“There is always a starting point to everything we want to build!”

For the past few weeks (months perhaps), this sentence has been on my mind. As I have been discussing with a few friends and acquaintances, all frustrated by the lack of homegrown solutions to the problems that we face as young people in our African countries, we were trying to understand how to start generating those solutions that fit us, in our environments, yet will allow us to make a global impact.

And the most challenging question is always: where/how do we start?

In my opinion, I keep suggesting RESEARCH. But the word “research” can be a little abstract and often hard to understand. Nonetheless, I think it’s the way forward!

How do we start doing research then?

  1. READING REPORTS

During a discussion about how many people in Rwanda are connected to the electric grid, a friend of mine who works for the same institution that is in charge of developing electricity infrastructures and distributing electricity was genuinely convinced that 80% of Rwandans have access to electricity. However, I replied that it was wrong, and gave him the right numbers (~27%) followed by a report.

He denied any legitimacy of the repot. I also provided another report that was procured by the same institution he works for and still…

SO: How do I and you expect to understand the problems of our society if I don’t even care to read a report from the institution I work for?

It’s imperative that we try to read: First about ourselves, then anything relevant to our fields that could help us better understand our own problems, those societal problems that need solving and where they steamed from! Reports are a good start!

2. TAKING NOTES, SUMMARIZING AND ANALYZING

We are in an era where the amount of information available to us is immense and can be overwhelming at times. It’s getting harder to sort out what’s true and not true, what’s relevant from what’s not!

Whenever you read an article, book, report, etc… try to take notes, or highlight a few things that you deem helpful. Start asking yourself questions: how was the data obtained? Who collected the information? Why is it only possible here and not there? Simple questions such as those are the starting point to analysis.

In the long run, you will then be comfortable with putting the ones and twos together. You will learn how to analyze information in a way that not only is helpful for your own intellect, but will potentially help you see things from different angles, and therefore guide you in further understanding complex issues: such as those in our societies!

TAKEAWAYS: Read reports, read small articles, read anything you deem relevant & Take notes and start analyzing everything you read: what does it imply? Or what’s next then? Are good questions to ask yourself!