Graduate Student Spotlight: Larry Kata
Improving the lives of others is the passion of Lawrence Katanyoleka (Larry Kata). When combined with entrepreneurial practice, this desire to empower his community takes the form of social enterprise. In its truest form, social enterprise is application of commercial strategies to create improvements in either financial, environmental, or social well-being.
“Before coming to Michigan, I ran a social enterprise,” Larry said. “These kinds of social innovations are what I want to be doing.”
Prior to his matriculation to the University of Michigan, Larry lived in Uganda. It was there he completed his undergraduate degree and co-founded a social enterprise, non-profit organization – Mama Alive Initiatives.
“The goal is to improve the health and well-being of these women and children through increasing access to quality health services in underserved communities,” he said. “This was a great time for me to discover my passion.”
Headquartered in the capital city, Kampala, Mama Alive Initiatives worked to support the health of women and children in rural parts of Uganda. Larry and his team worked directly with these women and children to fully understand their immediate needs, and ideate meaningful, effective solutions.
“My biggest takeaway is that the best interventions are designed by the communities they are intended to serve,” Larry said “In most cases, the outcomes are scalable and sustainable. These communities bring forth so many ideas, founded from their experiences.”
By maintaining an open dialogue and through listening to the experiences of the population he intends to serve, the efforts of Mama Alive Initiatives are far more effective. In the future, Larry strongly considers expanding upon this non-profit organization he built in Uganda and innovating around digital health transformation for emerging markets.
“The ultimate goal is to get back to what I love the most: entrepreneurship.”
However in 2018, his journey and worldview completely changed when he emigrated to the United States seeking asylum.
“When I first arrived in 2018, it was because I was seeking asylum. I lived at Freedom House in Detroit for a year while my asylum approval was pending.”
Freedom House served as a temporary establishment for approximately 60 others, hailing from countries across the globe. Larry’s first exposure to American culture was through students at the University of Michigan, who would frequently visit Freedom House to share their experiences, information about the US, American culture and help prepare them for the road ahead.
“This was my first introduction to the University of Michigan, and I was immediately interested when the programs aligned with my passion for public health and social entrepreneurship,” he said.
Today, Larry is a third year graduate student at the University, pursuing dual masters degrees in Public Policy and Health Informatics, complemented by a Graduate Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
“Looking at the Center for Entrepreneurship courses, I knew they could give me the requisite skills for my future path,” he said.
There are endless opportunities at the intersection of entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Learning how to effectively steer any organization (non-profit included) and configuring context-specific business models will serve as a cornerstone for Larry’s shining career ahead of him. When combined with his passion for people, he becomes an unstoppable force of change.
“My reason? To make an impact on those who need it.”