August 7, 2014
Today we take a trip to the northwest coast of Africa to visit a network of coworking spaces focused on social change.
JokkoLabs, as the logo suggests, is a coworking space dedicated to supporting innovators and entrepreneurs working for social change. In point of fact, it is actually a network of six such spaces: three in Senegal and one each in Mali, Burkina Faso, and France. It is also a nonprofit organization, which describes itself as “an open innovation ecosystem and a virtual cluster for a social change based on an organic entrepreneur community and a network of innovation centers.” If that doesn’t get you on board, check out their mission statement: “[To] Inspire and develop a community of collaborative entrepreneurs to invent the future for a shared prosperity.”
The organization was founded almost five years ago in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, where opened its first coworking space, JokkoSpace, in 2010 (apparently the first of its kind in French-speaking Africa). It has since grown into a global community of volunteers and professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds, all pursuing innovative projects in health, education, agriculture, open technology, media and governance. Their focus? How creative economy can generate a greener and more inclusive growth. They describe themselves as an “action tank”, finding innovative approaches to using information technology to respond to modern socio-economic issues.
The space in Dakar now hosts about 15 start-up companies as well as a menagerie of micro-enterprises, self-employed individuals, home workers, entrepreneurs, workers in the digital economy, writers, designers and other professionals in new media and digital arts. In the last few years, tech events like Start-up Weekend and Mobile Monday have been held for the first time in West Africa and tech collaboratives and work spaces are starting to pop up throughout the region, often connected to spaces in other parts of Africa as well. It seems that JokkoLabs has started something. And from the looks of it, it won’t be stopping anytime soon.