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Uncategorized By Jessica Colaco / March 30, 2012

Creativity in Context

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This post was originally written by Tim Kindberg on the British Council Culture Shift Blog and cross posted here.

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We had a high-energy day at the iHub in Nairobi yesterday, thinking of problems or “itches” that need scratching in the creative sector, and ideas for sustainable solutions. Forming groups, getting to know one another, talking across the business/tech/creative sectors. Eight ideas/groups emerged, from finding creative materials such as canvas to paint on, to connecting creative start-ups with investors. Discuss, drift, re-focus, encounter a gotcha and take a different path. All of this could be happening anywhere.

But this isn’t happening anywhere. It’s happening in Kenya, full of entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy but a place that is more “developing” than “developed” in some respects — like the difficulty of obtaining canvas and other basic arts supplies .

The longer I spent talking to the groups about their ideas, the more it seemed that working to the specifics of the Kenyan context was critical in developing their value propositions. Their concern, by and large, is about making Kenyan businesses to meet the particular needs of Kenyans, not (necessarily) for the global market. They want to fix the problems and grasp the opportunities they see around them in their everyday and business lives.

Appropriateness and appropriation are both important. “Obvious” questions came up for me like “Why wouldn’t someone just use Amazon for this or Kickstarter for that?”. Amazon doesn’t exist in Kenya, whether that’s because of the very different means of payment or distribution networks or warehousing opportunities — or something else — I don’t know. Kenyan ecommerce does exist, however. And no doubt many new ideas are to come that will originate from here, and which the West will find itself appropriating.

There are plenty of ways of appropriating technologies, to provide solutions appropriate for here. Equally, there are road blocks due to lack of infrastructure. It’s great to see creatives working on exploiting technology to create value for Kenya. Not only do the solutions need to be imaginative, but creatives thrive on dealing with constraints and gotchas. At the same time, they have expectations of technology that tend to pull technologists out of their comfort zone. And that is a good thing. Technologists are creatives are  creative in their own ways, too – more “creative” than many think.

What are these teams going to come up with today as they advance their ideas?

Author : Jessica Colaco

Jessica Colaço is currently the Director of Partnerships at iHub. She was the Founding Manager between 2010 and 2011 at iHub and the Research Director between 2011 and 2013 at iHub Research. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile and Robotics Technology and Mentorship and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made solutions. She is also a Mobile and Robotics Tech Evangelist, Co-Founder of @WMIAfrica and @AkiraChix, @TED Global Fellow 2009 and upcoming Guitarist.


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