By Kate Hiller
Fourteen young African leaders from six different countries have gathered here in Windhoek, Namibia to participate in the third and fourth YALI Connect Camps, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute for International Journalism.
The third Connect Camp is comprised of seven Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) Alumni and their mentees from Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia. The purpose of the Connect Camps is to invest in the next generation of African leaders through intensive executive leadership training, networking and skills building in order to prepare them to create social change in their respective communities by achieving the following goals:
- Give up to 160 young African leaders the opportunity to collaborate, learn, and network with U.S. and African resource experts and with each other during the eight YALI Connect Camps; to develop innovation strategies that build on their professional skills, engage in hands-on experience with low-bandwidth technologies, conduct community outreach, and build their capacity through mentoring, networking, and using strategic civic leadership for social change.
- Use a stimulating canvas model of leadership to develop skills in entrepreneurship and creating social change by engaging in five-days of facilitated interactive sub-group workshops, and fostering mentorship relationships between the Mandela Washington Fellow alumni and their chosen mentees for the Camp.
- Demonstrate some community-oriented enterprises using applied technology that supports innovation and collaboration in community development and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management.
- Develop leadership skills among delegates through mentoring relationships, between themselves, as well as with American and African facilitators.
- Provide participants with opportunities for face-to-face networking and to facilitate a collaborative, innovative project or projects that further YALI goals.
Unlike the YALI-MWF training programs, which take place at about 20 universities across the United States, the Connect Camps are being conducted as follow-on training workshops in four sub regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The first two camps were conducted in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in March, and the fifth and sixth camps will be in Cote d'Ivoire later this year.
From May 3-9, the third cohort of mentors and mentees invited to Namibia worked together to develop new social ventures using a comprehensive, iterative, one-page modeling tool based on the original "Lean Launch" business model canvas, and recrafted by camp facilitators as the "Venture Model Canvas." Camp participants used the poster-sized modeling tool to identify and hone their proposed new ventures value proposition for identified beneficiaries, to decide how the value was to be delivered and what was required for delivery. Participants also enumerated the fiscal, social and environmental costs, and benefits associated with the proposed venture.
The proposed ventures modeled during the camp encompassed a wide range of southern African start-ups:
- "My Hostel, My Home, My Responsibility," a Namibia-based youth boarding school vandalism reduction program led by youth councils and geared toward reeducation and reintegration of vandals,
- "The Green Machine," a mobile, youth-consciousness-raising program in a wheeled truck, traveling to Ethiopian primary schools with a program of competitive fun and education, all centered on recycling and greening the environment,
- A university-based young women's engagement and empowerment entity working simultaneously in Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana,
- A non-partisan Zambian consultancy focused on educating and engaging the electorate in the democratic process (initial emphasis on youth), and
- A Botswanan youth employment service bringing together unemployed youth, educational institutions, and employers in an effort to improve needed skill sets to fill existing jobs in the modern workplace.
The participants practiced and presented pitches for the ventures to hypothetical new venture partners and funders. The audience for the final pitches included US Embassy representatives, an external evaluator, and local educators.
In addition to working with the Venture Model Canvas, participants also learned about community mapping through two representatives from the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team, Mikel Maron and Benson Wilder, visited Natures Way, a natural health clinic set up by a MWF, and a textile factory. A facilitator representing the Open Learning Exchange (OLE) from Ghana, West Africa, Kofi Essien, also presented to the group via Skype about his work with low-bandwidth technology in the education sector. Educators from Ohio University, Faith Knutsen and Judy Millesen, spent five days of the training with the participants facilitating on various topics including innovation and leadership for social change and much more.
The young professionals and future leaders have forged friendships across borders that will keep them together for years to come.