Co-Create My City – Co-Create Dakar

In 2021, an initiative by de Rijksdienst voor Ondernemers Netherlands brought Dutch and Senegalese students, all with different backgrounds, together in an innovation Bootcamp to co-develop circular and innovative solutions for concrete circular challenges of the city of Dakar. The project focused on waste management, compost usage, and the development of biogases from animal and water waste.

A collaboration between Dutch and Senegalese students

The idea behind Co-Create Dakar was to provide a practical and innovative Bootcamp for focusing on entrepreneurial skills and foster knowledge exchange on the circular economy. Concretely, students were asked to provide innovative solutions to specific waste management challenges that the city of Dakar has been facing for many years. 

The Bootcamp was an amazing opportunity for Dutch and Senegalese students and universities to partner up and allowed students to work on international challenges related to sustainability issues and fetching for business opportunities related to waste management issues.

There was obviously a focus on entrepreneurial strategies as the students were asked to find solution-based services and products to handle waste management in a profitable and circular manner, but the Bootcamp was also a great learning opportunity for future public and private institution employees as well as those seeking an academic career.

A story of international collaboration

Multiple partners worked on the projects including PLNT, which focuses on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship projects, the African Studies Center of Leiden, the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, and Circular Stories. Together we supported the students’ efforts to find specific problems to tackle, find innovative and profitable ways to address them, and communicate effectively about their solutions, potentially turning them into circular economy successes.

Multiple partners worked on the projects including PLNT, which focuses on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship projects, the African Studies Center of Leiden, the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, and Circular Stories. Together we supported the students’ efforts to find specific problems to tackle, find innovative and profitable ways to address them, and communicate effectively about their solutions, potentially turning them into circular economy successes.

A story of cross-cultural collaboration, entrepreneurship and circular innovation

Understanding Circularity

While some of the students already had an understanding of sustainable business models through their studies, multiple factors still needed to be addressed regarding the circular economy. Workshops helped these future entrepreneurs understand the different definitions of the circular economy around the globe, get to know the already existing circular projects related to their field and realize the importance of partnerships especially when it comes to cross-border circular projects. Too often, stakeholders involved in sustainable projects have a tendency to see environmental or social problems from a specific point of view due in part to their personal experience and objectives. 

Cross Border Cooperation

Especially since this was a cross-border project, it was essential for students to understand that adapting European strategies for waste management or biogas treatment to the Senegalese context would not work, local problems would have to be addressed with local solutions. Understanding the different problems from a grounded and more personal context also helped the students decide by which challenges they felt most motivated. More than business value creation, the project’s goal was to showcase the intrinsic motivation that comes with circular entrepreneurship. The whole socio-economic context behind the challenges thus needed to be presented.

Don’t just sound like you are interested in the project, be truly passionate about the solutions you’re bringing to the problem owners!

Collaboration and teamwork skills

Both from within the project group and with external stakeholders, we would push the participants to look at challenges from different perspectives. 

Especially since the whole project allowed Dutch and Senegalese to work together on a local problem with international outcomes, it was essential for them to understand the workings of circular economy initiatives both from a western and a central/west-African perspective. 

Understanding problem owners

During a pre-program phase, students were given the opportunity to connect with the local stakeholders, get a full grasp of the issues that needed to be tackled, and from which angle they needed to tackle them.

In this way, the pre-program did not solely focus on economic considerations but also presented a broader societal picture encompassing inequality of resource access as well as cultural and religious factors.

Design thinking in 5 steps

Once they selected the problem they wanted to work on, the students could start the Bootcamp which was structured in 5 days. Each day, they focused on a different chronological step of a business plan. The first step was all about understanding the overall context surrounding the problem at hand, from the different stakeholders involved to any potential socio-cultural and political obstacles to current solutions. The second step utilized the insights of the first day to determine who the problem was impacting to then come up with solutions that would benefit all stakeholders on the third step.  Then came the economic value creation of the business, looking at feasibility both from the problem owners and the entrepreneurs’ sides. Finally, the different teams had to plan their idea pitch, showing both their creativity and passion for their project and shape the tone of their presentation to their audience’s expectations. Circular Stories insights were most useful on this last step.

Kickstarting a generation of international circular heroes

While the different teams were competing for the best innovative solutions, the broader goal was way beyond supporting a single project to completion. The students participating in the Bootcamp had the opportunity to learn about international collaboration, project planning, teamwork, and business storytelling. Most importantly, they were able to get practical experience in a context greatly different from linear economy thinking.

The CoCreate Dakar project helped students realize the potential societal and economic value of circular business models. From problem owners like the Harbor of Dakar or massive industry players like Eiffage, circular economics thinking is becoming essential, now the student who took part in the projects know it.

Meet the Circular Stories Team!

Marielle, Ellekari, and the Circular Stories team have set themselves the mission to help tell the story of your sustainable business and advise your company to become among the leaders of the circular economy!

Interested in learning more about our work and what we can do for your brand? Get in touch at hello@circularstories.org!

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