It always feels refreshing coming into contact with people and events that feel novel in a meaningful way and spark equally important conversation with like minds. The Global Lab GH’s quarterly Science Cafe does exactly that. The event, pioneered by science buff Gameli Adzaho, seeks to bring the science and innovation community together with the “uninitiated” public and keep attendees abreast of concepts and innovations within the space.
The second edition held last weekend was a talk on employing the concept of co-strategy in water sanitation for development. The talk, which shed light on the work of Jacob Amengor, chief coordinator for i-WASH Africa and 2018 winner of the IWA Young Water Professional Award, was a cool way to spend a Saturday at the new hangout of the Very Temporary collective in Dzorwulu (more on that later). The Temporary Garden (T-Garden for brevity) offered the perfect venue for this event with an easygoing ambience that made for an ultra-relaxing evening. The overhead lights and wooden bar provided a nice backdrop for the gathering of young minds eager to share and contribute to the topic that is one of the SDGs for the millennium.
The actual event started with a round of intros where the room was circled having each attendee introducing themselves briefly with one fun fact. The African Science Academy was represented quite a bit as the energy of their vibrant students was felt across the room. The big man himself Gameli, came up next and briefly introduced his work with Global Lab and the aforementioned objective of the Science Café initiative.
The speaker for the evening took over, familiarizing the audience with his background in science, Chemistry in particular which he avoided like the plague only to discover it as a core in his chosen uni course as fate would have it. That made for a chuckle as he segued into his work with the WASH initiative.
As it stands now, a reported 2.4 billion people lack access to clean water and this has necessitated various approaches to solve the issue of hygiene, sanitation and accessibility to the resource. With water now being recognized as the right that it is, different methods are being considered in solving this global issue. Jacob introduced the concept of co-strategy as a collaborative tool for developing solutions in his line of work. Between 1) identifying a specific problem to be solved in the amorphous goal set and 2) getting stakeholders involved, a question was thrown to the audience on the missing link between the two. Possible answers from attendees included assessment of the problem’s worthiness, doing research and testing and getting collaborators. Collaboration turned out to be the gap that needed to be filled in the puzzle, as it offered different perspectives on strategy, consequence and all other undertakings. This ensured that all bases were covered by engaging the community and users of the initiative in order to clock optimum impact.
Next, a real-life challenge was presented on the floor: pipelines that passed through one community to the other were being cut before reaching their destination by inhabitants of the former community. The proposed solution in this situation was to create overhead pipes that were to carry the water above community number one to the latter. Here came the debate from various quarters. To some, the problem of delivery to Community Two may have been solved, but the previous settlement still lacked access to water (which became an economics vs right issue). Others raised concerns about the energy cost required to pump the water to a delivery system that was at a considerable height above ground, highlighting a conservation issue. In all, it become clear that there is a cost to certain approaches that are more likely to be uncovered when initiatives involve heavy collaboration with informed minds and experienced individuals. To drive this point, another example was given by an audience member about how a waste disposal solution of burning plastics to promote sanitation also had the disadvantage of contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. Engagement was shown to help present a fuller picture for a more balanced way of problem-solving.
A key takeaway was the importance of creating dialogue when planning initiatives and respecting suggestions during implementation. Jacob illustrated this point with a story on how a certain community refused to use lavatories that were built on their ancestral burial grounds as this was viewed as a desecration. A different and more considerate location for the project would have been more welcome by the community while solving the issue of sanitation and hygiene, the goal of the construction in the first place. Clearly a high price is paid when the cultural sensitivities of a people are not respected even if the bottom line looks the same from the perspective of an outsider. Other pointers like gender inclusion, testing and reviewing solutions from time to time as people and cultures are dynamic were also mentioned.
In conclusion, people engagement and proper collaboration were determined to be very crucial at all levels of development strategy and overlooking this tends to produce very costly outcomes. The CEO of COLIBA, a recycling startup shared his Ivory Coast experience of launching a recycling tech innovation in an environment that did not have an established waste categorization system. The company therefore had to suspend their innovation, build and partner for an effective collection system before proceeding with their original technology.
Item 13 was massively assured per the Ghanaian custom, as drinks were shared alongside socializing among patrons.
The first naturally goes out to Gameli Adzaho and the team at Global Lab GH for organizing this event that was a fertile ground for learning, sharing and networking. The Science Café comprises STEM professionals who mobilize for social impact. It is an initiative that looks to bridge the gap between science and the public and brings events in the STEM and innovation fields into the public consciousness.
Another one goes out to Rya and the team at Very Temporary, an arts and progressive collective promoting disruptive change in the local progressive space. Their lounge which hosted the meet-up, is an extension of this initiative where members gather and share ideas.
Global Lab can be found on Facebook at: Global Lab Network.