“The aim of NamStarter is to turn the usual concept of a project receiving fund on its head. In the past, most projects would rely on a big sponsor. When this sponsor pulls out, the project usually struggles and it gets more and more different for NGOs to get fundings,” says Ben Schernick, the project coordinator.
“NamStarter is different as we focus on crowdfunding. If you have a great idea and people from all over can give funds and other assistance from all sides. The idea is that you promote yourself and anyone who wants to support you can do it easily and quickly,” he says.
There are different crowdfunding platforms around the world as they cater for all kinds of projects as some offer funding for students, NGOs, creative artists and environmentalists. It is however, a first for Namibia and NamStarter offers training as well. “We also work together with RLabs to provide training to all our interested parties to help them campaign for their projects. This is done with social media interacting training as the work is done online,” Schernick says.
NamStarter crowdfunding is unique as it an opportunity for any Namibians to get funding for their projects as diverse as can be. The main targets are unemployment youth and they get additional support. “We have also done workshops in Havana to provide additional training on social entrepreneurship. We want to equip them with business skills like how to draw up a budget, how to formulate a project and we also assist them with finding and working on their strengths,” he explains.
He also says that social media training is aimed at equipping them as “in order to get funds, you need to be visible.” According Schernick, the interest from the public has been good and he continues to encourage all Namibians to register on the website. “This way, you can either support a project or campaign you are interested in or you can start a campaign. As long as you are Namibian, you are welcomed.”
RLabs, a project of NamStarter was established in Namibia in 2012 as a training project. It deals with youth and unemployment and offers free training as well. In addition, the team is also currently working on building an internet café in Havana to bring access to information closer to the youth. “We want them to limit on the amount of transport money they use to go to town to access the internet,” he says.
A social worker by profession, Schernick also says that RLabs has been a collaborative project with lots of support from Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) faculty of computing and informatics’ students and staff. “Our current RLabs trainers are also ex NUST information technology students and we work closely with them.”
He also thanks the Finnish Embassy for their financial support. “As much as I have been managing and coordinating the process, it is a team effort that started even before my time with RLabs Namibia.”
NamStarter believes in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. “We basically want people who have brilliant ideas, but do not have the financial means to execute their ideas. Additionally, we also want other potential Namibian investors to be able to directly support. It does not always have to be financially.”
Examples of this are two young ladies who interested in opening a bookstore for young children. “Assisting with books that you do not read anymore is also helping. We want to make sure we provide equal opportunities to all the youth.”
We basically want people who have brilliant ideas, but do not have the financial means to execute their ideas. We also want other potential Namibian investors to be able to directly support. It does not always have to be financially.”