Q&A with Resolution Fellow Fanice Mangoja Nyatigo

Social enterprise is an emerging field. How do YOU define social enterprise?

For me, a social enterprise is a business or organization whose mission goes beyond the profits; it is one that seeks to bring positive impact by initiating sustainable change in the lives of those it targets.

Please describe your history and relationship with social innovation, including your inspiration for your current venture.

I am a believer in social innovation because of its great potential to transform society. The impact made in the life of one individual or community through social innovation can be passed forward to other people and even generations to come. My co-founder Moses and I drew our inspiration from our experience of taking a gap year in between high school and university, which is the norm in Kenya. We realized that this time, usually underutilized by most people, could be used to gain skills that would be useful in both academic and career pursuits.

Tell us more about your current venture.

Msoma aims to equip high school graduates in Kenya with the computational skills necessary for employment and/or entrepreneurship in the current fourth industrial revolution as they wait to join university. We organize an annual bootcamp where students are introduced to computer programming, after which they get access to study materials on our website that allow them to further their knowledge in specific topics in computer science. Scholars are also offered mentorship to guide them in their pursuits, such as starting a project or applying to colleges abroad.

Meet the Lifelong Learner

What is the most important lesson that you carry with you and reflect upon often?

That even with all I have done and achieved, there is still much to do, much to discover, and much more to become.

What has been the most significant obstacle that you have faced while launching your social venture?

Effectively balancing school and my social ventures. Being a student at Berkeley requires a large time commitment and so does social entrepreneurship.

Can you tell us about a time when you faced failure and had to rise to the occasion?

Failure comes in different ways; one of the ways that I have experienced failure is when I failed to ask for help when I needed it, for fear of disappointing those whom I feel expect more from me. In my first job after high school, I did not know how to approach the first project that I was assigned. Thinking that asking my supervisor for guidance would make them doubt my abilities, I shied away and turned to the internet to try and learn the concepts I needed in order to complete the project. Eventually, I thought I had it all figured out, but when I made my presentation, I was told that what I had done was not in line with what they had expected. My failure to ask for help in the beginning had led me astray, and I admitted this to my supervisor. To my surprise, they were very nice about it and did not show any form of disappointment. Instead, they guided me and welcomed more questions down the line. I learned that not asking for help only puts one in a worse position. Since then, I have adopted this in all areas of my life, particularly throughout my education at Berkeley.

What has been the most memorable milestone for you personally in launching your social venture?

Seeing that there was a lot of interest from high school students to join the bootcamp as soon as we announced the project. It is always a wonder whether the people you are targeting will desire the product or service you are offering to them.

Meet the Visionary and Mentor

What are the 3 most crucial traits of any social entrepreneur?

Time management, perseverance, enthusiasm. These are key.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to a budding social entrepreneur?

They need to be all in it, because entrepreneurship, particularly social entrepreneurship, is a tough road full of ups and downs-only those who are fully committed to the purpose get to watch their ideas come to fruition.

What do you envision are some of the challenges facing education?

While the education we receive in school gives us a good understanding of life and the world and how they work, it sometimes fails to equip us with the practical skills needed to go about our career and future pursuits. There needs to be more hands-on learning incorporated in education systems across the world, and instituting this change might be a big challenge in many countries.

How do you define growth or success, personally, with regard to your social venture?

Growth or success will come about when we see the skills that we have instilled in our graduates being utilized to make an impact in other people’s lives, whether through our graduates’ careers or their projects.

How do you plan to weave your passion for social enterprise with your career aspirations?

For the immediate future, my plan is to try and work on projects that are within or related to my career field. Having only one year left before I graduate from college, I am at a crucial time in my academic and professional life, so prioritizing such projects will be easier to manage in terms of time and resources.

Fanice Mangoja Nyatigo is a bioengineering student at the University of California, Berkeley. She  hopes to channel her passion for health and medicine towards improving healthcare in her native Kenya. Fanice’s social venture is M-soma through which computer science students from Berkeley teach computer programming to Kenyan high school students and inspire them to, in turn, become social entrepreneurs themselves.

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