A new collaboration and idea aggregator site called Africa Rural Connect launched recently, with the mission of improving lives in sub-Saharan Africa by connecting rural farmers of sub-Saharan Africa, members of the African Diaspora, development practitioners, scholars, technology innovators, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and anyone who cares about Africa.
Developed by the National Peace Corps Association — the independent group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers — the site offers anyone a platform for proposing ideas for Africa, and for endorsing and/or helping to develop the ideas that others have proposed. According to project director Molly Mattessich, the project was the brain child of returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Africa and developed energy and ideas to create sustainable change in their communities.
According to contest guidelines, people who care about rural poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and the importance of agricultural development can submit, rate, and comment on ideas, proposals and analyses, all of which will form action plans aimed at improving the livelihoods of millions of subsistence farmers, their families, and their communities.
Idea categories include agribusiness, communication, post-harvest losses, and water resources. (Read category descriptions.)
Anyone can create a profile on the Africa Rural Connect (ARC) website, and post ideas — anything from a scrap of an idea to a full-fledged proposal. If your idea is not fully developed, you can invite collaboration from others in the ARC community to offer feedback, and build on your initial thoughts.
If you would rather wait to offer your own ideas, you can also read the ideas of others and endorse them, or “improve” the ideas, based on your own insights to make those ideas stronger.
A complete plan includes these elements:
- Summary – Outline the problem or challenge being solved. Give the objective of the plan, the methods of achieving it, and the anticipated results. Include how this approach is new/unique and will be more successful than other approaches.
- Needs Assessment – Present an analysis of the conditions faced in the targeted area. Explain why such conditions deserve greatest attention, are of greatest concern, and why these specific challenges have hindered development in the locale.
- Required Resources – Clearly state the financial and other resources needed for the initiative. Indicate how the resources will be used. Will the initiative be self-sustaining, or will it require further injections of resources and management?
- Business Case – To the extent that a proposed action plan involves private sector initiatives or considerations, present a strategic marketing plan, best thoughts on operating issues, funding requirements and similar business supporting material.
- Plan and Execution – Describe the initiative, the target audience, and the method of achieving results, including how political support cam be raised and operational issues resolved. Include a schedule of activities, and the people and/or organizations that will be used in project execution.
- Real World Impact – Indicate the results of the initiative being implemented. Include scope of impact, how many people will be affected and where, and anticipated time to achieve results.
Between August and November, one idea will be judged a winner on the 15th of each month, earning $3,000. (Second place wins $2,000., third place wins $1,000.) The top ten ideas with the most endorsements appear on the Leaderboard page, and will be judged — along with other monthly winners — by a panel of judges for the Grand Prize of $20,000. at the end of the contest and announced in early December. Prize money is intended to help get the winning ideas off the ground.
The panel of judges includes:
- Carol Bellamy, President and CEO, World Learning
- Wilber James, Managing General Partner, Rockport Capital
- Angélique Kidjo, Singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
- Bruce McNamer, President and CEO, TechnoServe
Currently, the top idea on the site — 223 endorsements— submitted by EFO from Australia, is to “create a solar-powered energy revolution across West Africa“:
This project aims to start a solar power energy revolution across West Africa. Targeting the key areas of Health, Education, Livelihoods and Skills Training, the project with the strategic implementation of solar power installations will provide greater opportunities in Benin, Mali and Sierra Leone.
The second most endorsed idea — with 213 endorsements — from Cicely Brown of Nigeria is called “Zittnet — harnassing information to make rural markets work better“:
Using appropriate ICT to make information available on-site and in real-time in remote markets, Zittnet aims to make rural markets work more efficiently, driving greater economic value from agricultural activities benefitting the economic and social livelihoods of the poor farming communities which dominate the local economy.