Featuring a Uizard member Brainy Swaibu, humanitarian and education manager
This series profiles the most important part of Uizard, our community. Today’s featured interview is with Brainy Swaibu, CEO of Spectrum Transformation Services. Brainy has over 10 years of experience in education management and instructional facilitation for refugees and host communities in Uganda.
Hi Brainy! It’s an honor to be sitting with you here today. Can you tell us a little bit more about your work in Spectrum?
Yeah. Thank you, of course.
I'm the CEO of Spectrum Transformation Services (STS), a community-based organization in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda and a management organization that spreads success, manages multiple schools and partners, and acts as a charter to provide comprehensive back-office and other support to each of the schools or partners.
Spectrum's mission is to save the world from moving downstream toward decadence, self-slavery, and suffering through altruistic and design education, and instead, spiral upstream toward growth, strengths, happiness, freedom, character, and purpose.
The Spectrum School of Design and Technology (SSDT) currently serves about 20 teenagers and, in partnership with Enso Education Institute, has created a curriculum that teaches students practical skills in exponential technologies and STEM. The broader goal of the program is to help students develop the capacity for altruism and service to others. The school has also been granted access to land to develop a university serving more students in the settlement.
Thank you so much for explaining. I think that's such beautiful work you're doing. Can you tell us a little more about what inspired you to start it?
Well, thank you. Before, I was a high school teacher. I taught refugees at the high-school level, and this inspired me. After becoming a teacher, I started volunteering with community-based organizations like Save the Children, World Food Programme, UNHCR, and other humanitarian organizations that help refugees transform their lives.
So, I had a chance to be exposed to and understand the challenges refugees face directly by talking to them. I discovered that only 24% of refugees go to high school and only 3% of refugees go to university. And even so, in this 24% and 3%, the kind of schools they're attending is subpar and barely prepares them for future careers.
So, I said I can design something that is different from the law and the current systems and then change the status quo. That's what inspired me to build a team and then start Spectrum Transformation Services. At Spectrum, we're preparing our refugees to build a future of abundance.
Thank you so much, Brainy, for giving insight on that. That's a powerful and strong story. In terms of your work in Spectrum, what are the challenges that you're going through that you didn't expect?
Before we got to it, we thought that building a team is something easy, but this turned out to be totally different because we needed a global team. At first, we had not considered that; our team was not diverse enough. We only later had to diversify the team. Now we have a global team of advisors, though. This diversity and global factor had been crucial for the success of our team.
Another thing we thought was relatively easy was access to funding, but I tell you: it needs a lot of effort. It's really the hardest thing because you need to have good skills. You need to have a network, you need to have some traction. Investors need to see what you have done already, but creating that initial traction isn't easy.
Another challenge that we haven't expected, but we're really challenged by a lot now is bureaucracy.
On the other hand, is there something that a lot of founders or humanitarians might feel is a little bit hard, but in actuality is actually not that complicated?
When you're starting an NGO, it's not something hard. The only hard thing is to identify the big question that you're going to answer. Once you identify that problem and build a network, then you realize that it's not that complicated. Many people are ready to help.
Now bring I want to shift a little bit to Uizard. What brought you to the tool?
Well, when I was starting, it wasn't easy. I had to make presentations, prototypes, and websites. So I had to reach out to some of my friends and ask which was the best design tool for non-technical people, then they recommended Uizard.
I really appreciate that I can create things in Uizard even without experience. Before Uizard, each time I would like to pitch my ideas or create a prototype, I would have to watch YouTube for some tutorial on how to use a tool just to present to the public. It was too much.
What I really appreciate about Uizard is that you can customize existing templates so easily. I also really like that it's a wonderful community, and the team really listens to their community.
You previously mentioned that you wanted to share a little bit about the importance of bridging STEM and design to close the skills gap in sustainable development. Can you explain this a bit more?
Design is one of the things that reflects a culture of a given community. For example, some specific designs are from China, some specific designs are from the US, and some specifications are from the Arab region. I just discovered that Africa falls short in representing its communities because of the lack of design education.
When you combine design thinking, something that can take you through the steps of a hero's journey by ideating, prototyping, identifying the problem, and brainstorming around possible solutions, with wanting to change the world, you can achieve great things. That's why I want to use this method to help the youth to be able to identify a big question and how they can prototype, brainstorm ideas, and share it with the world. So the combination of design education and STEM is the best way to move forward because of the continuous progress in emerging technologies.
We have a lot of humanitarians in our community that want to make societal and environmental differences to the bigger society. If you were to give 3 pieces of advice to other NGO founders, to other people who would like to make a difference as you have, what would they be?
Thank you, my best and number one advice is: think exponentially. And by thinking exponentially, I mean the way technology is moving and progressing, we should not remain in a linear mindset. As humanitarian volunteers and workers, we also need to have exponential minds, and that means being aware of emerging technologies.
The second piece of advice is to learn human-centred design. For us at Spectrum, we are thinking of finding new land and starting with modular structures for architecture students. Then, we are planning to have the first batch of students as architecture designers because they'll then be designing spaces for the next part of learners.
The last piece of advice is to have a progressive mindset. A lot of NGOs are still stuck in the mindset that we need physical offices. The pandemic has already shown us otherwise; we need to continuously change our mindsets and make sure that we are not stuck in the past.
Thanks, Brainy! Those are really, really beautiful pieces of advice. And I'm sure that a lot of aspiring NGO founders in our community can really learn from this and take some action points from it that they can apply in their lives.
On behalf of the Uizard community, thank you so much! We really appreciate you.