When Irene experienced Pro-Action Café as part of YALI program in the United States, she sensed immediately that it would be a useful, accessible and scalable tool for social entrepreneurs at home. Within days of returning to Harare, Zimbabwe, she launched a three-country Social Entrepreneur training program for young entrepreneurs in collaboration with the US State Department and local embassies. She also began a search for a trainer who could help African entrepreneurs use Art of Hosting practices in their work and this is how we began.
Our final training design was prototyped in Zimbabwe, tweaked slightly and perfected in Zambia and Namibia. The entrepreneurs learned Art of Hosting theory (Theory U and Systems of Influence), methodologies (Circle, World Café and Pro-Action Café) and practices (listening to understand and harvesting conversations).
At the end of each two-day session, the entrepreneurs expressed similar impact across all three countries:
- The powerful difference between listening to understand vs. to debate
- The necessity in innovation of harvesting emergent thinking and collective wisdom (vs. depending on what is already proven and known)
- Ideas for how they will use the methodologies immediately in their work (to engage stakeholder and cross discipline wisdom in ideation and design)
- The importance of building the local/regional entrepreneurship field (Systems of Influence) in order for their individual projects to advance
For example, the Namibian entrepreneurs formed a policy group following the training to pursue a new business filing that would allow social enterprises to compete in the business market without relying on traditional donor funding.
I look forward to following the more than sixty entrepreneurs who brought their questions and passion to the training and the impact that they will have on their communities and home countries.