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Industry Project 2023/2024: Exploring Community-Driven Business Opportunities in Uganda

The IDBM Industry Project Course involves seven exciting months of multidisciplinary collaboration, exploration, and innovation, in addressing real-life challenges provided by industry partners. This year, we want to take you along with us on this journey by meeting our 13 different project teams at different points in their process – from research to prototyping and final concept development!

Our project student group from Aalto University's IDBM program headed to Uganda, Africa, to deepen our understanding of the local business environment alongside local students. This journey was not just an adventure but also an opportunity for profound learning, where we delved into the lives and challenges of local people. While Aalto University's International Design Business Management major provides a solid foundation in planning sustainable transitions, this project proved to be even more complex. Four master's level students – Yagi Adhikari (technical background), Rebekka Holma, Aada Ylenius (business background), and Agnes Weckström (design background) – took on the challenge and set out to explore many previously unknown areas.

Our project involved collaboration with Gulu University, Bishop Stuart University (Uganda), and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya). In partnership with FCA (Finn Church Aid), we delved into pressing issues, particularly in promoting sustainable livelihoods and economic development in refugee settlements and surrounding areas. We aimed to understand what it's like to do business in Uganda and the situation faced by refugees and host communities in promoting sustainable livelihoods and economic development. Fortunately, Aalto Global Impact and AgriSCALE enabled our visit, allowing us to gain a better, human-centered understanding of the challenges and achievements.

Upon arriving in Uganda on January 16th, we first stopped in Kampala, the capital city, before traveling 10 hours to Moyo, a small village near the South Sudan border. Despite the exhausting journey, we were filled with excitement for our upcoming field research. We were warmly welcomed by the sun and the collaborating universities, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Coming from the Finnish winter, the 30-degree temperature felt like a refreshing breeze.

Long days in the field at refugee camps and host communities, totaling three, provided us with a valuable opportunity to deepen our understanding of local trainee programs organized by FCA for refugees and host communities. The progression of our project was driven by a strong desire to better understand the daily lives and challenges faced by local people.

Each day in the field was full of new insights and learning experiences. Getting to know the local trainee programs and conducting interviews at refugee camps offered us valuable insights into the needs and opportunities of the local population. This deepened our understanding of how we can best support the development of sustainable livelihoods and economic growth in the area.

Through the interviews, we gained a comprehensive understanding of the situation at hand and were able to identify their needs, such as the lack of capital and challenges regarding market access. This information helped us shape concrete actions and solutions to best address the needs of the locals and promote sustainable development in the area.

The trip was very fast-paced, and we conducted research from start to finish with the Africans, yielding three valuable insights into how we could help the refugees and host communities. Back in Finland, we have time to analyze and develop our findings for the Impact Gala in May.

Highlights of the journey included forming new friendships, cultural experiences, and an unforgettable safari. The trip opened our eyes to see the world in a new light. The African rhythm of life and perception of time offered us new perspectives and lessons compared to the efficiency-driven Finnish lifestyle.

The journey to Africa was also a fun and rewarding time for us. Our sense of humor helped us cope with long car rides, uncertainty, and waiting, turning potentially unpleasant situations into enjoyable moments. The trip left us with many unforgettable memories, such as eating matoke (banana stew) at every meal and our unexpected fascination with chickens, culminating in a photo with a chicken statue.

team picture
Aalto student team picture.

Learn more about the team

Yagi (IDBM TECH) Linkedin

Rebekka (IDBM BIZ) Linkedin

Aada (IDBM BIZ) Linkedin

Agnes (IDBM ARTS) Linkedin

Authors: Yagi Adhikari, Rebekka Holma, Aada Ylenius and Agnes Weckström


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