pitch in-front of an independent panel of judges.
For the next one year, the entrepreneurs will spend time examining themes around customer desirability, feasibility and viability of their solutions. Other themes will include effective storytelling, Culture, to mention but a few. They will also benefit from personal development by looking at Purpose, Self awareness, and Founder mindset.
At the end of the incubation program, the social entrepreneurs should have deployed and piloted their solutions in markets within any of the eight (8) districts of the programme. They will have an opportunity to showcase their social enterprises to the social entrepreneurship community, potential investors, donors, to mention but a few.
According to Alain Sibenaler, the representative of UNFPA Uganda, “This edition of Up Accelerate is tailor made to target young people to develop local based solutions to address challenges of their local communities. It has provided a shift into how incubators are conducted from the classic way of sourcing, incubating and accelerating from the town centers to rural areas. It is an opportunity to harness the untapped potential of young people in more rural areas and refugee communities and support them live their dream.”
Introducing the Up Accelerate WAY edition Cohort I teams:
Baby Kit- A team using affordable and locally made materials to develop infant warmers to help mothers in refugee settlements who have given birth to premature or at-risk babies.
IKitty Supplies- A service that will help young men and women living in rural and refugee settlements and host communities in West Nile access affordable family planning services by reducing distance, time, transport cost and stigma; through a last mile distribution network of trained youth friendly village health teams.
Platform 503- A music dance and drama group which creates ‘’you-change skits’’ that will help young women, adolescent girls and young people affected by conflict in refugee and host communities access user friendly information on the causes, prevention and strategies to end gender based violence through audio/visual context appropriate customer inclusive, educative and entertaining short plays.
Poker Card- A card book that will promote inclusiveness by helping deaf women and youths acquire primary Health care knowledge on HIV/AIDs through graphics, illustrations and images that can be understood by the deaf.
Fema let’s talk- A solution that provides an interactive edutainment platform (Fe-Ma: let’s talk App) and school clubs that will provide a safe space for adolescent girls and boys aged between 12 to 17 to share, learn and get equipped with knowledge on Gender Based Violence to be agents of behavioral change and promoters of nonviolence.
We help- An interactive voice response system platform that will help women of childbearing age easily access family planning services by describing to them the benefits and likely costs of the chosen contraceptives; using their preferred language also linking them to the nearest health facility.
Mieringa- A mobile Application Service that will help young people between the age of 13 to 17 years affected by conflict and those in refugee host communities access information and consultation services on sexual and reproductive health and rights in both Lugbara and English language using toll free sms and toll free phone calls to help reduce cases of unintended and early pregnancies.
Unity and Prosperity Medical Center- An antenatal care service provider that will help expectant mothers living in refugee communities access safe delivery services within their community to solve the problem of long distances to the nearest health facilities through establishment of mobile antenatal clinics