WAZO was funded by the Center for Art and Public Life in Oakland CA.  

The “WAZO Design Institute” was a pilot project In Rural Kenya. Its aim was to provide local communities training in product development and design thinking-  skills for long term economic sustainability and development. In Swahili the word Wazo means Idea, and Kenya is a place filled with ideas and creative thinkers. WAZO Institute was first established in Kayafungo, Kenya. WAZO connects local trade school youth with, industry practitioners, and government ministries, to deliver educational and income opportunities to artisans and youth. WAZO training's allow craft centers to find valuable, intuitive, and marketable skills while articulating and developing solutions for immediate unmet needs. 

WAZO is the first of many sustainable design incubators that teaches locals the valued skills of product development, and is managed by its participants. WAZO launched its first venture focusing on footwear; specifically, a protective shoe made using the local production practice of repurposing old car tires. In the summer of 2010, the locals of Kayafungo developed the idea for this product with the help of a facilitator, but without a facility. They have the skills in creating the shoe, but no means of distributing it in a meaningful and profitable way. WAZO provides a program that teaches design and business thinking, and provides seed capital and tools to develop products which would generate income or services to these skilled, yet underprivileged communities.

It’s important to note, that WAZO Institute is NOT about giving away shoes; ultimately, it’s not even about making shoes. It’s about creating a sustainable facility where Kenyans can define--and be engaged with--local latent needs, produce a variety of marketable products to benefit the community and themselves, and create effective channels for future foreign aid. WAZO Institute started with 12 trade school students from a variety of trade backgrounds. In the coming months 6 of the 12 students have been offered an internship with a local craftsman to make WAZO shoes.


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A very special thanks to Emily Karechio the founder and president of the MCDF (Muthaa Community Development Foundation) - a non-profit based in Nairobi Kenya which aims to use innovative technologies, relevant in Africa, to empower and facilitate positive change in the community.

Her efforts in the WAZO Pilot Project were indispensable.