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  • Irene Osae

Networking for Sustainable Business Development


When you set out to build a business don’t think only about wealth and job creation. As entrepreneurs of this generation, it is important, now more than ever, to create businesses that are also eco-friendly, eco-innovative and sustainable.

Last month, I had the pleasure to spend two weeks at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom as part of a project called Recirculate, a capacity building program within Africa to support African research institutions to work collectively with academia and entrepreneurs in, with and for their communities.

The first part of the program commenced in Ghana from January 30th to February 2nd, 2018 with various work groups. I was invited to join the ‘Innovation & Entrepreneurship’ group, where I met fellow entrepreneurs and researchers from the University of Benin in Nigeria, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Ghana, Lancaster University in Ghana and UK, Botswana International University of Science and Technology, National Commission for Science and Technology in Malawi, Copperbelt University in Zambia and African Technology Policy Network in Kenya, and more. It was refreshing to network and be in the same space with like-minded folks from all over the African continent fostering meaningful relationships, sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas and building connections. We were all united by one common goal, sustainability.

During my stay at Lancaster UK, the objective was to expand on my knowledge in business development. Although, I was unsure how exactly I would begin. I decided to leverage on the networks I had already established earlier that year in order to broaden my scope and knowledge of business development specifically pertaining to the African continent. After a preliminary and welcoming meeting with Nigel Paul, Professor in the Environment Centre at Lancaster University, and a MasterClass session with Nigel Locket, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University Management School, both stakeholders of the Recirculate project, things were immediately put into perspective. From there it all began to snowball. A couple of days after my arrival, I attended a workshop on “Doing Business In Africa”, facilitated by Dr. Akanimo Odon, Africa Strategy and Business Expert and CEO of EnviroFLY Consulting UK Limited, which further fueled my passion and determination to achieve my objectives.

First, I created a diagram of the specific goals, which consisted of visits to selected departments to meet with key faculty members. At first, there was no specific order and I was clueless as to who and how to contact these people. After the meeting with Nigel P. it became apparent that perhaps the focus should fall on research and with his help, I was able to connect and meet with a few researchers. Second, I used the dimensions of Nigel L’s, Opportunity Business Model (OBM) to help steer in the right direction. Armed with the OBM, I mapped out the what, who, where, how and the why and began firing off e-mails to specific faculty and individuals on my radar and of course with assistance from my network.

At Lancaster, I met and interviewed some pretty fascinating and inspirational faculty members including Dr. Ruth Alcock, Head of Enterprise and Business Partnerships, Helen Wilkinson, Productivity Programme and Project Delivery Manager, Niall Hayes, Professor of Information and Organization in the Department of Organization, Work and Technology and Matthew Ireland, HR and Payroll Service Delivery Manager, just to name a few. They all gave priceless advice and shared insight on their journey so far in their respective fields. Information I was sure to take along with me.

Oftentimes, as entrepreneurs and visionaries, we get caught up with implementation and doing everything in our power to see our ideas come to life that the research, probably the most crucial, takes a back seat to our ideas. However, our ideas are useless without research to serve as a foundation. The next time you come up with your next great idea ask yourself if it is viable and apply the OBM.

Overall, my two-week stay at Lancaster UK was fruitful and yielded favorable results far beyond my expectation. By wisely leveraging on technology and my network, I was able to meet and gain insight from academic professionals. All in a timely fashion thanks to the recirculate team and my colleagues. I am thankful for the new connections made and the opportunity to expand on my network.


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