During the past five weeks we have had three community trainings at Tumaini University. Furthermore, there's already the second training going on at Neema Crafts for deaf participants. All the participants have been very excited to learn basic social media skills. They have created Gmail-accounts, learnt how to use email, chatted on Gmail, created a blog of their own, and created a Facebook profile. All this in only five days! I think the fact that they have been able to learn so many totally new things in only five days shows that they are highly motivated and open-minded.
Many participants haven't even touched a computer before the training, and starting to work on the computers is not easy to all. Although everyone is excited, most of them are also very nervous at the beginning, which is only natural. It has been great to see the change in their self-confidence during the trainings. Many of them said they thought computers were only for academic people but now they realize computers and technology are for everyone. Not even all the professors at the university are as competent to use different social media platforms as they are now -and this is something we have been laughing at many times together!
The first trainings both at Tumaini and Neema Crafts were trainer trainings. We trained the participants to use the same social media applications they would be teaching to other people from the community, but we also had some inspiring group sessions on the trainer's role and “thinking out of the box” - thinking creatively. Right after their own training our new trainers met the challenge of organizing the next course. And they are doing extremely well! You could not believe they are the same people as on the first day of their own training. There are some natural pedagogues among them!
It has been great to see that some participants from the following courses have also been willing to share their knowledge and train new people in coming trainings. As we learnt from Brent Williams from Rlabs, one of the most crucial principles in a living lab is sharing, and I'm happy to confirm that our participants have adopted this principle.
During the first training at Neema Crafts we needed two translators since all the participants were deaf: one translator was translating from English into Swahili and the other from Swahili into sign language. It worked well and was a mind broadening experience. Now the participants of the first group are training the second group, and the significance of the trainers is huge: we don't need a sign language translator anymore. One of the trainers knows English, so if there are any problems, we discuss the matter by writing in English, and after that he explains it to the others in sign language.
It's amazing to see the excitement among the participants when they are exploring the new world opening to them. The meaning of virtual communication is even greater to the deaf participants: they can communicate on the web just like people who can hear. They can even use video calls to sign with their friends. Many of our participants -both the deaf and the hearing- have been particularly eager to learn how to blog. Some of them want to share their life stories, some of them want to improve their business by blogging. Like Yusuf Ssessanga said in his earlier post they have now the opportunity to expand their social networks and benefit from the globalization and technology.
Many of them are also looking forward to developing their entrepreneurial skills. They are extremely motivated to start or improve their own businesses, but they need help and advice to make the most of it. Iringa Living Lab's entrepreneurship group is working on this matter and will provide them with training as soon as possible.
I am more than happy to be part of Iringa Living Lab right from the beginning. I expect to see a lot of progress in our social innovation during the coming year!
Together we can do it!