Expert Insights by Expert-Practitioner-Participant Naftally Muriuki

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.51.39 AM

Naftally Muriuki, Nairobi-based media practitioner, shared his experiences of TSoTC

Naftally Muriuki is Nairobi-based teacher of media, as well as professional animator (and videographer and editor). He has kindly agreed to share his views as the participant – practitioner of TSoTC.

Here are some of highlights and take-aways from his feedback:

  • During TSoC Naftally Muriuki has collaborated widely with the different clusters and individuals of the project, either as a co-creator or by giving peer-review and feedback.  This seem to have been the case with several other participants as well, since many creative professionals tend to have several skills and areas of focus. This echoes the findings of the basic TSoTC survey — as well as broader experiences of mLabs: In innovation projects, the collective may overshadow the individual
  • Naftally Muriuki plans to do an individual project later, utilizing the takeaways from TSoTC. His core audience for his (still secret) creative product will be the youth — but he also sees other, very different stakeholders as important. His target is to simultaneously  show the the creative industry business sector that while animation might not yet be a big segment in Kenya, it has immense potential. This is a great example of the multi-stakeholder approach that can be embedded in innovation-centered projects.
  • Naftally Muriuki’s expectations of TSoTC and future AKE trainings: They have, and should continue to provide a learning platform but also an opportunity to network with colleagues, industry representatives, as well as funders and other stakeholders. This, again, echoes the findings of the preliminary survey that time and forums for networking (such as the upcoming Showcase) are invaluable.
  •  A practical tip: AKE Upscaling is being discussed in professional groups (e.g., in WhatsApp) – a great way to reach out to potential participants and collaborators.

(See the full interview here.)


New Research on ICT Innovation: Case Kenya

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.15.13 PM

Just published by Center for Global Communication Studies, Annenberg School for Communication:

A research report on the technology innovation sector in Kenya to illustrate where existing innovation theories fall short.

Kenya, along with countries like Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana, is leading the way on the continent in innovating new applications and programs that enable developments in the information communication technology (ICT) sector. This growth has not gone unnoticed. It has attracted substantial international interest, not just from non-profit organizations focused on development, but increasingly from for-profit actors interested in investing in the country.

In this environment, understanding how tech innovation happens in Kenya – the roles played by these many different international, local, for-profit, and not-for-profit actors – is a big part of understanding the shape of new technologies that will emerge. Yet many of the theories that exist to explain technology innovation were developed to describe processes in Western contexts, like Silicon Valley, far removed from the reality of innovation in Kenya.

If we hope to understand the growth of these sector and help shape its development, ICT, communication, and management scholars need to work together to develop better theories to explain the unique context of innovation in African countries.

Download the report from here.

Expert Insights: Key Points Learned from mLabs and mHubs

I changed a few thoughts with Dr Tim Kelly of the World Bank on Living Labs as creative clusters. Dr Kelly finds Living Labs to be a great concept, but, of course, a concept that has its challenges.

Dr Kelly pointed me to mLabs and mHubs as creative innovation clusters, and found them to be a Living Labs concept worth noticing.

mLabs and mHubs, piloted in 2010-2013, were “Living Labs” concepts that aimed to advance innovation and entrepreneurship in so-called “developing countries”.

mLabs were “mobile business acceleration service providers” i.e. collaborative international efforts in building mobile apps, both technology-wise and business-wise.

mHubs focused to community building: they were informal “meeting places” where creative people could mingle, meet and do creative innovative projects. If mLabs were international projects, mHubs were local: they focused to a one city.

Here are some key points that were learned during mLabs and mHubs projects. These points could help in other Living Labs projects as well:

  • Importance of one-on-one mentoring: it should be given more emphasis.
  • Innovation “competitions” lead to good results, if the competitors are thoroughly supported and helped.
  • Building partnerships with stakeholders is essential.
  • Events and competitions are useful tools in building partnerships.
  • Identifying a right manager/leader is critical to success.

Here’s a link to the full report:

Expert Insights: Sari Virta on Innovation Leadership

Our first Expert Insights are by Sari Virta (PhD Candidate in Media Management at University of Tampere, Finland; Team Leader). At present, she is researching how innovation can be managed in creative organizations. Before, and in parallel to, her academic career, Ms. Virta has had a long career in innovative media organizations, as well as a team leader in multi-stakeholder contexts.

Ms. Virta’s Top 5 Recommendations for Effective, Empowering Innovation Leadership:


  1. Understanding of the true nature of innovation, as work. Creativity and the resulting innovations are complex mix of different aspects, hence, conflict-driven work. Leaders of innovative organization need to realize that and carry the related responsibility.
  1. Innovation and creativity in organizations need to be understood in different levels: Not only as organizational but also as individual, groups within the organizations, and even in terms of the broader networks around the organization. The dynamics of these levels might be very different and have to be skillfully managed.
  1. Understanding of how the work/organizational environment can lead to, and support, creativity and innovation. Mere individual creativity, let alone, is not enough.
  1. Innovation is often prohibited or hindered by the existing ways of being and doing. Leaders need to examine and question plenty of old routines.
  1. Understanding of different stages of projects and processes. Managing the brainstorming stage will most likely needs to be very different than the final steps of the execution.

Thoughts? Comments? Please post them below!

TSoTC Questionnaire on Collaboration: TOP 5 Insights

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.56.18 AMIn December 2015 we asked from TSoTC practitioners, instructors, and other GESCI participants about their views on good collaborative project design, practices and experiences (you can see the questions here).

Here are the Top 5 most important insights from your project collaboration, innovation, and learning experiences:

  1. Leadership is the key. No matter how many brilliant experts from many fields take part in the project, without clear joint goals and strong, precise leadership to guide the road to the goals, collaboration will be difficult. Promises and timelines need to be met, by everyone, and this needs to be coordinated and managed. [Question: Should Living Lab -type learning environments include some leadership training for all?]
  2. Brainstorming is important — and it takes time. Innovation with other experts from different fields requires time to find common ground, vocabulary, and ways of working. Free exchange of ideas is clearly desirable and beneficial to innovative processes. Feedback and (peer) critique is also an essential part of learning — and project innovation. [Question: Should Living Lab -type learning environments include some structured scenario/brainstorming workshops, just to get everyone used to related working methods? Should there be special ‘idle time’ allocated to taking, exchanging experiences, informally creating wild ideas…]
  3. Networking builds team spirit, and extends the benefits of training. Related to point 2: A major advantage of a Living Lab -type of educational-innovation project is that it can teach not only skills but build alliances and partnerships beyond the training/project itself. Clearly, connecting learning with a real life projects and businesses is considered a great benefit. [Question: Should Living Lab -type learning environments include networking events such as a Demo Day / Showcase as a standard part of their curricula?]
  4. Everyone needs marketing skills. Related to point 3: Some participants of TSoTC highlight the reality that today’s innovation professionals need to understand business skills and be able to market their talent and projects. [Question: Should Living Lab -type learning environments include some marketing training for all? Should an LL environment also include end users as participants — to enhance product development and marketing strategies?]
  5. Collaboration honors the individual. Finally, an overall theme emerging from the questionnaire is that participants appreciate both individual guidance/projects/mentoring as well as the collaborative effort. The former should not be forgotten because of the latter. The combination of individual mentoring/attention and collaborative practices might be especially important for a Living Lab environment that aims to innovate, as well as to educate.

What would you add to the list?

Grants Opportunity: #TEEP

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 7.11.13 AM

This might be of interest to some TSoTC participants:

The Tony Elumelu Foundation has announced the launch of a $100m Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative – The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme – a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

The programme is the first initiative of its kind to be launched by an African philanthropic organisation and is the largest African sourced philanthropic gift, targeting the entrepreneurial space.


5 Tips on Building a Showcase Presentation

Media Lab Helsinki organizes a biannual “demo day”. Its purpose is to showcase different research, art and new media projects done in the Media Lab. The event is open for everyone interested in work done at Media Lab – and since “demo day” is held in late December/May, it’s also a good place to mingle with fellow students/staff.

Showcasing in a “demo day” event is an art of its own. It’s like pitching, but in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, where listeners are there to help and support you.

Here’s some advice you can use in building your own showcase presentation:

1) Introduce Yourself. Imagine that people don’t know you or your project. Don’t give a long lecture on your background – just tell people who you are, and point the relevant information about you.

2) Introduce Your Project. What is the name of the project? What is the project about? What is the target audience? Can you compare your project to a project/song/art piece/application the audience knows? How does your project differ from that? You can practice by writing an “elevator speech“.

3) Talk to the Audience. If you build a PowerPoint presentation or present something using a beamer, don’t talk to the computer screen or to the presentation. Look and talk to the audience. (You’d be surprised how many make this simple mistake!)

4) Be Brief. If you have a timeslot of five minutes, it’s better to speak four minutes than six. After all, you should be able to present your project in a minute, anyway.

5) Have Handouts and Time For Questions and Discussions. Not everyone are interested in your work. But some definitely are. Have simple handouts for people who are interested in your project – don’t forget to add contact information. Be sure to reserve time for questions, mingling and face-to-face meetings after your presentation slot.

6) Smile. 🙂

Here are some pictures from Media Lab Helsinki’s Demo Day!

Image 16.12.2014 12.48.27 1436

A person is testing a device built in Media Lab’s course.

Image 16.12.2014 12.58.25 1441

The students of Media Lab Helsinki are testing a prototype musical instrument in demo day.

Image 16.12.2014 12.58.23 1440

This little box gives “random” proverbs and thoughts for an user.

Image 16.12.2014 12.58.20 1439 (1)

This art project lets user to listen to voices and soundscapes from different apartments in a (miniature) building.

Image 16.12.2014 12.58.17 1438

A research staff member presents the research projects done in one of Media Lab’s programs.

Image 16.12.2014 12.12.16 1433

Media Lab students are presenting their new game project.

PS:  Here are some useful resources for showcasing and pitching: