Ken Banks Finding Impact

FIP 025: Time for Slow Innovation with Ken Banks

Ken Banks went from working at a primate care centre in Nigeria to being a mobile technology social entrepreneur. He is the creator of FrontlineSMS, one of the first uses of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in developing countries. He has a long list of awards and accolades to his name – from PopTech fellow, Tech Awards Laureate, Ashoka fellow, and a National Geographic emerging explorer. He’s now working with CARE International as their entrepreneur-in-residence, and more recently doing the same with DFID in the UK. Ken’s also authored two books – The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator and Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation – which share his experiences and that of other innovators on using technology for social change. And most recently Musing of a Mobile Anthropologist, a compilation of his most popular blog posts.

On this podcast, we discuss:

  • The extraordinary amount of persistence social entrepreneurs need to win support for their idea.
  • Not to set out with something to fix, but take time to learn and observe the people you’re trying to help.
  • The benefits of championing grassroots organisations, as Ken has done throughout his career.
  • How Ken started FrontlineSMS as a hobby, while keeping a day job, and slowly, methodically getting it out there and being used.
  • Reasons why Ken made his software free to download, which all led back to his goal of serving grassroots organisations – but then we talk about the downside of that decision.
  • How patience is necessary – it took Ken 12 years of learning before FrontlineSMS taking off.
  • How you start losing control of your project as soon as you take on grant funding and investment.
  • Do as much as you can on your own, prove your committed, and people will value you for that.
  • Don’t quit your job. If you’ve got a mortgage to pay, don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Don’t be a rush.
  • Advice to those wondering whether they need an MBA for a career in social entrepreneurship.
  • How it’s a good idea to find what angers you, or what injustice drives you forward.
  • The unrealistic belief that Hackathons and such like can make any big difference. You have to get the context before you can help find a solution, which means being there, standing alongside people, and understand the situation.


Connect with Ken:


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1 reply
  1. kiwanja
    kiwanja says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Andy, and for the interest in my work. I hope there are at least a few things of interest to your listeners in our chat, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Cheers.


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