Bamenda, Cameroon is one of the most polluted cities in the world. It is also the site of gun battles between French-speaking government forces and armed separatists, who are seeking independence for the English-speaking northwest regions of the country.
In this midst of this chaos, Eric Mbotiji is doing what he can to empower residents of Bamenda to create solutions to their many social and environmental ills. Mbotiji is the president of Net Impact Bamenda, our Chapter of the Year in 2018 in the International Professional category.
In 2018, in just its second year, the chapter participated in two of Net Impact Central’s Programs: the Food Solutions Challenge and the Climate Drawdown Challenge. In the former, the chapter organized three groups of young leaders to work on developing new food preservation technology. In the latter, the chapter worked with two local environmental groups to explore ideas around regenerative agriculture and tree planting on a grand scale.
The chapter undertook its own environmental programs, too. Over the year, members constructed four Tippy Taps at a local orphanage, to encourage the children to wash their hands, even without running water. And they led children on hikes to local waterfalls, as a way of building a connection between the children and nature.
Net Impact Bamenda also tackled racial inequality with a film series that highlighted awareness around cultural differences. They restocked juvenile prison libraries with books. And they trained 40 young people to engage in community activism.
All of this activity takes organization and leadership. Mbojiti says that working with Net Impact has strengthened his activist skills and made him a more humble, flexible, and effective leader.
Mbojiti is looking forward to a busy 2019 for Net Impact Bamenda. The chapter will be focusing on a campaign to raise awareness about environmental issues, including proper waste disposal, recycling, tree planting, and marine conservation (Cameroon’s southeast region borders the Gulf of Guinea).
Wendy Thurm is the Communications Manager at Net Impact.
Boston is a city pulsing with innovation, from elite research universities to the tech corridor along State Route 128. It’s also a place where revolutions are born. That combination makes Boston the perfect city for emerging social impact leaders. And it makes Net Impact’s Boston chapter the perfect group for those early-stage professionals who want to marry their activism with their careers.
Net Impact Boston is our U.S.-based Professional Chapter of the Year for 2018.
Net Impact Boston engages members with more than 30 events throughout the year. The marquee event is the chapter’s annual Impact Summit, a day-long gathering of Boston-area professionals who work in the social impact sector, or who want to move in that direction. Speakers and breakout sessions prompt discussions on a wide range of social impact topics, from alternative energy to impact investing to corporate sustainability.
For many members, their first interaction with Net Impact Boston is through the chapter’s “speed networking” event where –– you guessed it –– the attendees meet and greet each other for a few minutes, before moving on to the next person. When the night is through, everyone’s met a lot of new people and gained a better understanding of the breadth of the social impact community in Boston.
The chapter is particularly proud of its Board Fellows program, in which chapter members serve for a year as non-voting members on the board of a local nonprofit. Members bring their diverse experiences and skill sets to change-making organizations across the Boston area. In return, they receive hands-on training in nonprofit operations, management, and governance.
Net Impact Boston has experienced tremendous growth in the last five years. In 2013, when chapter president Dan Haro joined, Net Impact Boston was led by a 12-person leadership team, with a membership hovering around 800. This year, according to Haro, 30 young changemakers stepped into leadership roles with the chapter and organized events and programs for 2,000 members.
Haro sees the Net Impact Boston’s imprint throughout the city, from new impact organizations seeded by chapter members, to coalitions laser-focused on meeting the region’s social and environmental challenges. It's an exciting time for Boston's social impact community and for a city that thrives on energy and innovation.
Wendy Thurm is Net Impact's Communications Manager