Blair Glencorse is in Liberia working on the Accountability Lab, which aims to find answers to problems of accountability. He also started pitch salons, a cross between speed networking and TED Talks.
On a rainy night in August, iLab was kind enough to host the first Liberian “Pitch Salon.” Pitch Salons- which I started with some friends in Washington, DC earlier this year- are a cross between speed-networking and public talks for hand-picked innovators who think about more than just the bottom line: social entrepreneurs, thought leaders and change-makers. Pitchers give an “elevator pitch” for an organization, cause or idea that is engaging, accessible to an informed listener and has the potential to change the world for the better. I have been spending an increasing amount of time in Liberia through work with my new organization the Accountability Lab, and I knew this concept would work well in Monrovia. The Liberian people have such great energy, enthusiasm and ideas- it was a perfect fit.
Kate Cummings of iLab and I made sure that we found some brilliant young Liberians with a variety of ideas that the audience would find engaging. We also carried out a careful process to strategically select about 40 audience members for the pitches, each of which had a combination of superb networks, access and ideas. The format we planned included short five minute talks by each “pitcher” without a question and answer session, but followed with a discussion and socializing hour. This was when pitchers and audience members could network, ask questions and start helping each other change the world. We hoped that some drinks and some good food from PA’s BBQ might help this process along.
The hard work was all done by the exceptional pitchers, who made the event a huge success. Bai Best from the Liberian Observer described his brilliant ideas for ways that Liberians can mobilize new technologies to tell stories; James Mulbah, who looked every inch the successful businessman, explained his progress in making Liberia clean and chemical-free through entrepreneurship; Tecee Boley, a local journalist, expressed in a deeply emotional pitch her idea to cover the untold stories of Liberia’s upcountry; Divine Key Anderson, Liberia’s answer to Steven Spielberg, talked about film-making in Liberia; and Roberta Phillips an amazing young activist illustrated how women can be empowered through technologies. The final pitch- by Nowai Dunbar and her very talented (and seriously flexible) African Prodigies- used dance to demonstrate the importance of engaging youth for the future.
The Pitch Salon did not aim for a specific outcome- it was not an advocacy platform or competition for funding. Rather, it was intended to be an informal, fun and self-contained way for innovative people with great ideas to share them with others who were interested to listen and, potentially, help. There seem to be plenty of both types of people in Liberia and some great follow-up has already taken place. Stay tuned for Liberia’s second Pitch Salon very soon.