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Stefania Druga

Stefania Druga equips people to solve their own problems through making and play

Growing up as a girl in Transylvania, Stefania was conditioned – like most people – into the traditional play roles of boys and girls, with the proscribed toys for each. To counter this she created HacKIDemia – to encourage girls and boys to play together, make things together and – as she discovered they wanted to do – get involved in meaningful projects in local communities.

Affirmers – the project that emerged – wasn’t about making as a hobby, but as the heart of the communities in Africa they worked with. It was a necessity. They selected 10 teams around Africa to propose projects to aid the local community. Mentors from one project would move on to the next to share learning. Our desire to “go and help” isn’t always helping, because we lack the context of people living in similar conditions, and thus struggle to effect meaningful change. Local context and skills matter.

In some places they had challenges accessing electricity, or parts. All the projects – and their challenges – are documented on the website, and a book is coming.

Local makers, local lessons

What did Stefania learn form this? She had to learn to let go and trust the process. The people were more important than the outcomes, but you need systems. Don’t let challenges compromise your values. Humour is incredibly valuable when things get hard. Remember that there are “15 stones” – and you can never see all of them. And we need to be willing to learn from each other.

This is not as sexy as synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, but this is where real change is taking place. People have to find the courage to stand up to parents and governments to make their ideas happen and solve problems.

Western economies are complex. Nigeria’s economy is very simple – but complexity leads to GDP growth. Change comes from recognising local innovation and diversity – and promoting it.

In the face of all the challenges we face as people and a planet – we need to play together. We cannot afford to be arrogant, and impose our values on others. Instead, we need to invite people to a conversation about how to deal with these problems.