Start up the Upstart start-up bus

2016-06-15 18:34
Students taking part in the Upstart project at UCT show off their “tickets” to their journey of discovering new insights into education.

Students taking part in the Upstart project at UCT show off their “tickets” to their journey of discovering new insights into education.

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Interesting innovations in education could be influencing teachers with an exciting project at the University of Cape Town.

This year the UCT vice-chancellor’s social innovation challenge, UCT Upstarts, is asking student social entrepreneurs to redesign education in South Africa.
For the second year, the project is driving a “student start-up nation”, and this year the programme has challenged students to focus their social entrepreneurial prowess on reinventing, reimagining, redesigning and rehumanising the education system.

Following last year’s successful debut programme that resulted in the launch of 12 student start-ups overnight at its signature “Idea Auction”, UCT Upstarts is again putting young South African social innovators on the map with its 12-week social innovation curriculum and a brief to “Re-educate Education”.
This challenge is a joint initiative between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (a specialised unit at the UCT Graduate School of Business), Super Stage (a social innovation platform for students) and the office of the vice-chancellor of the university.
UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price explains that this project was exactly the kind of initiative that the university is proud to support.

“As a research focused institution, we are all about how things can be done differently and in a better way. It is encouraging to see the kind of impact that this initiative has had since being launched last year, and we are looking forward to an even bigger and better project this year.”
Social entrepreneur Gina Levy, the founder of Upstarts and Super Stage, adds the initiative gives students a platform to effect positive change around them.
“We are creating a new generation of ‘upstarts’ – students who are solving real-world problems from campus – because we believe socially impactful business ideas are the most powerful form of protest,” she says. “And, because opportunity is our currency, we’ve created a life-changing platform that gives students the chance to effect positive change on our continent.”

For 12 weeks from April to September, students are attending two lunchtime coaching/workshop sessions a week (Mindblowing Mondays and Thriving Thursdays) as “passengers” aboard a double-decker bus on UCT’s upper campus.

The “Upstarts Coach” is the epicentre of social innovation, a 24-hour express bus journey from upstart to start-up.
Their “drivers” are inspiring and interactive coaches who deliver talkshops, workshops and do-shops aboard the bus, introducing students to a diverse network of change makers in their own right, and making this journey a trip to remember.
The 45 like-minded students on the bus were selected after a self-motivating application process.
They are passionate self-starters who come from a cross-section of disciplines, ages and backgrounds, and are now part of multifaceted teams of four to five members.
Their “destination” is the Idea Auction, where they will pitch their start-up ideas to an “audience of opportunity”.
This is a live bidding event where hand-picked movers and shakers will crowd-bid their expertise, resources, networks, incubation spaces, travel opportunities, media exposure and money to launch their revolutionary start-up ideas into action.

Over R110 000 was raised on the floor at last year’s Idea Auction, with additional in-kind support to the approximate value of R500 000 generated too (coaching sessions, resources, office space, transport, camera crews, computers, building materials, expertise and network contacts).
Some of the 2015 start-ups included solutions such as rethinking food wastage (Re-Fresh), to revolutionising South Africa’s traditional stokvel system (Stokvella), a low-cost community-based security system for townships (Jonga), entrepreneurial courses for schoolkids (Reach), a mobile and outdoor art gallery (ReplicArt) and educational DIY furniture (classKIT).
For more information and video highlights of the project go to


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