Pioneering technology skills development in Uganda

A few days ago,  I was part of another relaunch to give a new lease of life to a technology skills development program at Clarke International University, Kampala, Uganda.  I have been lecturing on the “Voice of the Customer” on this program for the last five or so years, originally sponsored out of the UK  by Youth with a Mission.  It has now received a 4 year grant from NORAD, the Norwegian Government Aid organisation, in partnership with 2 Norwegian IT companies based in Kampala, Laboremus and Fontes.

It has been re-branded “Refactory”,  which encapsulates the idea of re-thinking tertiary education to have the maximum impact in preparing Uganda’s fast growing young population to become more competitive in the global market.  The guest of honour at the launch was Uganda’s Honourable Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze, who endorsed the value of this approach to the Ugandan economy.  

This is the next milestone in a journey I started two years ago in leading the set up of the School of Business & Applied Technology at the university, of which this Refactory program is now a part.  Our vision for a different approach to tertiary education in Uganda was summarised in two words: “skills” and “character”.   On the Refactory program we are now developing a continuous assessment tool based on this vision.

There is an ironic link between this kind of pioneering work, and the character that we are seeking to help develop as part of this program. This was covered in my book.

Extract from “Risky Strategy” Chapter 10: Strategic Pioneering

I believe if we want to understand what’s behind effective innovation and positive change, we need to look at character.  Leadership is directional and involves movement; it’s not static. It’s taking people from one place to another place, to a new outcome, to a new way of seeing the world and how it works. This is innovative change, and doing this well is what marks out effective innovators from those who are less successful. And character is at the heart of this process.  Jim Collins outlined the attributes of the leaders in most successful businesses that he researched in Good to Great.  He talked of character attributes such as fortitude, humility and discipline. In Chapter 3, I described a character journey that culminated in the Blonay Profiler: Bold Creative, Empathic and Self-Disciplined. Leaders of innovation change need a blend of all three, which is hard to achieve because of the tensions between the dimensions.  Most of all, I believe the Bold Creative dimension is the one that is crucial.

I am calling those who have an extra dollop of the Bold Creative dimension ‘strategic pioneers’. They are proactive more than they are responsive, and they are intuitive more than they are analytical. They celebrate difference and diversity more than form and order, and are more likely to be found on their own than in a pack.  They are natural risk takers.

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