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Today, it all begins. Luckily, it’s a wonderful blue sky day too. This morning I’ll be sipping my coffee as a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. This, to me, is a very big thing indeed – it’s my chance to make a difference and address unlocking access to open, and affordable, conservation technology. I’m incredibly grateful to the Shuttleworth Foundation for giving me the opportunity to do so.

For a number of years, I’ve been watching the progress of other Fellows and paying attention to the newcomer’s goals and missions. When I decided to pitch for my own Fellowship I received some enlightening feedback from the Foundation’s small but passionate team. They liked my ideals and vision, but I needed to think a little more as to the value I could offer others. How could I maximise my impact if I was to be offered a Fellowship? What were my core values? All very valid questions.

I went away and had a good think. I found that it was useful to place myself on the other side of the fence – as a field conservationist, NGO or researcher. What are my needs? what offers me value? how could open and affordable technology help me to be successful?

I can happily report that the Foundation liked where I was going. I remember receiving the phone call to confirm that I’d been accepted. The phone number flashed up as an “unknown number” so I instantly thought it was someone trying to sell me car insurance or the likes. On picking up the phone it also took a few seconds to connect (hinting at a classic call centre system that picks up phones that have been answered). Just as I went to cancel the call a lady with a South African accent whispered “Hello”. “This is Karien from the Shuttleworth Foundation”. Karien was sitting in their Cape Town office, and was about to confirm that I was to be accepted for the March 2017 intake. Since that call I haven’t stopped thinking about the opportunity and trust awarded to me. Thank you.