Kofi is a fascinating figure on the Dalston social enterprise scene here in Hackney. When I’ve shown socent MA students around Hackney, he’s been a compelling speaker and always brings food for thought to the table. He’s a man very much looking to the future, as he trains local youth for world of AI when many traditional jobs will no longer exist. Here he tells what makes the brilliant Urban MBA different.
“I grew up in Hackney and went to Homerton House secondary school. It had changed from Upton House because of the merger with Brooke House and we were the first under the new name. My mum worked for the Lesney ‘Matchbox’ [toy car] factory that was situated by Kingsmead estate on Homerton Road. My early memories of Hackney are lots of toy cars and visits to Ridley road market. Now I’m back doing good in the place I love!
I founded the Urban MBA charity delivering six and twelve-week enterprise and employability courses to 18-25s. They all have to take part in a “Dragons Den-style” event to present their idea at the end.
I show people, especially those from the BAME community, that it is possible to achieve greatness as long as you have an end goal in mind together with a plan of action. We need to inspire young people first and foremost by utilising role models from all backgrounds so that they can see a pathway to a greater future.
Our difference is using storytelling to engage with students to make sure they understand the curriculum and what is being taught to them. Crucial is learning about mindset and the importance of setting goals – always using the end goal in mind and making them work backwards to set mid- and short-term goals. The movie Matrix is used as an example of storytelling where we use this as a metaphor to explain the subconscious and conscious minds and their impact on achieving goals.
As predicted over 20 years ago, new technologies coupled with artificial intelligence will reduce job roles in the future. We need to prepare the next generation and equip them with the tools to adapt to the changes and thrive in the fast-evolving world. Old ways of learning and looking at the world are no longer serving us, especially young people.
When we realised that the pandemic would cause more problems than originally anticipated, we decided not to shut down, so we could provide the support needed for everyone involved via Zoom and other platforms. We have worked even harder to support people who are losing their jobs or want to set up their own businesses. We provided additional mentors as we found that some people just wanted to talk through the lockdown period. Others still needed to adapt or find solutions to their business problems.
There was a lot of chaos at the beginning with Zoom etc. The challenge was serving people with families of 5-8 people with only one laptop serving them all. It meant that studying had to be done on rotation for those coming from deprived or marginalised communities. We had to accommodate our services to fit those needs, alongside such other factors as not having enough data to use the internet connection needed to access courses or meetings.
When we started doing courses, all we wanted to do was make it available in such a way that people could access it at the right times for them, instead of forcing them to be online at a particular time. We collected a lot of useful data during the first lockdown that is helping us now.
On the other hand, we had some victories too. One of the Urban MBA alumni, a fashion designer we have worked with since 2013, required support in a different capacity because his business increased 1000% throughout the pandemic! The company’s profit is the highest that it has ever been. And as we continue to mentor all the alumni, we can see the improvements not only in their businesses but also in their own self-development.
The pandemic hasn’t changed the way I work. I always predicted that artificial intelligence and the rapid advancement in technology would be the most significant part of what the 4th industrial revolution will bring. Covid-19 just sped it up; what was predicted to happen in five to ten years is actually happening now. We are operating with 5G as we speak, and it’s going to change the way we live our lives, allowing new autonomous technologies to take place that 4G cannot deliver at the moment.
My biggest concern with the pandemic and the ‘new normal’ is that face-to-face education will become very expensive and premium, while those with smaller income will be left with online learning and parents looking after their children.
We only have a few people that understand what’s about to come. But I don’t look at the new advancing technology as a negative; on the contrary, in the right hands technology can be used to do so much good for humanity. What I fear the most is that it can be used for different agendas in the wrong hands. How do we prepare the next generation to be able to deal with these changes? The best way to tackle it is by educating people. This is our mission.
If you’ve enjoyed this, contact Kofi for speaking engagements. You can also hire me for social enterprise and sustainability innovation tours here in Hackney.