This article was originally written by Michael Bassey, Feed the Future Nigeria Country Director, and published by Winrock International here.
Winrock International’s February Volunteers of the Month
On August 21, 2017, the team from VEGA Member Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management Emerging Markets Laboratory (TEM-Lab), Craig Pearson, Fungai Mandaza and Rachel A, arrived in Nigeria to work with the Center for Entrepreneurship Development and Vocational Studies (CEDVS), Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti. The trio went to support CEDVS’ quest to establish and manage a business incubator center.
Incubation centers offer business creation and income generating opportunities to young and aspiring people and provide them with facilities and services that most business start-ups have difficulty in procuring – spaces, electricity, communication, start-up (inception kits), advisory support, training, information and access to external resources (finance and markets).
Soon, the team realized that nearly all the CEDVS faculty misunderstood what a business incubator is. Many faculty members when asked, gave answers describing business accelerators, workshops to practice classwork and practical skills, libraries, or lounges. Faculty could name some characteristics of an incubator but only a few truly had grasped the entire concept. Both the trio and the hosts remained flexible as the original scope of the project changed to address this issue. Everyone realized a business incubator would not be successful if the people running didn’t understand what it was.
After recognizing this crucial knowledge gap, the team came up with some creative activities to inform, as well as change mindsets. Demonstrating great professionalism, team spirit and cultural sensitivity the team formatted a group discussion style training session. The students were asked questions about entrepreneurial challenges they have faced, then taught how an incubator may ease these challenges. The initial discussion was very abstract and theoretical, so the team performed a role-playing exercise to better demonstrate what it would be like to be an incubatee in an incubator at the CEDVS.
The incubator role-playing exercise did a very effective job of conveying to the students what an incubator would be to them and how they may use it as a resource. In an exit survey of the 62 participants, 100% of the students said that they had a better understanding of what a business incubator is now that they did at the start. 100% of the students that responded also said that they would be interested in becoming an incubatee in an incubator at the CEDVS.
The assignment left a lasting personal impression on the team.The team also took the faculty on a study visit to an existing incubator. The faculty was able to speak with the leadership of these facilities at length and tour the incubation space. They developed a much deeper understanding of what business incubation is. This experience spawned many new ideas on how to apply such a concept at CEDVS.
“It was a fulfilling experience to see the understanding blossom across the faces of the CEDVS staff members we worked with. Once the initial barrier of unfamiliarity with the concept was breached, confusion gave way to enthusiasm for the new idea that holds much promise for the institution. It was both fun and educational to learn about the Nigerian culture spanning weddings, dancing, and gender, in addition to what we gained out of the work.”
Follow the links to read more about the teams’ experiences with Nigerian culture!
The Farmer-to-Farmer team in Nigeria nominated this team of volunteers because of their professionalism, excellent team spirit and cultural sensitivity to the many diverse facets of the Nigerian people. Also commendable was their ability to combine the project tasks provided by the F2F Program with their group reporting as well as individual assignments submitted to their home institution faculty – they coordinated these so well that the F2F assignment did not suffer in any way and all deadlines were met to the satisfaction of everyone involved.