Unlike all of our other Innovation Hubs made from old shipping containers, the space we created in Mufakose is a beautiful, brick & mortar Hub built at the Gwinyiro Primary School in Mufakose, Zimbabwe. In partnership with the school, we took an old block which was being used for storage and transformed it into a magical place for wonder and curiosity.
Our first step was to clean out the entire school block – a feat that was accomplished swiftly with the support of the school administration staff and community members. Next, we knocked down the temporary dividing wall to give ourselves an open floor plan to work with.
Before long, we had tape on the ground, mapping out where the tables, walls, shelves and computers would all go. We even decided to knock out part of the back wall to create a private office. With all of our plans in place, it was time to start building.
After the the main structures were in place, we started working on optimizing and beautifying the Innovation Hub. We painted the bricks white, added the ceiling boards and started building the tables and shelves. Our goal was to create a beautiful, collaborative space where students and educators felt inspired to learn together.
We built one large table for the main workspace with countertops going along the walls and private work stations in the main corridor. We also created a semi-private classroom for the youths that would be learning in our Hub.
From start to finish, this space took us about three weeks to build. We would have loved to spend more time on the renovation but we had a Search Inside Yourself Fellow from Google visiting and preparing a workshop for 60+ students. We needed the space to be ready to host the workshop, and things really went down to the wire.
At the end of the day, we were able to create something really special. The experience was all the more meaningful because so many Uncommon team members and students came together to help finish the job – sanding, painting and cleaning up the space.
Today, the Mufakose Innovation Hub stands apart from our other Hubs in that it’s the only brick & mortar space we’ve built. Since launching in early 2020, we’ve hosted some of Zimbabwe’s most renowned CEOs and Business leaders and have educated 1,000s of children.
Thank you to everyone that has supported the Mufakose Innovation Hub!
This Hub will always have a special place in the heart of our founders as it was built in honor of the late Nicki Keszler, a young man who left us all far too soon. Nicki was a lover of life, a traveller, aspiring software engineer and someone who loved giving back and putting a smile on another person’s face.
This was the second Innovation Hub we had ever built and was placed in Kuwadzana, a low-income, high-density suburb outside of Harare, not far from our first Hub in Dzivarasekwa in January of 2020. We wanted to switch up the designs and had the idea to cover the Hub in plants, to make the space feel like a living & breathing entity.
We also decided to go with a raw, wood interior and to strip the container floor down to its base layer to give the space a more natural feel. When we delivered the Innovation Hub to its final location, we installed the glass, plants and shelves.
We had a lot of fun working onsite and received a great deal of help from the students, staff and administrators at our partner school. It was a real joy to see how a space like this could bring people and communities together, even before it was officially opened!
The last steps in bringing Nicki’s Hub to life were to add the plants and solar power. Adding these finishing touches was a true community affair and we were delighted to have the Headmistress herself helping to plant the flowers which would become a true sight to see! We couldn’t be happier with how the Hub turned out!
Nicki, we miss you. We are honored to have gotten a chance to eternalize your legacy in this way. Because of you, thousands of children will get a computer science education and hundreds of young adults will go from unemployed to working in the tech industry. This won’t bring you back, but you’ll be with us all, impacting countless lives and putting smiles on people’s faces, forever.
Before we built our first Innovation Hub, we were teaching out of community centers, living rooms, and even outside when weather permitted. As word started to get around about what we were doing, having our own home became an absolute necessity. We needed autonomy, consistent access to electricity and internet, and a place we could meet – any day, any time.
We also were determined to build a workspace that was as innovative and unique as we felt our program was. In all things, we’ve always strived to be uncommon. That includes our working / learning environments, so we started putting pen to paper and dreaming up ideas for our first shipping container Innovation Hub.
So many amazing, fortuitous, lucky moments happened throughout this first Innovation Hub experience but there are two moments that really stick out. First was our correspondence with Julius Taminiau of Julius Taminiau Architects. Right when we had decided we wanted to work with containers, we scoured the internet for architects that might be interested in what we were doing. We sent out cold emails and believe it or not, Julius got back to us. Not only was he interested in our work, his team was happy to help us design this first space, free of charge!
Since this first Hub, Julius and his team have more or less consulted on all of our next projects and we are extremely grateful for the support they have shown our program and students. Thank you Julius!
The next major break for our organization was meeting the Australian Embassy through our host and partner, the Dzikwa Trust. The Dzikwa Trust is an extraordinary organization that supports 100s of orphaned children in Zimbabwe from primary school to university. The Dzikwa Trust is a beautiful space in the heart of Dziwarasekwa which provides free meals, extra lessons, cultural activities, sports, agricultural training and countless other amazing opportunities for the youths in the community.
Together with Dzikwa, we applied for grant funding from the Australian Embassy to support the construction costs of this first Innovation Hub. And so began a relationship between Uncommon.org and the Australian Embassy that still exists today (the AU Embassy has supported all 6 of our Innovation Hubs in Zimbabwe!).
We are eternally grateful to Ambassador Bronte Moules and her team, primarily Alyce, Nyarie and Trystan, for believing in our work and helping us impact thousands of lives in Zimbabwe. Thank you Australia!!
The launch of this first Innovation Hub in Dzivarasekwa, Zimbabwe in July of 2019 was the first major catalyst for Uncommon. With a home we were able to dramatically improve the programs we provided to our beneficiaries. We have been able to host corporate leaders and donors and attract new support for our work.
Within two years of launching our first space, we’ve gone on to build 5 more and help bring technology education and employment to thousands in Zimbabwe. We are especially grateful to the Dzikwa Trust and Australian Embassy for making this all possible.
In March of 2021, we received the amazing news that our grant with the Australian Embassy in Zimbabwe was approved. We were officially going to build three new Innovation Hubs and, once again, double our impact.
Kambuzuma is a beautiful, low-income, high-density neighborhood not far from downtown Harare. We had the great fortune of partnering with an extremely well-kept school and our Innovation Hub is the perfect compliment! We are so excited to be working in Kambuzuma and can’t wait to see all of the amazing accomplishments made by the young adults in this community!
The impact of this Innovation Hub on the Kambuzuma community will be wonderful. Over the next few years, not only will hundreds of unemployed young adults receive free technology training with the goal of full-time employment in the industry, but 1,000s of youths will receive free coding lessons as well.
In addition to sending our instructors into every school in the community, we look forward to providing our youth curriculum to all of the schools, and using our Innovation Hub as a meeting place for teachers in the community to come and learn about coding and how to introduce / embed our material into their existing coding requirements.
Soon enough, every child in Kambuzuma will be learning how to code. We can’t wait for that day!
The Warren Park Innovation Hub was one of the three Innovation Hubs we built in Zimbabwe in 2021. A majority of the financial support to build these Innovation Hubs were a part of a grant we won from the Australian Embassy in 2021.
Unlike all of our other projects, we didn’t build this Hub from scratch. Instead, we found an old container that had been worked on and then abandoned. After paying the owner for the container, we got to work cleaning it up and transforming it into a beautiful workspace!
We are delighted to have figured out a model that allows us to rapidly build and deploy these solar powered workspaces around Zimbabwe. Each one means hundreds of unemployed young adults training for the technology workforce and 1,000s of children learning how to code.
We are grateful for all of our supporters and can’t wait to share the amazing stories coming out of the Warren Park Innovation Hub.