The Innovate Salone "A De Mek Am" program, a first-of-its-kind competition in Sierra Leone, supports teams of secondary-school students (ages 11-18) in building solutions to local problems that they themselves have identified. Innovate Salone brings together the idea of innovation awards with the “maker” ethic of Sierra Leone. Learn about this year's finalists.
How did you get started, and how has your work evolved?
Innovate Salone started when the MIT Public Service Center, International Development Initiative, and the MIT Media Lab all gave support to my team to travel to Sierra Leone in 2012 to explore the possibility of a high school innovation challenge there. From that initial trip, the competition was launched, which saw students in seven districts participate. In 2013, we anticipate students from all 12 districts in Sierra Leone will participate in Innovate Salone. We recently launched a Fellowship program focused on entrepreneurship for recent university graduates, and we continue to set up electronic labs in schools across the country.
What impact have you achieved in Sierra Leone?
Innovate Salone’s inaugural competition involved 300 high school students (50 percent of whom were girls) who had developed 72 projects to impact their communities. We have employed four full-time Fellows who continue to promote local innovation while starting their own social entrepreneurship projects.
How has this work had a personal impact on you?
My goal is to promote local youth innovation in Sierra Leone. Innovate Salone is doing just that and more. Today, many more youth are engaged in prototyping ideas, and some are developing their prototypes into social enterprises. My hope is that, in 10 years, this generation of young students will develop specific projects that have a direct impact on Sierra Leone's growth.