Enabling emerging local changemakers in some of the poorest places on the planet.

Enabling emerging local changemakers in some of the poorest places on the planet.

Papua New GuineaAustralia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Spark* enables emerging local changemakers in some of the poorest places on the planet. We do this in three ways. Firstly through the Spark* Summits - powerful training for emerging changemakers, the Spark* Network - connecting emerging changemakers across the globe, and the Spark* Fund - real money for changemakers to launch and build their local projects.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are too many high potential social entrepreneurs in some of the poorest places on the planet who are not achieving the impact they could have in their communities. In the townships, slums and villages where we work, we meet many passionate, driven and intelligent young leaders. In our experience, none of them have heard of Ashoka, Skoll or the term ‘social entrepreneurship’. While they have great ideas for change, the realities of living in a developing country and a lack of support means that too few of these individuals turn their ideas into action. The best solutions to poverty come when local leaders stand up with local solutions to local challenges. At present, too many local leaders are not reaching their potential.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Spark* enables incredible local changemakers in some of the poorest places on the planet. We do this in three very simple ways. We begin by identifying fifteen emerging leaders in a country facing extreme poverty and they attend the Changemaker SUMMIT, a four day live-in training camp designed to take them to a new level as emerging social entrepreneurs. Beyond the Summit the Changemakers stay connected to each other and Spark* facilitators through the Changemaker NETWORK in order to stay motivated, refine their projects and move towards launching or growing their venture. When a Changemaker has a strong and sustainable idea for change in their community, Spark* provides funding through the Changemaker FUND in order to help launch or grow their venture.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Let’s use John Taka as an example - a Spark* Changemaker from Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country that is off track on all eight of the UN Millennium Development Goals. John was IDENTIFIED by Spark* as an exciting emerging leader in 2011 (he was 23 at the time). He attended the four day Spark* SUMMIT and connected with other inspiring young leaders in PNG. After the summit, John went back to his village (where only 5% of the kids were attending school) and brought everyone together to talk. He LAUNCHED a community sweet potato farm, with all profits directed to paying for school fees for all of the children in the village. John stayed connected through the Spark* NETWORK and continued to refine his model. After a strong first harvest, Spark* provided USD$700 of funding to expand the farm, followed by a second grant of USD$4500 to expand the project significantly. Every child in the village will be in school by 2014. John is scaling his project and is now also a mentor and support facilitator at the Spark* Summits.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

At present, are not aware of any organisations that are enabling emerging social entrepreneurs in the developing world using the holistic approach of training, a network and access to funding. We see ourselves working at the earlier phases of a social entrepreneur's journey, with organisations like Unreasonable Institute, UnLtd, Echoing Green, Skoll and Ashoka providing significant support at later stages. There are currently 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty around the globe and we believe (as does Ashoka) that we need a generation of Changemakers bringing innovative and sustainable solutions to local challenges across the globe. If organisations begin to use a similar model to us to enable local Changemakers, we will be pleased!

Founding Story

I was a military officer and served in Iraq. I returned from war determined to compensate for the damage I'd done and help make the world better. In 2007 I moved to Tanzania where I ran a high-school for street kids in an urban slum. I believed that with a few degrees under my belt, I could help these kids turn their lives, and the slum around. After my first year in Africa and many mistakes, I found myself at a funeral for a ten year old boy who had died of AIDS (it was the slum's third funeral in three days). At this funeral I found myself out of ideas. Nothing seemed to be working. My best intentions were failing. Yet, as I stood there, I realised that the best ideas for change had to - and would always come from - local leaders. From the people at the funeral. From the kids at our school. I ran home, opened a notepad and wrote the first blueprint for what has now become Spark*, an organisation which could truly ENABLE emerging local leaders in the slums and villages of the world.
About You
Spark* International
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Spark* International

Organization Country


Country where this project is creating social impact
Age of Innovator


Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to talent.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In Papua New Guinea, 360 children are now in school, and 25 jobs have been created because of Spark* Changemakers. 13 new Changemakers graduated from the Spark* Summit last week, and we are excited to work with them through the Network and the Fund in the coming months and witness their impact. In South Africa, 240 at-risk youth are in support programs and 25 jobs have been created. In Kenya, our newest project site, our first Changemaker has provided 30 at-risk children with daily meals through a feeding program and created 2 jobs. We are nearing the end of our pilot, and are excited by the incredible potential of the 35 most active Changemakers we have across the globe.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Our projected growth model will have us enabling 500 Changemakers across 10 countries by the end of 2015. It is our goal that these Changemakers are directly impacting 50,000 people living in poverty through job creation, education opportunities or support programs.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Funding. We can gradually reduce the costs of running the SUMMIT and the NETWORK (through the use of alumni as volunteer facilitators, and an increase in online content). What we do need to build up however is the FUND. We need real money to help the Spark* Changemakers launch and expand their projects for change in their communities. We have a powerful technology based idea to achieve these. We are currently building a very sexy, elegant and simple website which will allow people across the world to find Spark* Changemakers that they want to support, in a country they are passionate about, and connect and support directly through our site.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Build up the BETA platform for the Spark* Something.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Finish our round of engaging 300 people to go through market research.

Task 2

Build up wire frames for the new online platform and take it through user experience testing.

Task 3

Launch the BETA site, begin to market it and begin tweaking based on feedback and donor activity.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Build up the BETA platform for the Spark* Something.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Turn our BETA site into a Gold Site with a strong user experience optimised platform.

Task 2

Market like crazy, and inspire loads of people that this is a great way to enable great local change in very poor communities.

Task 3

Begin to work on ways that we can maximise the number of Spark* Changemakers that we work with and have on the site.

Tell us about your partnerships

We are currently in discussion with World Vision regarding a global collaboration which would see the Spark* Changemaker Program scale to 10 new countries. Later in 2012 some of our team will work out of San Francisco in order to continue to foster partnerships with other organizations who enable social entrepreneurs (Ashoka, Echoing Green, Unreasonable Institute etc).

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Our team are talented leadership and social entrepreneurship facilitators and where appropriate we can provide support to other organisations. One facet that we are really working to secure is technical support in the form of programmers, coders and software developers in order to achieve our vision of the Spark* online platform to connect people across the globe to the Spark* Changemakers.