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In conversation with Ken Banks

This week, I’m in conversation with award winning social entrepreneur who founded, an NGO focused on applying mobile technology for social and environmental change in the developing world, especially in Africa. Ken is currently Head of Social Purpose at Yoti, the app that helps everyone authenticate themselves, staff, suppliers or volunteers in a secure, private and scalable way.

I originally met Ken when we both presented at a coprotate social responsibility conference for one of the big law firms in London back in 2011 and he later joined me in 2015 on the Thursday Throng with his book, The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator.

The rise of the reluctant innovator came out of a short article for Wired magazine on an alternative to the current Western focused development model used in the developing economies. It was followed by two other books on social entrepreneuriship and social development. The first was traditonally published and is a more academic vision of the first book with a greater emphasis on the practicalities of implementing social development projects and programmes. The experience of self publishing and then traditional publishing showed Ken that there are benefits and challenges with each model and he explains what some of these are.

His third book was again self published and focuses on some of his favourite blog posts from the Kwanja blog on topics as diverse as anthropology, technology and how to do development in a more ethical, thoughtful and sustainable way. It was published under the title, Musings of a Mobile Anthropologist – a title given to him by National Geographic.

Although Ken isn’t planning any books at the moment because he recognises the amount of work involved in the generation of the, but he has lots of ideas and is toying with one as a retirement project.

We also talked about the value of his work today and agreed it’s apparent that the gap he spotted in previous decades is even bigger and more apparent today with the traction that black lives matter and related movements is gathering. Ken explains the current system, designed originally to help local communities, creates more problems than it solves as the West still doesn’t recognise or accept that the local focus will always have greater weight in change programmes than anything being delivered by those who are several steps removed. This is simply because local communities are closer to the issues, ‘own’ the problem and are significantly more motivated to create sustainable success than those being helicoptered in from outside.

As the conversation carried on we focused on how history is told and re-told and that history is only ever based on perspective, rather than on actual fact. The West tends to paint history as starting at the point we ‘discover’ something. We also discussed the phenomenon that current events are bringing into the light of day ‘facts’ we have typically taken for granted and which are now found wanting.

We ended up on the impact of what we do today on the generations who come after us, who inevitably have to pick up the pieces of the mistakes we, and previous generations, have made.

If you’d like to find out more about Ken and his work, you can find him on his spiritual home, where you’ll find the books and articles. You can also catch up with his work on the social purpose section of the Yoti website

Listen to the audio podcast

Watch the video interview with Ken

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You can find all the podcast interviews in the Podcast category.

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  1. Thanks so much for reaching back out, Linda, and for the lovely conversation. I enjoyed talking about such a wide range of things, and am happy to talk more with anyone interested in anything we discussed. Here’s to writing, and keeping safe. Cheers!