Spring: Anticipation for a new Bridgebuilding Fellow for our Social Enterprise Internship
Spring is a time for growth and for new life. We at TingaTinga see this not only in the change of seasons, but also in our organization. As we head into spring, we are gearing up for a time of growth for our organization itself and for the entrepreneurs we are supporting, with the idea that we can give people a hope at a new life. One of the main ways we do this is through sending people into the field through our BridgeBuilders fellowship program.
Last year, we sent Alex Moore to Uganda as the first ever BridgeBuilder fellow. We look forward to sending a few more fellows to follow in Alex’s footsteps this summer, but in the meantime, we wanted to catch up to Alex and give him a chance to reflect on this past summer’s social enterprise internship as a way of preparing for this new summer of opportunity. What follows is a brief Q & A that captures Alex’s thoughts on social entrepreneurship and how his time as a BridgeBuilder fellow enabled him to contribute to the economic development of northern Uganda.
What was your biggest take-away from our social enterprise internship?
Honestly, my biggest take-away was just learning both the ails and triumphs of good social entrepreneurship. Before going over [to Uganda] I approached social entrepreneurship with what I feel is the standard American mindset—giving stuff away to people in need. Being in Uganda and working for TingaTinga completely reworked my mindset on how to help people in an efficient, sustainable, and ultimately, more helpful way.
What were the biggest challenges you faced before you left the US and once you arrived in Uganda?
I think my biggest challenge was staying flexible while working through the ambiguity of the whole system. This kind of venture was such a new thing for me and for TingaTinga, it took some patience for us to work through the kinks. At the same time, though, it was an exciting time. I feel like this summer paved the groundwork for a lot more growth, and helped to create a clearly defined vision for what a fellow does by laying out an itinerary and accomplishing it.
Most of those struggles were part of my time back in the states, but once I arrived in Uganda, things fell right into place. I felt confident when I got over there. Once I met with Benson, went to city and got feet wet, I think our common passion for social entrepreneurship guided the entire process.
I also faced some challenges adjusting to the African lifestyle. Being flexible about some cultural things—food, people’s non-American standards for timeliness—all that was a challenge, but I eventually learned how to embrace it and thrive.
How did this kind of non-traditional internship set you up for your future career? Do you ever regret doing this kind of non-traditional internship?
The BridgeBuilder fellowship gave me a lot of experience with communicating ideas and a vision. Once I got to Uganda, I had to become a human marketer for the TingaTinga vision. Learning how to communicate that verbally, and learning how to translate that across cultures was a huge learning experience for me. I also feel like I have gained a lot in terms of learning how to develop visual content on the website and Facebook page.
My experience with TingaTinga through this social enterprise internship has been one of the best professional experiences of my entire life. Looking back, I would much rather spend one and a half months in Uganda working with local entrepreneurs than spend that time in the same office space every day. I think my experience was not only more valuable to me, but also to my future employers.
What advice do you have to other people interested in working for an organization like TingaTinga?
Don’t fret over the details as much as I did—getting the right gear, worrying about where you will stay, what you are going to eat, how you will know what to do. Don’t get bogged down over details, but allow the ambiguity to be a blessing. Make sure you are comfortable with living on the cheap—it is a totally different world, there are no 4 star hotels, but that is why you are there, and that is a good thing.
We thank Alex for all the work he has done for TingaTinga, and for the foundation he laid for the fellows that will be following in his footsteps. Stay tuned for updates regarding this year’s fellows and the work they will be doing this summer as TingaTinga Capital’s BridgeBuilders.