About iNERDE: Our Story
At iNERDE we believe that a GREAT organization starts with a GREAT team. That’s why our team is not just a group of people working together. It’s rather a group of people with the same purpose that trust each other. The name iNERDE (New Education for Radical Development) was chosen with the goal to put the cool back into Nerd.
Our team is composed of both experienced and aspiring scientists, engineers, social scientists, economists and bankers from Mali, Canada, Togo, USA and Burkina Faso who all have intensive experience in development and education work, community service and after school programs from around the world. Being from various backgrounds, the team members are well travelled and understand the miracle of meaningful work. Also, we share the belief that everyone can have a shot at living a “successful life” in a society that provides opportunities and the necessary resources for all.
iNERDE is the product of many years of longing for ways to innovate education in Africa. Growing up and powerlessly witnessing the neglect of science education, one of the most important pillars of development in any nation, a group of young people from around Africa and from around the world decided to create and develop iNERDE to give African youth the opportunity to discover their potential in STEM fields and every field in the modern world that requires high technical literacy. We aim for nothing less than to give Africa’s youth the tools that they need to turn their deep aspiration for a bright future into reality.
In the summer of 2014, iNERDE successfully launched its pilot project, our first STEM summer camp which hosted 30 fourth and fifth grade students, in Bamako, Mali, in partnership with a local school, L’École du Progrès. We now have 6 partner schools in Mali and 2 in Senegal. This is just the beginning for iNERDE. We are working to replicate our model throughout Africa. We are putting in place a pipeline of development opportunties which will help iNERDE graduates to become inventors, discoverers, innovators and entrepreneurs and change the landscape of opportunity in Africa … and the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the core beliefs of iNERDE?
iNERDE is founded on some pretty radical … and commonsense ideas. Radical as in believing in human and planetary development and not accepting the status quo. Above all, we believe in the kids.
- The future of Africa matters not just to Africans but to the entire world.
- The potential of African youth is unlimited. A child growing up in Bamako, Mali or Lomé, Togo has the same capacities as a child in the United States, South Korea, or Germany. But, today, she doesn’t have the same opportunity to develop her potential.
- Only Africans can solve Africa’s problems. And with the right tools, knowledge, and confidence, they can and they will.
- Education is the foundation of development and transformation. The key to Africa’s future lies in reaching young people with self-affirming education.
- STEM is the economic engine of the modern world and every world citizen needs to be technically literate to flourish. STEM education promotes innovative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, entrepreneurship and creativity.
- African youth have the same, or perhaps more, need and right to education in STEM as young people in the countries presently leading in technology.
- STEM knowledge will be the basis of economic development in Africa and will create a new landscape of opportunity for Africans.
iNERDE is a “social enterprise”. What is a social enterprise?
According to Wikipedia, a social enterprise “is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders.” iNERDE seeks to emulate the dynamic nature of tech enterprises in North America in its thinking and operations but with the goal of contributing to the transformation of Africa through education and entrepreneurship. While organized as a non-profit and strictly adhering to 501(C)(3) parameters, we seek to partner with established STEM enterprises in North America and the world to forge WIN-WIN partnerships with Africans that increase opportunity for all.
Why the name iNERDE?
iNERDE is from the “not-so-cool” descriptive term “nerd.” We decided to create an acronym from it, not to sound pretentious, but because we believe that the term has been stigmatized too much to the point where it discourages learning. So, we want to create a positive understanding of the term, put the “cool” back in it, and use it to encourage pursuit of useful knowledge. In our team, we always introduce ourselves as “nerds” to create opportunities to revitalize the term “nerd” in our everyday conversations.
What does iNERDE stand for?
New Education for Radical Development
What does the “i” stand for?
“i” is for innovation.
What does STEM mean?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Why should people support iNERDE?
It is our cause that matters. Access to good education has opened our eyes to a new understanding of development; change for the better will never happen unless the people who need to make the change do it themselves. Of course, they need some tools and, above all, they need knowledge and awareness, but the aspiration, motivation, and hard work has to come from them. iNERDE’s programs are 100% directed toward helping our participants understand the necessity for self-agency to make their lives and their communities better, while giving them some essential tools and knowledge. We want them to develop this understanding at a very young age. By supporting us, you are supporting a new generation of effective change makers.
What are your long-term goals?
Our long-term goal is to position iNERDE as a force for transformation throughout Africa, influencing curricula and education policy where we operate, and helping iNERDE “graduates” to create opportunity in their countries. Between now and the day we reach that goal we’ll continue to expand in Africa, and continue to develop our program so that it is reproducible in other countries, languages, environments, and age groups.
Who are your partners?
First and foremost, local schools. We believe we can only create lasting change by partnering with local schools, educators, and organizations to help them do what they do well even better. Right now we have are partnering with 8 schools and have a long waiting list of others eager to work with us. We are also partnering with high-tech companies, other NGOs such as Translators without Borders and Tech Writers without Borders, and government entities.
Can you tell me more about the curriculum?
Our curriculum has been inspired by Design Squad, NASA and DIGITS STEM education programs, and code.org for computer science, adapted for our target audience by iNERDE. This material presents us with thrilling STEM field activities and projects that are designed to deliver a profound but accessible engagement in science learning. What’s more, our curriculum is designed to involve parents and the local community therefore making our participants’ education the business of all those around them.
How many students do you intend to work with?
Demand has already far outstripped our resources. In 2015 we had 120 students from 4 schools in Mail, in 2016 we added 2 more schools. We put 1 Master Teacher and 2 Teaching Assistants in each class of 30. We can staff and run much larger programs but without much more significant sources of financing we will probably cap growth at 50% per year.
Why did you choose 4th-6th grade for the camp?
Research conducted in the U.S. by the National Science Foundation shows that “by the 4th grade, 32% of students show a negative attitude towards science. This number increases to 50% by the 8th grade.” So, in the U.S., this is a good age to deflect the trendlines and get kids turned on to STEM. In West Africa, there is a high attrition rate in the higher grades, so it is also a good time to reinforce the practical value of education.