Investigating opportunities for strengthening localized social entrepreneurship ecosystems

This project will support in advancing the collaboration and connection between ASME's Engineering Sustainable Development programs. It will involve research and planning contributing to the development of a cohesive technical knowledge infrastructure centered on strengthening localized social entrepreneurship ecosystems.

Project Overview

Project Description

This project will support in advancing the collaboration and connection between ASME‘s programs – ISHOW, Idea Lab and Engineering for Change (E4C). The next stage of development for these three programs is to bring them out of their respective silos and into a cohesive technical knowledge infrastructure centered on strengthening localized social entrepreneurship ecosystems. The goal is to connect the key aspects of these programs (e.g., access to technical experts, technical talent, and capacity-building opportunities in sustainable design practices) with entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) and social ventures in their respective regions to address needs and increase the likelihood of venture successes.

Primary responsibilities include:

  • Conducting research on the technical challenges and opportunities faced by social innovators in East Africa in order to develop an understanding of the needs and motivations for ecosystem stakeholders within that region. Also, key constraints which drive the design and modification of pilot programs will be identified.
  • Creating information flows between ASME, entrepreneurs, ESOs and other stakeholders so that entrepreneurs can identify their own needs, and experts can confirm or clarify core underlying needs.
  • Developing plans for piloting an ecosystem approach to reinforce the technical knowledge infrastructure in the local region (East Africa), which will then inform rollout in other regions.
  • Existing program/ partnership models will be used in the pilot phase while incorporating initial insights, in order to reduce initial design time and allow faster feedback cycles. Later iterations will be codesigned by involved stakeholders.


  • ISHOW, started in 2015, is a hardware-based accelerator with annual regional events in India, Kenya, and the U.S., providing a platform to prepare new social enterprises in the prototyping stages of product development for market.
  • Idea Lab was created following the success of ISHOW, as an incubator for earlier-stage social entrepreneurs who do not yet have their first-iteration prototype.
  • E4C, founded in 2009, is a digital community made up of dynamic engineers, inventors, and innovators from across the globe who share a commitment to improving quality of life for people and the planet. In 2014, E4C launched the E4C Fellowship, a workforce development program at the intersection of technology and social impact.


ASME aims to address this need for technical knowledge infrastructure through an “ecosystem approach.” ASME defines an ecosystem approach as comprehensively considering the various factors and relationships that impact social entrepreneurs’ work and strategically engaging the multiple stakeholders that can contribute to social entrepreneurs’ success, including ESOs such as accelerators and incubators, society (with a focus on the potential workforce for ventures), funding organizations, industry, universities, and non governmental organizations (NGOs). Rather than investing in a discrete set of social entrepreneurs, an ecosystem approach seeks to broaden and establish locally-rooted relationships and foster local conditions that will catalyze ongoing engineering capacity in perpetuity.

Eligibility Criteria

Skills / Experience:

  • Required:
    • Multidisciplinary Communication
    • Relationship Building
    • Interviewing / User Research
  • Desired:
    • Regional experience (East Africa) in the startup/venture ecosystem.
    • Experience with startup environments and hardware innovation/product development.
    • Familiarity with design process, prototyping, and manufacturing.
    • Business development / strategy experience.
    • Experience facilitating conversations with various stakeholder groups.

Software needs:

  • N/A


  • Any discipline applicable to hardware engineering

Preferred fellow local experience (all projects can be completed remotely):

  • East Africa or Kenya (Ideal if based in Nairobi)

Time zone compatibility (when the Fellow should be available for meetings):

  • EDT (UTC-4)

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