How can you overcome your organization’s limits? Being innovative, agile, and globally networked are keys to adapting in this dynamic world we live in today. However, these aren’t the most important aspects to adaptation. To drive through these limits, turn to the adaptive process of symbiosis.
For us, symbiosis describes the mutually beneficial relationships ingrained within our solutions, technologies and partnerships. In fact, the name Simbi Foundation is drawn from the word “symbiosis” or…“Simbi-osis”.
What is Symbiosis?
The mutually beneficial and collaborative relationship between different organisms, people, or groups.
Simbi Foundation is rooted in a symbiotic approach that sees communities learning from each other and cooperating to make positive change. Just as symbiotic relationships in nature are useful measures of an ecosystem’s health, we at Simbi Foundation ensure that each element of our programs and initiatives are developed symbiotically, prioritizing partnership, collaboration, and mutual benefit!
To explore these relationships further, let’s first consider simbi-otic relationships in nature. It’s often thought that relationships in nature tend to be competitive, although in fact, The more we examine nature’s workings, the more mutually beneficial relationships we see. One such symbiotic relationship can be observed in the ocean, between anemone and clownfish. Anemones provide clownfish with protection and shelter, while the clownfish in turn eat harmful parasites and pass on nutrients to the anemone. By performing tasks that benefit one another, both thrive in their habitat.
In other words, prioritizing and working for the collective rather than the individual enables all parties to progress sustainably and equally.
But what does symbiosis look like in action?
Simbi Foundation’s mission is to enhance access to education for the next 3.5 million learners in remote and refugee communities through solar-powered solutions. To reach this ambitious goal, we’ll require the meaningful collaboration of different minds, groups, and expertise. That’s where symbiosis, one of our core values, comes in. Instead of accomplishing goals via a purely transactional approach, symbiosis guides us in establishing mutually-beneficial relationships with our partnered-communities, our logistic partners like the United Nations Refugee Agency, or even our Think Tank researchers. Let’s take a closer look!
We co-create solutions with our community partners. Our mission is not to educate, but to provide communities with tools that can further or enhance their existing educational efforts. But for these tools to be relevant and effective, we must directly work with each community to understand the unique context and challenges faced before co-developing and tailoring every initiative to attempt to best meet those identified educational needs. Meanwhile, our local Technology Coordinators lead training programs that support teachers with the integration of technology and relevant digital content into their existing teaching goals and learning outcomes. Alongside integrating revenue generation into our BrightBox solar-power classrooms, these measures mean that community members can lessen their reliance on external support and can instead pave their own way forward with the learning tools that now belong to them. By integrating symbiosis and collaboration into all of our processes, we can be confident that we’re developing educational initiatives that are relevant and supportive.
One of these co-created solutions is the BrightBox, a digital, solar-powered classroom stocked with laptops and tablets, supplementary offline learning content, and projectors. Repurposed from a shipping container, the BrightBox is a low-cost, but effective classroom that was first conceived in collaboration with communities in remote Eastern Uganda. Since then, it has gone on to support multiple communities across Uganda, in United Nations refugee settlements in Uganda, and, with adaptations, in remote northern India.
At the same time, a BrightBox symbiotically acts as a multi-purpose hub for a whole community to use; its ability to generate solar power forms the basis of a micro-grid for a whole school community, allowing clean energy to be distributed to surrounding school classrooms to power lighting and projectors, and enabling community members to charge cell phones or other devices , generating revenue for the community.
symbiosis also underlines our Think Tank and research process. Our very own research Think Tank is made up of academics and researchers from universities around the world. Think Tank members conduct meaningful research, enhancing their own research skills and experience, all while this same research not only acts as a medium for learning from communities about educational needs and challenges, but also directly informs the technological aspects of our projects and initiatives. Together, we work to create a positive, global impact.
Symbiosis is also crucial in our TRIPs. During our TRIPs, our Think Tank researchers and Simbi Foundation staff members work with partnered-communities on the ground to support in installing, improving, and evaluating our solar-powered and EdTech solutions. It’s also during this time that our researchers engage with community members in research-based activities like focus groups, surveys, and interviews in which community members can share teachings, challenges, and experiences, all to support the process of making our joint educational initiatives more relevant and effective. In addition, researchers gain relevant field experience that will support them as they move forward in their studies.
Ultimately, our research acts as a medium for co-learning and collaboration between us and our partnered communities, helping to ensure sustainability and relevance in our work, and that educational outcomes are collectively being reached.
Seen through the lens of symbiosis, we recognize that every function within our organization is relational to other tasks and goals. These relationships extend from research and development to communications and marketing, global operations, and so forth. Our team consists of passionate visionaries, tech enthusiasts, and innovators who make Simbi Foundation’s overall mission possible.
Another example of symbiosis is Simbi Foundation’s collaboration and partnership with Simbi, the social enterprise behind the development of the Simbi reading platform. . While Simbi Foundation works to enhance access to education for the next 3.5 million remote and refugee learners through solar-powered BrightBox classrooms, Simbi is a reading technology inspiring people everywhere to read more books, more often, for good. When you narrate a book on Simbi, that narration is added to Simbi’s global library, enabling thousands of learners around the world to read that book while simultaneously listening to your narration for an even more immersive reading experience. These narrations are also added to Simbi Foundation’s BrightBoxes, giving remote and refugee students access to an entire library of digital books, narrated in multiple accents and languages! While our respective missions, initiatives, and teamsare different, our collaboration has helped further our individual and collective positive impact in the educational sector.
The power of ingraining symbiosis in your organization
In the same way that the guiding value of symbiosis has helped us to develop positive, impactful relationships with communities, partners, and our own teams, we think it can help your organization too. And even though today’s capital-driven world might make you think differently, it’s easy to get started — next time you speak with a client, collaborate with a partner, have a team meeting, or kickstart a new initiative, try asking yourself if all parties are benefitting in equal measure. If you feel there’s a disproportionate benefit for some, then chances are there’s room to grow!
Lastly, it’s important to say that symbiosis isn’t just a strategy that we think can help your organization make better decisions and choices, but it’s also a mindset that we believe can make our societies more equal, tolerant, and mutually-beneficial spaces.
Learn more about simbi-osis through Simbi Foundation’s collaboration and partnership with Simbi! Click here.