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“A university is an ideal environment to get people excited about social entrepreneurship,” says Niklolay Dentchev, who holds the Chair for Social Entrepreneurship at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). “Professors are natural networkers, and many students are open to social projects.” Four of those projects were presented at the launch of a new platform for social entrepreneurs: http://platform.vubsocialentrepreneurship.com. One of those projects is Elewa, an organisation founded by student entrepreneur Jente Rosseel. The project looks at providing quality education for Kenyan school children.
Five years ago Jente - then a final year Engineering student - left for Kenya on an internship with the Flemish Association for Development Aid and Technical Assistance (Vlaamse Vereniging voor Ontwikkelingshulp en Technische Bijstand (VVOB)). He noticed that the education system did not adequately prepare students for the workplace. “The problem is that the entire education system is based on standardised testing. If you can formulate the answers well, you’ll be allowed into higher education; if you get a lower score, then you can forget about continuing your studies. The result is that everyone simply memorises the answers, creating so-called parrots: students who cannot offer reasoned answers or argumentation in any other contexts.
In an effort to do something about this trend, he founded Elewa together with Mike Kipkorir Bill, a Kenyan education expert. The organisation studies ways to improve the quality of education in collaboration with schools in Kenya. It also provides training for teachers and is currently working hard to develop course books for secondary schools. Elewa also created a system for e-learning that is adapted to the challenges of the local infrastructure and can work without the immediate need for electricity.
Elewa was set up in 2015 and has become a part of Startit@KBC, the platform for budding entrepreneurs. But the company could benefit from additional exposure and visibility. “That is one of the reasons we wanted to be present at the launch of the new platform within the VUB Chair for Social Entrepreneurship. It’s a major opportunity, not just to raise funds - although we could definitely use these to hire more people to help guide the schools. It is also hugely valuable to gain more knowledge and insights. It allows us to find people who want to contribute to our mission, be it as partners, as volunteers or researchers.”
Tool for crowdfunding and crowdsourcing
“Our new platform for social entrepreneurs should be seen as a tool for both crowdfunding and crowdsourcing,” states Nikolay Dentchev. “It is perfectly in line with what the VUB Chair for Social Entrepreneurship envisions: we want the platform to be a meeting place for social entrepreneurs and academics to develop sustainable business models together. The platform itself is an example of that collaboration, given it is a collaboration between VUB, an academic institution, with Close The Gap, Wolters Kluwer and Euroclear, who have all been there from the start.”
This is the website of the idea behind the VUB Chair in Social Entrepreneurship. The projects that can be developed here are not just Belgian; they span the globe. Elewa is a prime example of how a Belgian engineering student set something up in Kenya to benefit the children there. Other projects are starting up in South-America e.g. All the projects require crowdfunding but also benefit from crowdsourcing. At the moment there are four but the aim for the VUB Chair in Social Entrepreneurship is to ultimate go to 25 projects within a year from now.
Visit the website and the platform’s page to find out more and maybe you can start your own social entrepreneurship project, or you can help fund someone’s dream.