How we create meaningful learning bootcamps for innovators

WFP Innovation Accelerator
8 min readMay 27, 2024


The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa innovation bootcamp brought together nine venture teams working to improve food security in Africa for four days of developing and refining their solutions and business models. Here’s how we provided a best-in-class learning experience for them.

By: Jackie Negro and Katja Bouman

The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa bootcamp cohort engaged in four days of virtual programming to refine their ideas and business models. | Photo: WFP/Bob Albert

After six months of preparation, more than 800 applications and plenty of excitement, we were thrilled to welcome more than 40 innovators from nine venture teams to the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa bootcamp! Over four days, we gathered virtually to learn and share best practices, connect with each other and, ultimately, get closer to achieving zero hunger across the African continent.

The bootcamp is the kick-off to the second edition of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa and the venture teams’ first opportunity to connect with each other, the WFP Innovation Accelerator and the expert speakers and facilitators supporting them.

Hands-on support from experts in the innovation space can be invaluable to start-ups seeking to grow their business. Bootcamps, therefore, are ideal spaces for catalysing venture potential, making new discoveries and reaching new heights.

“Having [a facilitator] to walk this journey with us has us really learning a lot more about how to create products that are impactful for people on the ground. That’s what we were excited about [when we heard we were finalists]. Now, being in the programme has solidified that further. The impact side is what we’re really all here for,” said Muthoni Karubiu, COO of Amini.

To reach that impact and bring value to our innovators, it is critical we design a bootcamp that aligns with venture needs and priorities. Building a fit-for-purpose bootcamp takes time, effort, expertise and empathy. Using the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa as an example, here’s how we design our bootcamps to meet innovators where they are and push them toward greater impact.

Our design principles

We design our programmes, workshops and events based on the same core principles to ensure purposeful and intentional co-creation. We follow a human-centered design approach to focus on the benefits we can bring to our innovators, beneficiaries and the broader development community. To be successful, our programmes must be:

  • Relevant: Providing relevant materials and support to innovators based on their contexts and needs ensures we are not wasting time or resources. We aim to find the right solutions to our most critical challenges.
  • Inclusive: Achieving the SDGs requires all of us to be involved. We amplify the voices of those making an impact in their communities, especially those from disadvantaged or marginalized communities.
  • Innovative: To reach our shared goals, we have to do things differently. From the innovations we source to the way we work, we strive to be at the forefront of innovation in sustainable development.
  • Collaborative: We reach greater impact when we collaborate. Our activities are co-created with partners and innovators to best match the needs of our community.
  • Cohesive: Our programmes take innovators on a journey with modular elements that build on each other to tell a full story, multiplying our impact.
  • Focused on sustainable impact: One-and-done solutions will not garner long-term change. We give innovative teams the tools and resources they need to continue accelerating our collective impact long after their programme ends.

Aligning bootcamp design with programme goals

With our design principles in place, the next step is to create a programme-specific bootcamp that is responsive to the goals of the ventures and partners. While this adaptive work begins during the sourcing phase of our programmes, it becomes evermore important during the bootcamp.

Irrelevant or overly simple programming will not bring much value to ventures. On the other hand, hyper-specific or overly challenging material can discourage ventures and stifle innovation. Making the most effective programme requires balancing the theme, purpose and venture characteristics and building a schedule that supports their needs.

First, this edition of the Kofi Annan Award focuses on food system challenges related to SDG2. To keep our content relevant throughout the bootcamp, we share contextual examples and case studies. In addition, given the deep connections between food security, gender and climate topics, we delve into these topics as well through our plenaries, workshops and networking sessions.

Next, the Kofi Annan Award specifically aims to support African innovators rooted in their local communities. The innovation ecosystem is largely English-based, which can be limiting to non-English-speaking innovators or innovators whose first language is not English, such as those in Francophone Africa. For this cohort of the Kofi Annan Award, we actively sought French-speaking innovators and provided French facilitation to enable these innovators and provide more equitable access to our programming.

After introducing a second-language option for the first time in this bootcamp, we are excited to continue learning how to best tackle this challenge and build cohesive, inclusive programming across language barriers. In our next programmes, we will continue exploring Zoom language options and how to best integrate multilingual teams into a single programme.

Finally, the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa finalist teams are in the scaling phase, meaning they are already achieving significant impact and seeking to expand or deepen their operations.

While it can be obvious what support early-stage ventures need (i.e., persona development, user journeys, business models and value proposition), more mature ventures have diverse challenges and need more advanced content. Our bootcamp works in a modular system with a variety of activities under key categories — people, strategy, growth and execution — which allow innovators to focus on the areas in which they most need support. Our expert facilitators are trained to be flexible and responsive to those needs and diligently prepare to optimize their time together.

Scaling ventures are also ready to launch into conversations with each other and truly leverage their extensive experience and knowledge to relate to and learn from a group of likeminded individuals. Our bootcamp networking and peer-to-peer learning sessions encourage innovators to get to know each other in unique groups based on their roles, needs or interests. Fostering these connections ensures that the conversation continues beyond our four days together.

Taking tangible steps for a smooth bootcamp

While the big-picture vision guides our choices in bootcamp design, building an effective bootcamp also means paying attention to the details. A few key details stand out as needed steps to facilitating a meaningful learning experience for innovators.

From the beginning, we co-create our programmes with our partners to know exactly what we want to accomplish. Their expertise and vision illuminate the problems we are seeking to solve and provide immeasurable value to the success of our programmes. At every stage, we align again to keep a keen eye on our objectives and values. Established rhythms and workflows within the SDGx team and with partners keep the momentum through and beyond the bootcamp.

The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa bootcamp was entirely virtual, which provides its own set of unique challenges and characteristics. Rather than taking an in-person workshop and forcing it into a virtual format, we take the time to properly build space for learning and interaction in an online environment. The small details matter here: keeping cameras on, building breakout rooms for small group discussions and brainstorming, using online-first tools like Mural and equipping the team with the skills to manage online meetings make a huge difference to making teams feel supported at a distance.

To continue building that personal touch, we have a kick-off call prior to the bootcamp for teams to meet the WFP Innovation Accelerator team, their facilitators and their fellow finalists. Doing so gets rid of those first-day-of-bootcamp nerves and empowers teams to jump right into their work when the bootcamp begins.

Where are we going next?

With the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa bootcamp successfully delivered, we would like to take a moment to thank our finalists for their active engagement and our partners for their exceptional collaboration and support. The bootcamp brought many new discoveries, connections and next steps in support of ending hunger in Africa through innovation.

The award event of the first edition of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa, hosted in Vienna in 2022, welcomed innovators and high-level representatives to celebrate innovation in Africa. | Photo: BKA/Regina Aigner

For our nine finalists, their next step will be pitching their ventures to a high-level jury panel for an opportunity to win the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa. Then, all nine finalists will join us in Vienna, Austria, in September for a two-day experience. This special event is an additional opportunity for ventures to learn from each other and innovation experts, build connections and develop their venture further. At the event, we will also announce the winners of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa and launch into their next steps through the sprint programme.

At the WFP Innovation Accelerator, we are dedicated to learning and iterating in the pursuit of using innovation to achieve the SDGs. Over the next few weeks, we will be reflecting on the Kofi Annan Award bootcamp, collecting our learnings and sharing them with our team and partners in order to continue improving our offerings in the future.

The Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa is supported by the Austrian Federal Chancellery and the Kofi Annan Foundation and operationally supported by the Austrian Development Agency and the WFP Innovation Accelerator. Co-created with our partners and the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s SDGx team, the programme supports innovative solutions that enhance food security and food systems resilience throughout Africa.

Discover how we sourced these innovations for the programme and meet the first edition’s cohort.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP colleagues, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies, and non-governmental organisations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support, and WFP’s global operations.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.