Editor’s Letter: Our Bold Beginnings
When we think of innovation in entrepreneurship, progressive education, healthcare or policies, many of us are accustomed to looking towards North America and Europe. Yet the majority of the world’s population and many of its most pressing problems exist outside of these regions.
Emerging Innovation was born out of a radical desire to look beneath the surface, beyond commonly held perceptions. We wanted to understand which other stories were missing from the global conversation, which ideas were creating jobs where there was none, which leaders were inspiring young people in cities like Jakarta, Hargeisa or Bucaramanga ; which organisations were reforming education or housing for the greater good. And then, we asked ourselves whether the countries experiencing the fastest urbanisation and most recorded environmental degradations in the history of mankind, actually had the most relevant experience in tackling these obstacles.
We started our journey four years ago, in 2012. Over the course of two years, we spoke to many ngo managers, small business owners and activists across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Many of our conversations often started over tea or coffee depending on the latitude.
We learned many things. Most of all, we learned that despite differences often attributable to culture, religion and the structural policymaking context, leaders of private, public and non-profit organisations battle the same challenges to grow everyday, whether they are in Ho Chi Minh City, N’Djamena, Mumbai or La Paz.
“No university is going to teach you how to run a business in this country” said a hotel manager we interviewed in Togo. “You need to be on the ground, you need to feel the environment, you need to talk to the people.”
This issue, our first, is a collection of the many inspiring conversations we held over the past few months. From Naadiya Moosajee, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and civil engineer whose organisation WomEng is encouraging – with much success – more South African and Kenyan girls to pursue engineering as a career ; to Andhyta Utami, co-founder of Parlamen Muda, Indonesia’s influential youth parliament, who shared with us the journey she and her co-founders took to building a now renowned civil activism organisation which gained the recognition of the country’s parliament ; and Bilesh Ladva, co-founder of Charity Map a financial start-up which is creating new ways in which Vietnamese donors can give and participate in philanthropic campaigns, in a country where day to day transactions are still overwhelmingly made in cash.
After roaming the streets of Brazil’s capital city, another debut is Bold Beginnings, our Jakarta-based contributor Nico Novito’s interview of Muhammad Iman Usman, the CEO of Ruangguru.com, one of Indonesia’s fastest growing education start-up. Among other accomplishments, Iman also happens to have delivered a speech as the 19-year-old Indonesian representative at the 2011 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Youth convened by the UN General Assembly in New York City.
With such great company, we are more than excited about what is only the beginning of a long and mind-opening conversation.
Marilyne K. Abony
Founder and Editor