We wrapped up our first Blockchain for International Development course in February and recently had a chance to sit down with Maputi Botlhole about her experience in the course!

Maputi is from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and has over 3 years of international work experience at the intersection of global health, technology and supply chain management. She worked as a Program Officer on the USAID | DELIVER Project and is also the Co-Founder of MAISHA Innovate. When coming to this course, she was most interested in the application of blockchain technology in global health. She also wanted the course to help her think creatively about how to apply blockchain technology in the township economy space (South Africa).

Q: How did you find out about the TechChange course Blockchain for International Development and what inspired you to take it?

In December 2017, I was in Port Elizabeth, South Africa celebrating the festive season with my family. I was enjoying the beautiful weather, the refreshing conversations and great food! I remember returning from a walk with my sister and checking my phone for notifications, and there it was: an email from TechChange with the subject “Check out our 2018 course catalog!”

At the time, I thought about learning something new in the upcoming year, hence the email enticed my curiosity and I proceeded to open it. The course:  Blockchain for International development, was the first listed course offering for the year 2018. I was hesitant to immediately sign-up, however, I kept the thought of enrolment at the back of my mind. We ushered in the new year, and days later I received a notification from ICT4Drinks. The notification was for the “Block Party Edition,” which  served as a good reminder to sign up for the course on “Blockchain for International development.” We are inundated with information on the cryptocurrency applications of blockchain, and this was the first time I’d come across learning about the technology within the context of international development. The potential to use the technology for social good coupled with the $50 “BlockParty” discount peaked my interest and provided an extra nudge to enroll for the TechChange course!

Q: What did you enjoy most about the course?

The course did a great job of taking students through the fundamentals and applications of blockchain technology. The participants in the course were from different corners of the world ranging from Little Rock, Arkansas to Suva, Fiji to Lima, Peru!  The course content and the manner in which it was delivered made blockchain technology accessible to myself as a South African, and accessible to participants from other geographical locations.

The diversity of the course participants was a testament to the global footprint of TechChange and added a cross-cultural flair to our discussions on blockchain technology.

At the same time, I learned about blockchain as a technology that has applications beyond cryptocurrency – yes, digital currency is important. I even set up a wallet and exchanged stellar lumens through the course, however, the blockchain demo and other visual material from the course effectively described the underlying technology of blockchain. I now know that blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and incorruptible public ledger that records any transaction of value – whether that value is in the form of digital currency, smart contracts in land titling, votes in the electoral process, or any item that can be tokenized – with no requirement for third-party validation. This expanded my understanding of the technology. In addition, the case studies and live events; which featured guest speakers, discussed blockchain topics ranging from how applications powered by blockchain are being used to create economic identities for “unbankable” farmers in remote areas; to how blockchain technology is used to provide data integrity on supply chain operations.

An interactive slide from TC116: Blockchain for International Development on various blockchain applications.

I enjoyed learning about the several application of blockchain through this course! Furthermore, the discussions on the future of blockchain helped me to think creatively about the applications of such a technology in South Africa. I even found myself seeking out events that spoke to the use of blockchain in South Africa. This was to the point where I ended up attending the 2018 Africa Energy Indaba. The “Indaba” was held in Sandton City, Johannesburg and one of the panel discussions spoke to the democratization and deployment of renewable energy through blockchain. So even though this was an online course, it coalesced in a way that encouraged me to get away from the computer screen and go out into the world to learn more about blockchain technology.

Q: Whats one thing people should know about blockchain

This is a technology that is accessible to all of us! We can dedicate time and resources to learn about blockchain through platforms such as TechChange; partner with others to use the technology to creatively solve some of the pressing global challenges. I was inspired by the case studies which documented and highlighted blockchain projects for social good!

Q: Tell us about the block party you organized, sounds like a great event!


On the evening of April 20th, 2018, I held a “BLOCKCHAIN PARTY” in a South African town called Grahamstown. This town is located in the Eastern Cape region of the country and it is predominantly “Xhosa” speaking: the Xhosa language is internationally known as the click language and it’s also spoken in the fictional country of “Wakanda” in the Black Panther movie. I was surprised to have at least 20 female high school students show up for my party. Most of the students were from an academic excellence residence known as Maqubs Academy. The high school students ranged from 15-18 years in age and even though they could’ve been pre-occupied by other activities that evening, they all were eager to learn about blockchain technology.

I had party lanyards, name tags, party whistles, beaded necklaces, refreshments and 50 balloons to liven up the atmosphere. Each balloon had an interesting fact or questions about blockchain inside that I had written on a piece of paper. I also had some South African “GQOM” house music playing in the background. The participants walked in, wrote their names on provided tags and put on the lanyards. The blockchain party started at 18:30PM SAST and I introduced myself. I shared on the expected participation conduct/norms. For instance, one of the norms was for the attendees to blow their party whistles whenever they had a question, and each participant was required to pop a balloon every 5 minutes to read a fun fact on blockchain for the entire group. I then asked the participants to share their expectations for the blockchain party. The participants also inquired about my background with blockchain and proceeded to tell them about my learning experience on the TechChange platform.


The discussions at the party leaned on the roundtable format with myself as the facilitator. It was important to make the interactions conversational in order for the participants to feel comfortable, and confident enough to engage with me on this topic. I had a whiteboard where I mind mapped and highlighted the general aspects of blockchain. I also drew a table to present the advantages and unknowns of the technology. The discussions kicked off with the fundamentals of blockchain technology: what it is, how it works and its applications. I took the participants through the blockchain demo. They did have some knowledge on bitcoin as a digital currency due to the buzz bitcoin had recently created in the South African news cycle, markets and on social media. However, the participants didn’t know that blockchain technology can be applied to other areas such as healthcare, energy, remittances, land titling, etc.

Their understanding of blockchain expanded once I explained the underlying technology and shared information on the case studies that I had discovered through the TechChange course.

I will mention that the students were a bit taken aback by the thought of a technology that doesn’t require third-party validation (banks, government, legal institutions, etc) and started to ask a lot of questions (trust and corruption was a big issue). Of course, we did not forget to pop a balloon every 5 minutes to read the fun facts – these fun facts also included notes on case studies which helped to enliven the discussions and provided clarity on some of the questions. We discussed case studies ranging from BanQu to Blockcerts. We then had a Q&A session, and the party ended with the participants telling me about how they plan to share the information they had learned during the blockchain party. One of the students said she would introduce blockchain technology as a debate topic at her school, another student said she would take the time to learn more about freight forwarding applications of blockchain, and another student said she’d also host a blockchain party with her friends! Unfortunately, it got late and we couldn’t pop all 50 balloons but the participants took the remaining balloons with them! The blockchain party was a success and it got me thinking about the possibility of organizing more blockchain parties for high school students in South Africa! I even heard that a high school in Johannesburg, called the African Leadership Academy, had conducted their student government elections on the blockchain. It would be interesting to discover and document how young people in South Africa are thinking about and using this technology. More blockchain parties in the future!!

Thank you Maputi for your creative blockchain party and your contributions to our first Blockchain for International Development course! Interested in taking our Blockchain for International Development course? The next session starts on Monday, September 10th and you can sign up here

As an online learning community, we are always looking for ways our students can learn more effectively. Many of our amazing alumni, who take our online courses on top of their full-time jobs, have used what they learned in our courses to accelerate their careers, or successfully launch or complete various projects. But we seldom see how our students are learning. We came across the work of Katherine Haugh in our twitter feed when she posted a picture of her graphic notes for our on – demand course on Mobile Data Solutions.

Since these notes have been helpful for Katherine, we wanted to make them available for the TechChange community, we are excited to have Katherine help us as our graphic facilitator for some of our live events in our upcoming courses. She already took notes for one of our live sessions with guest expert, Vanessa Corlazzoli of Search for Common Ground in our Tech for M&E online course.

A snapshot of Katherine's notes for our guest expert session with Vanessa Corlazzoli in our Tech for M&E online course

Some of Katherine’s notes for our guest expert session with Vanessa Corlazzoli in our Tech for M&E online course

Since taking notes by hand is found to be more beneficial than taking notes on the computer, we sat down with Katherine to learn more about her note taking strategies and any tips she has for those of us who would like to get started.

How did you hear about TechChange?
I heard about TechChange through Twitter. I am new to the M&E field, so I am constantly looking for online courses that relate to evaluation, especially ones that focus on combining technology and international development initiatives.

How long have you been taking notes by hand?
I have been taking notes by hand since I was in the fifth grade. In middle school, I took all of my notes by hand and always carried a bag of multi-colored pens around with me. What I like most about note-taking is being able to use my notes as a learning or discussion tool (for myself and others). When I was in college, I worked as a note-taker through the McBurney Disability Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I worked as a notetaker for a variety of courses–from Microeconomics to Global Health and Poverty–and I loved it. (Not to mention, I was being paid to attend my own classes. It’s hard to beat that!). Drawing out historical events or evaluation plans helps me to visualize and better understand what I am thinking and also allows me to share my ideas and thoughts with others in a concise and creative way. I enjoy taking extremely complicated issues or concepts and making them simple and easily digestible.

Why handwritten note taking? What are the pros and cons?
Many of my friends and professors asked me this same question. There are countless pros to taking notes by hand:

  • You understand better. It requires that you understand and think through what you are writing because everything you do is intentional when you takes notes by hand.
  • You have more control over the style and layout of your notes. There is more room for creative expression.
  • It forces you to learn as you write — which is the main purpose of taking notes.

The major downsides to taking notes are hand cramps (yes, this is a thing) and not being able to catch every word, detail or concept. You have to work speedily and you run the risk of missing some points.
However, if you are able to capture the major points (for yourself to remember later or to relay to others) you’ve done your job.

What are some of your strategies to take great notes?
The three important strategies I suggest are:

  1. Find the right mix for you (and your audience): For me, writing on a white paper with enough text and symbols works the best. Remember to keep the notes short, and have triggers in key words, images, or symbols to help jog your memory when looking them over.
  2. Get the right tools: Try out different options to know what works best, I like using darker base colors, and bright colors to highlight main points.
  3. Make it personal: Write notes in your own words, I also include dorky jokes in my notes to help me recall what I wrote.

What is your advice for people who want to get started with note taking?
Just give it a go! You’ll be surprised by how easy it is and remember, you don’t have to be an artist to be a brilliant note-taker. Take a concept that you know very well and try to draw it out. It could be in list format or with pictures–whatever makes the most sense to you!

If you want to start taking beautiful notes but can’t stay away from tech, you can also use MindManager as one of our other alumni, Daniel Acosta did in our previous Tech for M&E course.

You can see more of Katherine’s beautiful notes on her blog. Stay tuned to see more of Katherine’s notes for TechChange’s upcoming courses as well!

About Katherine

KHaugh Headshot
Katherine Haugh graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Political Science, International Studies, and Professional Chinese Communication in May of 2014. As an undergraduate, Katherine developed an interest in a wide range of security issues—from nuclear non-proliferation to counterterrorism—as well as a regional interest in South Asia. She is currently a merit scholar at the International Student House and works as a Research Assistant at Innovation Network, a nonprofit evaluation firm in Washington, D.C. She is a long distance runner, board game enthusiast, hiker and lover of gummy vitamins.

This piece has been cross-posted from The Amani Institute. Read the original post.

You think carefully through the strategy for starting a new educational organization with an online course. You market the course and enroll more about 30 people from over 10 countries, with an exciting line-up of guest speakers. You prepare the content and syllabus for the course, working constantly and well with your partner organization. Everything’s set for the launch.

And then, five minutes into your introductory address, the electricity goes out and you’re disconnected from the web platform, leaving your partner and students wondering what happened to you. #typical #Murphy’s Law

Oddly enough, in the debris of that failed experiment lies an important learning moment about working with technology and working to solve social problems (which is in fact the subject of the course – “Technology, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship“): no matter how much you plan ahead, there’s so much still outside your control, and just as technology can be a wonderful enabler, it can also be a serious disabler. As so many technologists and tech entrepreneurs love to say, “It’s not about the technology”. The human side is much more important, and we failed by not trying to limit the possibility of such a disabling moment.

We did not repeat our mistake, however. A few hours ago, we conducted a guest lecture in the online course. This time, we found a corporate office building with reliable electricity and internet connectivity. The subject was “Designing Your Tech-Enabled Social Enterprise” and our guest speaker was Adam White of GroupShot. Adam spoke candidly and insightfully about a number of key principles regarding designing tech-based social change initiatives, some common mistakes that people make, and some of the best organizations in this space. But just as pleased as we were with his talk, we were also just simply relieved that it went off without a hitch given that the hosts were based in Washington, D.C., the guest speaker in Boston, and we were moderating from Nairobi, Kenya.

#success #sigh-of-relief

This past weekend Dr. Michael Gibbons and I taught a 20-hour graduate skills institute at American University’s School of International Service entitled Applications of Technology for Peacebuilding. Students came from a variety of AU programs, including the International Peace and Conflict Program (IPCR) in the School of International Service, the AU Business School, and the AU Law School.

We at TechChange were especially excited about this course, as it allowed us an opportunity to incorporate a variety of new tech-based tools in the curriculum, both those created by TechChange and others. The inclusion of these tools was designed to foster collaboration, allow for course materials to be accessed in innovative, non-linear ways, and to give students an opportunity to participate in hands-on simulations using some of the same tools (e.g. Ushahidi) currently being used by practitioners in the field.