A meet­ing of great minds for so­cial in­no­va­tive en­ter­prises

CityPress - - News - MUHAM­MAD HUS­SAIN [email protected]­press.co.za

There was a mo­ment at the be­gin­ning of the Google Im­pact Chal­lenge on Wed­nes­day night when event MC Katlego Maboe was plan­ning a Twit­ter takeover. Maboe took out his smart­phone and asked the crowd to do the same and com­pose a tweet which read: #GICAfrica #GICSouthAfrica *grin­ning face emoji*.

He asked the crowd if they were ready to hit send, but some blank faces stared back at him be­cause one vi­tal in­gre­di­ent was miss­ing from this plan... “What’s the Wi-Fi [pass­word],” a woman from the crowd asked.

With the Wi-Fi all sorted and the stun­ning view of the Jo­han­nes­burg sky­line flank­ing us at The Bird­house’s rooftop venue in Mil­park, our at­ten­tion turned to a scene that felt like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, but in re­verse. In­stead of the judges be­ing the stars, which they were, the main at­trac­tion of the night was the 12 non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and so­cial in­no­va­tive en­ter­prises that were pre­vi­ously granted $125 000 (R1.71 mil­lion) by Google and were pitch­ing for an ex­tra $125 000.

Baset­sana Ku­malo, Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee, Maps Maponyane, Nomzamo Mbatha, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Sim­phiwe Dana were among the judg­ing panel for the even­ing.

When there’s more than R1 mil­lion to help you build your idea you come out fir­ing, and boy did they fire. The three-minute pitches in­cluded ev­ery­thing from teach­ing cod­ing to youth pris­on­ers, to a re­wards pro­gramme for un­em­ployed youth to do good; mak­ing our po­lice sta­tions more trans­par­ent; an on­line ca­reer ad­vice ser­vice to high school pupils; and Me­meza – a com­mu­nity safety ini­tia­tive for vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties which pro­vides an af­ford­able alarm sys­tem that no­ti­fies as many peo­ple around you as pos­si­ble and has a di­rect link to the po­lice and com­mu­nity pa­trols.

As the judges de­lib­er­ated – from what we were told, it was quite an­i­mated – we got our­selves munch­ing on the food. From north Africa came chicken tagine as well as lamb, ar­ti­choke and cap­sicum tagine; the east Africa ta­ble fea­tured but­ter­flied prawns and yel­low fish curry; and South Africa had ox­tail pot pie, boere­wors skew­ers and bunny chow. It all looked de­li­cious, es­pe­cially the ha­laal meal served in wrap­ping pa­per.

The judges re­turned and chose four in­no­vaters to re­ceive an ad­di­tional grant – cor­rup­tion watch Bua Mzansi, ca­reer guid­ance tech­nol­ogy Grades­match, Me­meza Shout Crime Pre­ven­tion and youth pos­i­tive be­hav­iour track­ing plat­form Zlto.

It was a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing that the danc­ing which was promised was skipped by all and sundry, but then again who has time to dance when your pas­sion project to up­lift your com­mu­nity just got a cool mil­lion or so and you’re high on that en­dor­phin hit?

IN­NO­VA­TORS Ac­tress Nomzamo Mbatha hands over an award to Natalie Miller, chief ex­ec­u­tive of GreenFingers mo­bile, a plat­form that man­ages and fi­nances small­holder farm­ers in value chains

THE DIF­FER­ENCE The 12 start-ups and judges af­ter the Google Im­pact Chal­lenge awards cer­e­mony held at The Bird­house

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