Collaboration is Boundless

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Despite being the new guy at Dare To Innovate, and also blogging, it was not difficult to land on a subject for this week: collaboration. It can be as simply defined as “working with someone to produce something”. This broad encompassing “something” could refer to a new tech gadget, a house, a questionnaire, a new made up game for children to play. Individual groups may collaborate, and individuals may collaborate with groups. I will be giving a DTI-related example of the rather plain, and yet perhaps most profound collaboration: a simple working relationship between two people with a shared goal.

Since arriving in Guinea I have met a lot of new people, both inside the DTI network and outside of it, and I have also reconnected with people I worked with here in the Peace Corps. It’s incredible how quickly during our conversations we delve into the exploration of new ideas, the reworking of old ones, and possible realizations of said ideas. The desire to collaborate is ever present in this country of incredibly social people. It is inspiring, encouraging, and makes our work all the easier. We connect entrepreneurs with the knowledge they may need or find interesting, and we help them to join with each other and create a support network that fosters exchange and collective collaboration.

An entrepreneur I wish to introduce here is one of the more extraordinary individuals that I have had the pleasure of working with. Samba Sory Camara (pictured) has a dynamic place in the DTI Guinea world. He was one of our agricultural trainers in the AIP pilot; he also was one of our competition winners, and is about to start an agribusiness with two of our other “Agropreneurs” in Kindia.

Samba Sory is truly driven. He sees opportunities to expand his knowledge and takes them. He has an impressive CV of technical training and certificates, and has said that since growing up in Mamou in an agriculture community he has only wanted to start his own large scale farm, creating integrated farming and livestock systems. He is highly qualified, incredibly well informed, and yet has the unabashed and modest desire to learn from those he believes have valuable insights. He immediately sought me out to develop his agribusiness ideas, and I was so impressed by his knowledge that I recruited him for our team of trainers for the upcoming, expanded AIP.

Our collaboration has been incredibly beneficial, and perfectly exemplifies the kind of work and results DTI strives for. Samba Sory and I have helped each other to bring together the new AIP training team, create partnerships between DTI and local government, and write grant proposals for business and community development initiatives. He just recently won the Total Guinea Challenge, and will receive enough money to fully fund his own agribusiness. We also wrote a strong grant for a community called Kinyaya that he has worked with frequently providing technical trainings for years. He brings ideas to me, I give my input, we discuss, and then we create. I run plans and questions by him, he responds with thoughtful consideration, and we move forward.

It is exciting to see where we will go next. Samba Sory is eager to play a role in our participatory Training of Trainers and AIP Curriculum Development Workshop later this summer. We will both help support the network of farming cooperatives in Kinyaya where he and his associates will start their collective agribusiness. There are differences in our backgrounds that are key to the perspectives we hold. But, since we both are working towards supporting a movement of young entrepreneurs and farmers, we do not get lost while debating details, and nor is there competition for ownership or recognition in what we produce.

Pure and simple, it is a fruitful collaboration between individuals. I am not the foreign expert showing the locals how it is done; he is not the local guide who shields the foreigner from realities on the ground. We engage in open and honest discourse, weighing all information and options, and we frequently ask others to collaborate with us. This is key: collaboration does not have boundaries or limits. Everyone has something to contribute from his or her experience. Dare to Innovate helps people in its networks like Samba Sory follow their dreams and harness their potential; and people like Samba Sory help Dare To Innovate realize its vision and discover the wealth of knowledge and resources that exist around and within its networks.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” – George Bernard Shaw

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Zach Bachtell is Chief Programming Officer of the Dare to Innovate Board of Directors. He is currently working in Guinea, supporting our Agropreneurs with technical and business development. He is also currently a second year Master of Science candidate at American University, where he studies Development Management.