Next Engineers initiative announces inaugural cities

young engineering students building in classroom

The GE Foundation has partnered with FHI 360’s subsidiary FHI Partners to launch Next Engineers — a 10-year global college-readiness initiative designed to increase the diversity of young people in engineering — in four locations: Cincinnati, Ohio; Greenville, South Carolina; Staffordshire, UK; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Engineers are critical to building a world that works, but diverse populations are woefully underrepresented in the field,” said Linda Boff, Vice President of GE and President of the GE Foundation. “GE employs thousands of engineers worldwide, and we are committed to providing the resources that will inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators.”

The $100 million program plans to reach more than 85,000 students in 25 cities around the world over the next decade. In each location, community partners will work with engineers from local GE teams to implement the initiative, while FHI 360 will provide training and technical assistance both virtually and in person. FHI 360 has begun to onboard community partners — which include two universities, a career readiness organization and an engineering education organization — in the inaugural cities.

FHI 360 brings the significant domestic and international experience necessary to work in a wide variety of contexts, as well as expertise in education and youth development projects. Its global education programs operate in a range of international contexts, including fragile and post-conflict areas, providing localized solutions to support youth development and growth. For 30 years, it has led the Bridge to Employment program, which builds the college and career readiness skills of disadvantaged high school students and provides STEM education.

“At FHI 360, we believe in a world where young people of all backgrounds can access the education and opportunities they need to realize their dreams,” said Tessie San Martin, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360. “We know from research that early exposure and encouragement are key to attracting students to careers in engineering. We are thrilled to partner with GE Foundation to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Through Next Engineers, students ages 13 to 18 will gain hands-on experience with engineering design thinking and career opportunities. To guide students along the path to engineering careers, the initiative will engage youth through three core programs:

  • Discovery (ages 13 to 14) — Youth will learn what engineers do through exploratory activities and demonstrations delivered by GE volunteers.
  • Camp (ages 14 to 15) — Students will spend a week immersed in the engineering process as they work alongside engineering educators and business leaders to complete design challenges inspired by real-world scenarios.
  • Academy (ages 15 to 18) — Future engineers will spend more than 80 hours per year outside of school learning to think like engineers, preparing for higher education and developing critical skills, including design thinking, problem-solving and collaboration. Next Engineers will provide scholarships to students who complete the academy and are accepted into an engineering program at an institution of higher education.

To learn more about how Next Engineers is inspiring the next generation, visit

Photo credit: SDI Productions/Getty Images

FHI Partners commends GE Foundation on its commitment to increase diversity of young people in engineering

female students engineering robotic item

GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to create the Next Engineers program – a global college-readiness initiative to increase the diversity of young people in engineering. The program will focus on underrepresented students in grades eight to 12 (ages 13 to 18), provide hands-on exposure to engineering concepts and careers, and ultimately award scholarships to pursue engineering degrees. Over the next decade, the goal is to reach more than 85,000 students in approximately 25 cities globally, inspiring the next generation of engineers to build a world that works.

GE Foundation has partnered with FHI 360 through its subsidiary FHI Partners to develop the program framework. GE Foundation previously worked with FHI 360 on a program to remove education barriers for adolescent girls in Kenya and Nigeria.

“Engineers turn ideas into bridges, water pumps and climate-resilient health care facilities,” said Patrick Fine, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360. “Through our partnership with GE Foundation, we are committed to increasing the number of underrepresented students entering this essential field. We are excited about their future and the role they will play in solving real-world problems.”

“Day in and day out, engineers are changing the world and solving society’s most pressing challenges – from clean energy to quality health care and more sustainable flight,” said Linda Boff, President of GE Foundation. “Next Engineers is designed to inspire and guide underrepresented young people in engineering, each with their unique perspective and diversity of experiences, to become the next generation of global problem solvers.”

The GE Foundation’s Next Engineer’s program has three pillars: Engineering Expo, a career fair or assembly to increase awareness about engineering opportunities; Engineering Camp, a week-long immersive experience to develop engineering identities; and Engineering Academy, a three-year program to guide and encourage students to pursue engineering degrees.

Learn more at and read GE Foundation’s announcement here.

About GE Foundation

GE Foundation, an independent charitable organization funded by GE, is committed to transforming our communities and shaping the diverse workforce of tomorrow by leveraging the power of GE. GE Foundation is developing skills by bringing innovative learning in community health globally and STEM education, scaling what works, and building sustainable solutions. GE Foundation is inspiring others to act by connecting GE people with communities through matching gifts, leading on emerging issues such as the opiate crisis, and convening community leaders to maximize our impact. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter at @GE_Foundation.

About FHI 360 and FHI Partners

FHI 360 is an international nonprofit working to improve the health and well-being of people in the United States and around the world by partnering with governments, the private sector and civil society. Using a 360-degree approach to human development, its team of more than 4,000 professionals work in over 60 countries to help create jobs, educate children, provide lifesaving health care and bring about positive social change. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @fhi360.

FHI Partners is a wholly owned subsidiary of FHI 360 that uses an agile, client-centered approach to leverage the technical expertise and global platform of FHI 360 to create customized solutions for corporations and foundations seeking to accelerate their social impact. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @fhipartners.

Photo credit: fstop123/Getty Images

Turning protest into progress: How process and partnerships can tackle our toughest challenges (part two)

woman with mask and megaphone

To view part one of this two-part series, visit here

Written by
Richard Crespin, CEO, CollaborateUp
Ricardo Michel, Managing Director, FHI Partners

Adaptive leadership

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

While many problems have only one right answer — changing a flat tire or a light bulb, for instance — adaptive challenges have multiple causes with disagreements on what the causes are, multiple possible solutions that must be tested to see if they will work and multiple stakeholders to implement the identified solutions. To further complicate matters, most people fail to diagnose an adaptive problem and continue to insist on single causes and solutions, viewing other people as “wrong” when they propose alternatives.

partners graphic 1
Figure 1: Adaptive versus Technical Problems. Grashow A., Linksy M., Heifetz R. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. Synthesized by Ledoux L. 2009.

Adaptive leadership is the best way to manage multisector partnerships that tackle complex challenges. Alexander Grashow, Marty Linksy and Ronald Heifetz outline adaptive leadership as a series of interconnected activities, including diagnosing the system, mobilizing the system, envisioning yourself as a system and deploying yourself. Their concept puts challenges into two categories: technical and adaptive (see Figure 1). Technical challenges are easily defined, have clear solutions and can be addressed by existing structures of authority. In contrast, adaptive challenges mean that defining the problem will require learning, that reaching a solution will require more learning and that the locus of work will fall upon stakeholders across a variety of sectors. Most importantly, adaptive leaders know that a break from existing methods should not breed fear of failure. Looking at entrenched issues in a new light will be uncomfortable, and that discomfort should be embraced during the problem-solving process.

Stakeholder engagement

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

The greater the level of change you seek, the greater the level of stakeholder engagement required (see Figure 2). Some problems require only limited stakeholder input. Well-known or relatively basic problems may require simply explaining alternatives (telling and selling) or giving people a choice. Really tough problems require greater levels of engagement by seeking input from others with seemingly opposing viewpoints and giving them an active role in co-creating the potential solution.

Although well-intended, many philanthropic efforts have achieved less than optimal results due to the lack of adequate stakeholder engagement. Unfortunately, the vast majority of philanthropy has involved the wealthy deciding what poor people need and then imposing it upon them. Alternatively, we recommend involving the people you intend to help in co-creating the solution — obvious in theory but difficult in practice. Involving the target population must go beyond the traditional development process of ideas, design, implementation and measurement. Multistakeholder initiatives should take on an agile development approach, continuously involving the target population through constant evaluation and subsequent learning and redesigning.

partners graphic 2
Figure 2: Stakeholder Engagement Spectrum. Reprinted with permission from CollaborateUp.

Take the issue of digital redlining. Historical racial discrimination in mortgage lending practices created unequal distribution of wealth in communities across the United States. Meanwhile, telecommunications providers have recently been removing access to fiber-enhanced broadband improvements in neighborhoods with high poverty rates in cities like Cleveland and Dallas. Increasingly, access to broadband is proving to be an essential service, even more critical in this time of coronavirus. Analysis from the Pew Research Center shows that unequal digital access also unfolds along the urban/rural divide in the United States: Rural Americans are 12 percent less likely than Americans overall to have home broadband.

With recent research by the Brookings Institution arguing that broadband is so influential these days that it is now essential infrastructure — increasing access to job search, education, social support and telehealth services — one can see parallels between issues facing community members of varying backgrounds and the need for a collective vision that lifts all boats. Yet, when CollaborateUp recently proposed crafting a political compromise that might result in broadband funding for both urban and rural communities, we saw pushback by some who said this was the equivalent of saying “All Lives Matter” and that any solution must only focus on communities of color. We would offer that those making the argument for one side over the other should place the problem at the center of the discussion (lack of internet access in poor communities) and be open to compromise to achieve a solution.

Tough conversations

“Sometimes the most important conversations are the most difficult to engage in.” – Jeanne Phillips

In many respects, we have lost the art of conversation. In a world of tweets, posts and video snippets, we only have time or space for staking out positions, not for listening or engaging in dialogue. We need a return to the basics. While dialectical thinking and analysis have fallen out of favor, it is worth reviving and applying it anew. The basic dialectic is of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in which one set of ideas (the thesis) is confronted by a different or opposing set of ideas (the antithesis) in order to find a common ground and approach (the synthesis). The goal is to have a tough conversation — not to establish who is right or wrong, but to find a solution that the largest number of people can not only live with, but also thrive under.

Through experience, we have developed a formula for having these kinds of tough conversations, built on the Kubler-Ross Transition Curve. Originally created to help people navigate grief, the transition curve can help people come to terms with difficult issues by first recognizing that they are facing a difficult issue. This often involves processing through initial shock and denial, as when people came face-to-face with the social injustice that has been here all along. Many people respond first with shock or denial that these problems even exist, which can quickly turn to frustration, often manifesting as protest or counter-protest. When those actions fail, people may become apathetic or depressed.

As community leaders, we need to help people navigate these stages and then arrive at a point where they are prepared to experiment with new approaches and integrate competing ideas — reframing problems with and instead of or. This requires an extremely collaborative approach and a leadership style that employs active listening to identify concerns and analyze input. It also requires seeing the common humanity in the other and believing that we all share a desire to build a better future. Going down this untraveled road will always be uncomfortable, but it is a fundamental step in reaching a collective solution — especially on issues that require informal interpersonal trust or formal political compromise.

Case study: Digital redlining

Consider again the issue of digital redlining. If we look at that as a right versus right problem, we see that there are two dilemmas: good of the one versus good of the many (“I should get broadband because I paid a premium for my house and can afford it” versus “disadvantaged residents in the community should get broadband at a reduced rate”) and justice versus mercy (“I complied with laws when purchasing my broadband, so why should I pay more than required by law” versus “we should help those who have faced historical discrimination and change the laws to increase their ability to pay for and receive broadband”). When we apply adaptive leadership and problem-first thinking, we place the problem (lack of digital access) at the center and then engage in political and budgetary debate (using the dialectic) to achieve a synthesized legislative and budget compromise that would address the maximum number of digital redlined communities in a given jurisdiction. To effectively engage in that debate, however, we first need to do two things:

  1. Believe in the other. As many of the parties as possible — starting with you as the leader — need to come to a belief that the other parties want a better future. We specifically say a belief because if we require the other side to prove to us that they share a common desire for a better future, we will never get off the ground.
  2. Accept trade-offs and buyouts. Compromise is often necessary. For instance, legislative leaders have used earmarks for decades to garner the necessary votes to pass often-controversial legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act or the Clean Air Act. As an adaptive leader, one needs to balance trade-offs of less important objectives with achieving the optimal goal and learn to compromise without compromising the outcome.

Meeting the moment: What can be done?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

Complex issues — systemic racism, the urban/rural divide, unequal economic growth — have deep history and will take many years to resolve fully. Solving these complex problems requires new ways of thinking about ideas that have challenged us for generations. As history has taught us, many seminal efforts have started out in grassroots organizing and protesting. We must continue to face these tough issues in order to bring about change. But, true sustained progress will come about through employing a disciplined approach to achieving collective solutions to ensure true systemic change.

Forging political consensus will mean breaking down problems in a way that creates a vision for, not against. We must face each other, for the benefit of each other. In achieving consensus, we must convince everyone that interpersonal trust can be reached by seeing the very human causes of confrontation — that in discussion and consultation with people different from us, we can see each other’s common humanity and our shared desire to build a better future. Going down the untraveled road will always be uncomfortable, but it is a fundamental step in reaching lasting change.

Further information

This two-part series is part of an ongoing partnership between CollaborateUp and FHI Partners. For more on this and other topics, please contact us at and and follow us on Twitter at @CollaborateUP and @FHIPartners.


Turning protest into progress: How process and partnerships can tackle our toughest challenges (part one)

woman with mask and megaphone

To view part two of this two-part series, visit here

Written by
Richard Crespin, CEO, CollaborateUp
Ricardo Michel, Managing Director, FHI Partners

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” — George Bernard Shaw

Complex societal issues — such as systemic racism, the urban/rural divide and unequal economic growth — have long histories and will be around for years to come. Yet, that should not create apathy or hopelessness. Solving complex problems requires new ways of thinking about ideas that have challenged us for generations. It also involves hard work and time to slog through the three Cs: collaboration, consensus and consultation. Collaboration requires changing our mindset from opposition-based thinking to problem-first thinking. By restating “right versus right” issues to “and” instead of “or,” we can create good for the unit and good for the whole, good for the short term and good for the long term, truth and loyalty, and justice and mercy to seek a consensus that accomplishes both ends to the maximum extent possible.

Forging political consensus will mean breaking down problems in a way that creates a vision for, not against. It also requires discussion and consultation with people often very different from us, with ideas different from ours. If you are looking for easy, quick answers or if you want to be right and prove others wrong, then this two-part blueprint for progress may not be for you. If, however, you are looking to understand the nature of systemic challenges and find lasting solutions built on durable compromise, read further. As a society, we face problems without easy answers, and solutions will require compromise with people whose points of view we may find deeply distasteful. That is the tough part. But there is good news: There are proven ways of navigating these kinds of problems and crafting effective solutions.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked waves of international soul-searching on the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities by police, especially in the United States. It also kicked off mostly peaceful but, at times, violent and destructive protests resulting in further instances of violence and brutality at the hands of police officers and counter-protestors. This cycle of violence on both sides divided communities and resulted in an oversimplification of those who are deemed anti-racist and those who support law and order. This polarization was further exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which added to an already polarized and tense environment within the United States, where normally banal public health topics like mask-wearing became politicized by dividing communities into pro-science or pro-liberty camps.

In both cases, extremists paint themselves in the best possible light and the other side in the worst. In an era dominated by media attention, the loudest, wildest voices seem to get the most airtime. They focus on the extreme actions of opposing parties, ignoring the substantive issues. As practitioners of social innovation and community collaboration, we expressly and profoundly reject either end of these extremes. Racism in all its forms must be condemned, as must the willful ignorance of science, anarchy, violations of due process and extra-judicial killing. We must move past name-calling and seek political solutions, and we know that this requires compromise as well as collaboration.

We do not presume to know the ideal solution for these perplexing, stubborn issues in the headlines. The scholars, activists, leaders and diverse communities long in the fight know far more about these issues than we do. What we can offer is a process backed by a set of tools and methods for defining complex challenges, bringing parties together to collectively address tough issues that require collective action and creating and nurturing effective partnerships to drive lasting change.

In this two-part blueprint series, CollaborateUp and FHI Partners share core concepts, long used in our work, that leaders on the frontlines of these movements can adapt and use. FHI Partners’ agile, client-centered approach to social impact through collective action, in tandem with CollaborateUp’s lean startup approach to multisector collaboration, provides tools and methods you can adapt for yourself. Using our processes, community leaders can see entrenched issues from a new perspective, invite relevant stakeholders to have a seat at the table and provide a roadmap for forging innovative partnerships needed to create new collaborative capacity between sectors.

We will start with four core how-to concepts: developing problem-first thinking, applying adaptive leadership, engaging stakeholders and having tough conversations. We will follow these with building blocks to help you add more tools to your community leadership toolkit. This first piece focuses on the first core concept.

“Right versus right” issues and problem-first thinking

Most systemic problems are “right versus right” issues. As argued by Dr. Rushworth Kidder in his seminal book How Good People Make Tough Choices, most ethical dilemmas arise when two good things, or multiple bad things, collide and create a situation where, in certain aspects, each side is “right” to argue for the correctness of their perspective. These can be categorized into debates, as below:


These debates are easy to spot within the stubborn problems we see in the news. Disagreement on the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform often invokes the balance between addressing historic racial injustice and ensuring that law and order remain in place — a “justice versus mercy” debate. Discord over participation in international organizations or systems (such as the World Health Organization, United Nations or NATO) highlights the tension between participating in a global system and pursuing country-first strategies: the good of the many versus the good of the few. How do you resolve these tensions? Short answer: very carefully.

It takes:

  • Recognizing that you face an adaptive challenge
  • Changing your mindset from solving a “right versus wrong” problem to a “right versus right” challenge
  • Engaging stakeholders and helping them to understand and fall in love with the problem

Most people oversimplify the problem, then quickly jump to an oversimplified solution and keep advocating for it, ceasing to listen to the other side. “Defund the police” and “law and order” are classic examples. Both oversimplify the issues, use inflammatory language and shut down discussion with people who disagree, labeling them as racists, anarchists or other pejoratives. Assigning these kinds of labels is particularly damaging because it goes beyond criticizing someone’s behavior (which they can theoretically change) to impugning someone’s character (which they cannot).

Instead, a more disciplined approach would seek to:

  • Focus on the problem, placing it at the center of the discussion.
  • State the problem, not the solution, in multifactorial terms by using “and” instead of “or.”
  • Invite discussion using phrases like “Why … ?”, “How might we … ?”, or “What if we tried …”[1]

For instance, we could say, “How might we eliminate systemic racism and police brutality and keep all people within our communities safe within the rule of law?”

By pursuing a collective strategy that respects complexity and does not shy away from it, we can drive toward systemic, meaningful change. First, we may need to change our own normative thinking and how we view the problem to effectively engage with others in the system. Second, as leaders and proponents of systemic change, we must adopt more deliberate and disciplined approaches to ensure that passion-filled protests become sustained, institutionalized progress. In our next post, we will delve further into the concept of adaptive leadership, a mindset for effectively managing and tackling complex challenges. We will also explore how to engage stakeholders and have tough conversations to bring about successful resolution.

Further information and reading

This two-part blueprint series is part of an ongoing partnership between CollaborateUp and FHI Partners. For more on this and other topics, please contact us at and and follow us on Twitter at @CollaborateUp and @FHIPartners.

[1] This concept is drawn in part from A More Beautiful Question.

The LEGO Foundation’s grant to research playful parenting awarded to FHI Partners

woman holding baby

Learning through play is an engaging, motivating and transformative process for children. It helps them to develop creativity, imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. Parents are naturally and uniquely positioned to provide their children with playful learning experiences as a child’s first and lasting playmate. Although initial research shows that playful parenting works, more evidence is needed to understand the relationship between playfulness and parenting and to bring playful parenting programs successfully to scale.

A new partnership with the LEGO Foundation will address this need. The Playful Parenting Implementation Research grant was awarded by the LEGO Foundation in May 2020 to FHI Partners, a subsidiary of FHI 360 that harnesses the organization’s decades-long expertise in evidence-based project implementation research.

Under this five-year award, FHI 360’s experts will work under the LEGO Foundation’s Playful Parenting Initiative in five countries with four leading organizations to produce insights into the implementation and scaling of playful parenting interventions. By studying interventions by Save the Children, Child Fund, The Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA) at the Boston College School of Social Work, and UNICEF in Bhutan, Guatemala, Rwanda, Serbia and Zambia, the FHI 360 team has an opportunity to generate critical evidence with global application in the field of learning through play in early childhood development (ECD).

The research will help define what works for scaling effectively and the impact it has on caregivers, service providers and children. FHI 360’s experts will build the knowledge base by embedding a research and learning agenda into five playful parenting programs to weave together key learnings and illuminate pathways to scale.

Dr. Frances Aboud, whose decades of research shapes much of the global dialogue around parenting interventions, is the project’s Co-Principal Investigator. “Very little information is available about scaling parenting programs both horizontally to new regions and vertically throughout the system,” said Dr. Aboud. “Because each implementing team is operating in a different context but with the same effective scaling goal in mind, we have a unique opportunity to integrate across teams and compare their strategies and outcomes.”

As both a research and learning partner to the Playful Parenting Initiative, the FHI 360 team will harmonize data collection efforts across partners to generate evidence that is distilled into concrete learnings for the global playful parenting community.

Ricardo Michel, Managing Director of FHI Partners, said, “This is an exciting opportunity to build a strategic relationship with such a critical player in the ECD ecosystem. As our first engagement with the LEGO Foundation, this partnership is a testament to FHI Partners’ model and mission to leverage all of FHI 360’s technical expertise and programmatic experience to provide creative solutions for corporations and foundations.”

“The earliest moments of learning through play take place within families, and it is important that such experiences are meaningful and engaging for both the parents and children,” explained Sarah Bouchie, Head of Global Programmes with the LEGO Foundation. “Through this investment in research, we will gather insights, document innovations and share these approaches across governments, civil society partners and donors for replication and scaling up to reach more parents and children with learning through play.”

Learn more about our work in implementation science. For additional information about the Playful Parenting Implementation Research project, please contact FHI 360.

Photo credit: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

Qualcomm and FHI 360 bring innovative mobile app to Senegal’s fisheries industry

An innovative mobile app from the Wireless Solutions for Fisheries in Senegal (WISE) project is changing the economic outlook for thousands in Senegal’s fisheries industry. The app delivers real-time market information, SOS features and early warning alerts, and best practices information, among other features. A collaboration among FHI 360, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, the Senegalese Food Security Commission and Free Senegal, the project has already been implemented in Senegal’s four major fish landing and processing sites, and the government plans to scale to other locales and industries.

The project is nominated for the World Summit on the Information Society Prizes, supported by the United Nations, for the impact it has had on the economic outlook for thousands in Senegal’s fisheries industry.

Learn more about the WISE project. A version of the below feature story originally appeared on FHI 360. Reposted with permission.

Wireless technology boosts Senegal’s fishing industry

In Senegal, where 30 percent of rural households experience food insecurity, fish are a critical source of nutrition, and the fisheries industry provides jobs for more than 600,000 people. Artisanal fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish and sell to wholesale fish markets and small-scale fish processors, who are predominantly women. The industry’s overall economic growth, however, has been hampered by a lack of access to timely wholesale prices, scant knowledge of improved processing techniques, limited financial services, exposure to health risks and poor hygiene at processing sites.

But, an innovative mobile application developed by the Wireless Solutions for Fisheries in Senegal (WISE) project is changing the economic outlook for thousands. A collaboration among FHI 360, Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, the Senegalese Food Security Commission and Free Senegal, the WISE project enhances the competitive advantage of artisanal fishermen and fish processors.

The app provides:

  • Current market information
  • Ocean and weather forecasts
  • An SOS feature in case of emergency at sea
  • Best practices information via text, audio and video
  • Geofencing to alert fishermen to international borderlines and restricted or danger zones
  • GPS tools for safe navigation to and from fishing spots
  • A “fishnet locator” that enables fishermen to avoid nets cast in the ocean
  • An early warning message system to communicate information about hazards at sea

WISE also partners with local microlending institutions to make affordable loans available to fishermen and fish processors who want to grow their businesses.

The app is available in English, French and Swahili, and is compatible for 3G/4G-enabled Android smartphones with GPS capability. Based on user feedback, the WISE team recently added an artificial intelligence (AI) feature to make the app easier to use. Now, fishermen and fish processors can speak to the app via a “chatbot” and ask questions about the app’s features. The AI chatbot can even understand slang and local terms.

Since its launch in 2014, WISE has been deployed in Senegal’s four major fish landing and processing sites: Dakar, Joal, Mballing and Mbour. Services, however, are available free of charge to anyone with access to smartphones and the internet. The project has also supported more than 200 low-income economic interest groups, serving more than 5,200 fishermen and fish processors by providing smartphones and internet access to enable them use WISE services.

Overall, fish processing capacity has increased tenfold from about 100 kilograms per month to 1,000 kilograms per month. As a result, fishermen increased their income by as much as US$550, or 35 percent, annually.

Demand for the WISE platform is growing as word spreads. The community radio station in Joal has started to broadcast information, such as market prices, from WISE to the broader community. And Free Senegal, one of Senegal’s leading mobile phone providers, will soon launch a program providing smartphones at reduced rates to additional people in the industry.

The national government has taken notice of WISE’s impact. Senegal’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications, which guides digital interventions to spur economic growth, is making plans to expand WISE nationwide. The ministry will hold a conference in early 2020 to discuss scale-up pathways.