Innovator for Systemic Change at the Catalyst Lab

I am proud to be an innovator at the Catalyst Lab of “collaboratio helvetica” which is a future lab with co-creators of various backgrounds, united by a common mission: to facilitate systemic change in Switzerland towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

My personal mission is to give disadvantaged youths in Switzerland, who are stuck in life, the opportunity to have a bright future. Applying the tools and skills which I acquired on my innovation journey, will hopefully lead me to a solution that serves as many youths as possible.

Check my Catalyst profile here: https://www.collaboratiohelvetica.ch/catalyst-cohort-2019#Gianmarco_Marinello

How I transformed my Passion into a Purpose

In this video, I am sharing how I transformed my passion of exploring and understanding new environments into my purpose of serving others. It is the story behind Nai Nami, the social enterprise I founded in Nairobi, which is the pure expression of who I really am.

Innovation Coach at the Startup Weekend (EdTech East Africa)

In Nairobi, I attended the Startup Weekend Education event organised by EdTech East Africa in the role of a Design Thinking Innovation Coach. Nova Pioneer – a highly innovative school – sent over 32 young students with whom we worked for 3 days in different teams to solve educational challenges from the kids’ perspective. My team won the final pitch and our solution ranked #1: “Sphinx”, a Math gaming app which allows students to compete real-time with each other on math excerices in a fun way. The goal was to help students take the boredom out of Math. I am still proud of these young bright sparks!

Read the full article here: http://edtecheastafrica.com/2017/05/14/startup-weekend-education-may-5-7th-2017/

Pitch-Framework: I developed my own, hope it will help you too. (Download)

Nowadays, the term pitching can be found everywhere and there are many different frameworks that claim being the “best practice”. Pitching is dealt like either you master it or you don’t. This perception has always put a lot of pressure on me. But today, I believe there is nothing such as “the best” framework. It doesn’t matter how you pitch as long as you achieve the desired outcome. I made the experience that pitching works best, if the framework fits your person and your content. Because I couldn’t find such a framework among the existing ones, I started creating my own by drawing from others. Now, I want to share it with you for two reasons: I want to motivate you to come up with your own structure, and, I want to inspire you with the content from mine.

Before we jump into it, I have to explain first how I understand the term pitching: Convincing your audience in 1-2 minutes of your solution (idea, service, project, skill, product etc.) for a specific problem (job vacancy, customer need, social issue etc.) with the aim to make them take action (buy, donate, promote, employ etc.).

You believe in your solution, you know it’s outstanding and you know that you are the right person to solve the problem. This has to be given, otherwise you wouldn’t pitch, right? The question is, how can you make your audience believe in your solution the same way as you do.

Rule 1: Make them feel the same way about your solution as you do! Make them step into your shoes, give them access to your world and allow them to perceive the problem and the solution the same way as you do. This can be achieved by disclosing yourself: make the audience understand your underlying motivation, beliefs and values related to the problem that you are solving. They have to understand why it’s exactly you who created exactly this type of solution.

Rule 2: Put everything in one story which you share in an honest, authentic manner with very simple, easy understandable language.

Below you can find an example of how Mrembe – our office manager and one of our Nai Nami guides – pitches the tours to an audience by using my pitch framework. Download the framework and try to match the different parts of his pitch with the sections in the framework. Also, pay attention on how his pitch fulfils both rules mentioned above.

Mrembe’s Pitch

“I am Mrembe. I was born in the Mathare slum and raised by a single mother until I reached seven years. This was my age when she chased me away from home and when I had to start taking care of myself. I became one of the 60,000 street children of Nairobi.

Life on the street was hard. I still remember the cold nights with an empty stomach. To survive, I started begging, then stealing until I turned into a leader of a gang with 17 members doing mass robberies on Tom Mboya Street. At this point, I realised that if I want to have a future, I need to change my life. As you can imagine, the world doesn’t have anything to offer for a person like me. The same counts for the other 300,000 street kids in Kenya who also have a long criminal record and lack of formal education.

That’s why I came together with my friends to create our own job. We built on the only thing we had acquired on the streets: Street Skills and a Life Story. Nobody knows the dynamics of the streets better than we do, nobody has more insights and intimate stories to share about Nairobi than us. Street Skills and Life Stories are our past, and today we turn them into our future.

We offer to visitors a personal, one-to-one storytelling walking tour in downtown which is guided by people like me. Book a tour with us and we give you the unique opportunity to experience Nairobi through our eyes, through the eyes of a street child.”

Social Innovation Framework (Download)

Social Innovation is not complicated as long as you follow some specific steps and rules which I summarized in the following document while I was building up Nai Nami:

1. Problem Statement: How can I…

The solution for the problem you want to solve lies in the problem statement itself. Coming up with the right problem statement – which is derived from the root cause of the problem – is the key to success! The problem statement should be as specific as possible and at the same time broad enough not to restrict the idea generation. It changes over time based on the insights gathered during the research phase and it therfore follows an itineration process. Never jump to the idea generation phase before you haven’t understood the root cause of the problem and transformed it into a specific problem statement!

Once you have a proper problem statement, go into the field and start with your research. The following two techniques helped me the most while I was trying to find the root cause of the problem:

The 5 Why’s: Asking 5 five times in a row the question “Why?” (after each answer) often leads to the root cause of an observable problem.

Asking the right questions: In order to get good answers you have to ask good questions. Develop smart questions that nobody has asked before. For example: “Who is your role model and how would this person solve the problem”

2. Idea Generation

Once you have your problem statement as well as the insights from your research, the fun part starts. One of the most powerful tools to develop innovative ideas is the reframing of the problem statement. This can trigger new perspectives in your mind:

“How can we train youth on skills to enable them to find a job?”
– Reframe: Youth have skills
“How can we use youth’s skills to enable them to find a job?

Keep in mind: Findings and insights are not the same! Findings are facts and figures which can be structured and categorised. Insights are a new understanding of the “Why” and often come along with the feeling of “surprise”.

3. Prototyping

Prototyping is a mindset and it needs discipline. Take every opportunity to prototype your idea without wasting time and money. Just do it in the most fastest and most frugal way. Based on the outcome and feedback you can immediately adapt your idea and repeat testing it.