Meet Eliza Hogan (Kenia)
You can’t do passion halfway.
I’ve always been one for firsts as an innovator working in entrepreneurship, cleantech and fintech industries in Africa. I was working in the non-profit sector in Canada and I really needed a new challenge and I jumped at the chance in 2009 to join as a founding team of one of the first off-grid solar companies in Africa. Little did I know at that time that the company, Barefoot Power, would be a catalyst for the renewable energy revolution in Africa. My time at the company was whirlwind of hyper-growth, and fast paced entrepreneurship. After a few years, I moved into fintech with mobile money payments to support payments in the off-grid sector and then moved into a consulting role across the off-grid sector in Africa. Across my career, I’ve worked with 300+ entrepreneurs to support them in starting and growing their businesses and I feel that I really understand the challenges faced by emerging leaders. I think a decade is a long time to be in any industry and I was looking for a way to really make an impact on the younger generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya.
I learned about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® through my friend, an impact investor that had experienced the methodology in London. After about 10 minutes of research, I knew it was right for me and the concept of play, inclusivity and a non-hierarchical approach really resonated with my whole being. I’ve always disliked the dreaded trust falls and team building that never made a difference but happened every year. I quickly signed up and got trained in January 2020 in Boston with Kristen Klassen and started an executive coaching program at Royal Roads University in Canada. In February, I returned to Kenya just a few weeks before the COVID lockdown in March.
After months in lockdown, I walked passed my LEGO®, feeling sad and trying to occupy my mind with consulting work, and finishing my executive coaching certification. My new company, Future at Play was on a slow burn. It took nearly a year for vaccines to start coming to Kenya, and only then did people start feeling comfortable enough to meet and I started doing small LSP workshops with my friends’ organizations to keep my skills up.
The first company that really believed in trying LSP was a small company started during Covid, AfyaRekod, which means health record in Swahili and Sheng. AfyaRekod is a health app company that supports Kenyans to have access to their medical records at whatever hospital or health provider they choose. Everyone in the company is under the age of 30. When the team first walked into the room, they thought they were doing a silly team building exercise but soon realized that they were digging deep into their collective consciousness and building out their user adoption pain points for the app. Most had never used LEGO® before as the bricks are extremely expensive in Nairobi. There was smiles all the way through the challenges and amazement at how quickly they could identify key pain-points and a variety. The comments by the end of the day “I have never seen our team be so honest, it’s amazing to see the tech team talk so much.” “We learned so much about our own app problems and now we can start mapping our way out.” “It took me awhile to realize we were actually in a meeting.” The team at AfyaRekod was so excited after the training. For me it was a big win because my intro into LSP was so delayed with Covid, my heart just soared and all the feelings of why I trained in LSP came back!
So, what is next? Well a lot! I have a training scheduled next week with a social enterprise called WAMA that supports persons with disabilities with meaningful employment in the hospitality industry. It’s a management teambuilding training with several of the team members having Albinism, a deaf manager and young man that has a mobility chair. I am currently raising grant funding to get several young Kenyan women trained that will support further initiatives with youth, refugees, and social enterprises. For me LSP is about building a new company in Africa where I can work on life changing initiatives for the most vulnerable while having a lot of fun doing it.