Community Centers to Stimulate Social Innovation and Creativity – Start Up Ecosystem

“Humans as social beings thrive in communities. Community centers would then serve as stimulants for the realization of human potential including through innovation and creativity.”

Yesterday when writing about the impact of remote work on creativity and innovation for start ups, I made a promise to present a different case in a subsequent piece. This is it. I’ve been actively involved in the healthcare space for some time now both at the policy level, service delivery and advocacy with civil society organizations if not in the start up space. Over this journey, I’ve been privileged to work with cities-Rise, an organization that is youth driven with a focus on creating mental health friendly cities (MHFC) as we call them. In the modelling of youth friendly mentally healthy cities working with young people, the key features and attributes that were proposed included a community center. This was informed by the social stigma associated with mental health thus young people would seek facilities within the center and in the process get to uptake mental health services. The same model has been proposed in efforts to address stigma associated with varied other diseases especially around rethinking the health model where it’s noted that individuals wouldn’t want to visit hospitals naturally thus less inclined to visit unless they cannot avoid it. This is manifested in the statistical data that manifest a poor health seeking behavior across multiple settings and communities.

What would these community centers look like? In the model, community centers would offer youth friendly services and facilities such as gaming stations, internet cafes, Wi-fi zones, coffee zones, green parks, movie theatres, social halls, art theatres and the health clinics within the same compound. With such an integrated setting, flow and uptake of services within the health clinics wouldn’t be unappealing as they have been made to be. Beyond the health services which is the gist of this piece are the additional amenities. On the backdrop of COVID-19, we witnessed creativity and ingenuity that was manifested by young people in their communities. From mobilizing supplies to use of art forms to educate communities in containing the spread of the virus. One such group is Mathare Roots initiative that presented during our YouTH Voices Summit last year. You can watch a video of their work here. With this you could imagine the potential that lies in them untapped especially with the thought of being able to access the amenities, social networks and ingenuity within their peers in such community centers.

One exciting feature to me about the whole model is the fact that often times, as Plato rightfully stated, necessity is the mother of invention and over time we’ve seen young people come up with ideas to address challenges in their communities. When there was need for innovative hand hygiene solutions especially in resource constrained settings, the tippy tap was ingenuously designed by a primary school children. How much could we realize with structured engagement where they are encouraged to explore and make use of the available facilities in such a center? I believe that even as we move towards embracing competency based curriculum (CBC) in Kenya, such centers would play a better role in enabling children to ideate, explore and deliver magnificent creations to the world. Why then don’t we ever get to implement such ideas? Maybe some day we’ll get to it. I hope you think about these ideas, visualize them and probably consider trying them in your communities. You don’t need much, you can explore partnering with your church, mosque, temple or even local schools.

To the next piece.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *