Entrepreneurship: some interesting experiences across the world/3

Mostafa Shahat has been working in entrepreneurship field for 7 years. He founded a training company called G.O.L (Goal Oriented Learners). G.O.L is improving Egyptian youth employment’s skills to be qualified candidates for the job market by offering trainings on entrepreneurship, professional trainings (marketing, sales..ect).Mostafa succeed to deliver G.O.L trainings to 30,000 entrepreneurs & graduates in Egypt.Mostafa interviewed over 80 entrepreneurs from all over the Middle East and published their success stories in international entrepreneurship magazines.Mostafa succeed to build partnerships with several European organizations to organize funded Entrepreneurship programs by National European Agencies in Italy, Bulgaria and Netherlands. Here he gives us a collection of some very interesting stories from international entreneurship.

Empowering Young African Youth

A story of Dorien Beurskens a Dutch woman who moved to Africa 1995 in Kenya to work as a volunteer at Don Bosco a global organization that empowers young people, at one of its international project which focused on Street Children issue, she used to volunteer at Don Bosco in Holland for long time working with young people, and they have facilitated for her to travel to Kenya, Quoted from Dorien “After two weeks staying in Kenya, I fall in love in Kenya and the development work”, adding to her point “I realized at that time, where I want to be and what work I could do which fits my values and skills”, Dorien stayed in Kenya for 4 months, and then she went back to Holland for a one year to work with Don Bosco to deliver employment training for young girls about computer and secretarial training and then she returned again to Kenya for one year to Don Bosco, Quoted from Dorien “Once I went back to Holland, I felt homesick to Kenya, that’s why I went back again to Kenya after the one year long that I stayed it in Holland”.

Dorien didn’t only fall in love with Kenya and development work but, as well she fall in love with her life and work’s partner Raj Joseph originally from India who later worked together to start one of the most successful, sustainable and influential NGO called Young Africa (YA), YA empowers underprivileged young people with skills of the hands to make them self-reliant, skills of the heart and mind to live with dignity, skills of the soul to live with purpose, Quoted from Dorien “YA wasn’t only my idea, but it was me and Raj’s idea, we built out dream together”, adding to her point “Raj was already working at Don Bosco when I arrived to Kenya, and before he was working at Don Bosco in India, both of us didn’t have degree in development, I had a master degree in Latin and Greek ancient history from Leyden University at Netherlands and Raj had his master in Film & Television from UCLA at USA”.

Dorien  spent 1 years at Kenya working with Raj in the street children project, parallel; they were as well thinking and developing the idea of YA, Quoted from Dorien  “Don Bosco does a great work, but there are few elements that we saw in the work of development that we wanted to change, first; working towards financial self sustainability of the organization, secondly; the technical issues that are usually happening when you’re handing over the management of an international organization to local people’.

YA finally came to life in 1998, Quoted from Dorien  “We wanted a name for the organization, we have been searching for a name that is possible and positive, I thought of YA which means in Dutch – Yes, and then when we searched for the abbreviation that fits to that name, we ended up with Young Africa”, adding to her point “Even after many years, we are still happy with it, because it’s dynamic name which explains extremely what we do, and the word young is usually gives energy”.

They started YA activities in Zimbabwe July 1998, that was the first destination that have targeted as they found that it needs more development especially youth empowerment and they were searching for a place where they can make a big difference, and Kenya had already many international NGOs that were doing a great projects over there, Quoted from Dorien  “Before designing any programs, we have done very informal survey for 6 weeks to see what are the youth’s dreams in Zimbabwe? And what are constrains that block young people to achieve their dreams? And how could YA contribute to that?” they have asked local people, government people, NGOs people, students at schools & universities, the answers were almost the same, young people needs vocational training and income generation projects, and that was the direction that YA ended up following.

Quoted from Dorien  “We felt strongly, if we want to contribute to the development in the society, we need to engage young people in the process, they are very dynamic and big energetic force, with their power they can shape their society” adding to her point “Young people by nature, they want to change, improve, and innovate, and they are the most powerful force for change”.

The First project they have started was entrepreneurship training, they have trained group of young people how to start their projects beside they offered whom succeed to have a good proposal loans, the project lasted for 2 months until they had the opportunity to summit proposal to Dorien’s high school where she used to attend her high school in Holland, and they succeed to receive a grant to start the first vocational school at Chitungwiza the biggest township at Zimbabwe, and they have been rewarded by the mayor who offered them a big space of land where they built their 1st vocational school.

Quoted from Dorien  “At the vocational centres, we succeeded to build different  workshops for technical, commercial or agricultural courses, where the young people can either learn how to be the qualified & perfect employee or how to be successful entrepreneur” adding to her point “We have created a very creative business model that helped us to be sustainable and start YA’s training centers in 3 different countries, starting with Zimbabwe (Chitungwiza and Epworth),then; Mozambique (Beira and Dondo) and finally Namibia (Walvisbay)”.

They have rented workshops, land, equipment and facilities to local entrepreneurs who are working in different fields (restaurants, garages, crèches, hair salons, farms and libraries, etc) so they can make revenues while they are producing goods or services, as well they can train youth in the field of their expertise.

Quoted from Dorien”At YA, all courses are franchised to a local entrepreneur. This franchisee pays rent for the use of YA facilities and equipments. Each department raises their income from the profit they generated through the production of goods or services. A contribution from franchisees covers the operational expenses of a YA centre and guarantees its sustainability”.

YA succeed to train 1000 students in each centre in a yearly basis, and each training is lasting between 6 – 12 months depending on the course, with 35 hours training per week, for only 15 students to make sure that each student has the hands on experience, their target audience is students between 15 – 25 years old with lack of academic performance.

 YA have developed the curriculum for the courses and the local entrepreneurs who were highly selected and interviewed were delivering the training. At the end; students have the freedom to choose between searching for jobs that fit their skills and be employee or start their business and be an entrepreneur.

YA teaches young people skills of the hands to be self-reliant, skills of heart and mind to live with dignity, skills of the soul to live with purpose, moreover; life skills education and entrepreneurship training are integrated in all Young Africa’s courses.

YA succeed since they started to training over 25,000 youngsters, YA has currently 6 model skills training centres’ in 3 countries, 83% of the graduated students find a job, apprenticeship or start a business and 90% of the youngsters makes responsible choices with regard to HIV/AIDS and finally YA model has been replicated by GO’s and NGO’s.

Dorien has been accepted to be Ashoka Fellow, Ashoka  is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale, and being Ashoka fellow is considered one of the prestige award that Dorien has been awarded with.

Within the next 10 years, YA is planning to reach to half million youths with 15 centers in southern Africa through scaling the organisation and dissemination of the model.

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African Entrepreneurs are always the pioneers

 

We always see the entrepreneurs’ final step which is either creating their NGOs or companies, and start growing up and scaling outside his/her community, but have we ever imagined the entrepreneur’s success story and what was challenging him/her during his/her journey.

I interviewed Susannah Farr from South Africa, who started GOLD to create generations of leaders and to develop social capital in African youth. Susannah grew up in a family who loved and believed her, a dad and mom who were activists, a father in particular who was full of entrepreneurial spirits, he has been always encouraging his daughter to stand up for those who have least.Susannah has proofed that African Entrepreneurs are always the pioneers, African communities are always struggling with their societies’ problems, innovative and creative’s solutions have become more needed, youth is usually the power to implement these solutions, and they need to be involved in the society transformation to ensure the long term sustainability. Development work worth the sacrifices, as its results is always magnificent, and it is changing people’s life, and that’s what Susannah has done, she scarified with her career to build GOLD.

Q: Could you tell about your personal story and what are the challenges that you have faced to help you to become who you’re now?

A: I grew up in a loving yet financially tough home environment. My white friends’ got pocket money from their parents, who had two cars and owned a house. I did not have these luxuries.Yet despite this, I always felt a sense of immense gratitude for how my parents modelled the important values in life to me and exposed me to a world that so many young white South Africans sadly never had the “privilege of experiencing” because of the apartheid legacy and their own fears of embracing diversity.My parents raised three Xhosa children as my foster brothers and sister whose biological father had been murdered and their mom had left them to make money through sex work at the time. I grew up in a simple yet cross-cultural family which was an extraordinary gift that I believe shaped so much of who I am today. Not only have my husband and I adopted two beautiful children whose biological parents died, but I have been actively committed to diversity and building bridges across the cultural and socio-economic gaps that are so prevalent in South Africa because this appreciation in me was shaped.I was encouraged by my Dad to do entrepreneurial ventures to make up for the pocket money my friends got and I ended up being positioned to share with my friends and family too. I was always starting something and selling something. Losing my father to cancer was a painful experience and a huge hole in my life. It has given me a level of compassion I don’t believe I could have had before without having gone through the loss of a parent. Most young people do not have any adult role models and this is a critical lack in our society which GOLD is seeking to address at multiple levels.

Q: Education matters, and its priority in our life to be educated to be able to do change. How could your Education background support you to be successful entrepreneur?

A: I was a hard worker and was given a “no strings attached” bursary to attend a top private school in my high School years which gave me a significant sense of the value of quality education yet also an awareness of the massive gap between rich and poor and its impact on society as a whole. After completing my schooling I studied Advertising and Media. However, in my early 20’s, I felt an increasingly strong sense of purpose to be a part of seeing the next generation come into their full potential and be given opportunities that they would not else have, and my career path was redefined. I turned down a big job offer in an Advertising Agency. This was a big watershed moment for me. I felt that my media and advertising background would come to benefit me later once I had established a strong community development background and furthered my studies in an area that I could better use to serve others significantly in my generation.  My Masters degree helped me give academic validation to my dream of young people empowered to bring change.

Q: International experience is always exposing people to new culture and ideas, and it’s always unleashing their skills, could you share part of your international experience?

In 1999 I spent seven months in Egypt where I lived in an orphanage and then lived and worked with youth in the slums of Cairo. This was a tough experience as a young single woman in many ways (from being sick to experiencing extreme poverty and living within a culture very foreign to anything I had experienced even in my cross-cultural upbringing).This experience taught that although one may be materially poor, they have so much to give and are in fact rich. I later initiated two NGO’s, one which was more of a behind the scenes role with my church at the time in a township called Guguletu where the poor were trained to reach out to those that were destitute. With these experiences it deepened in me a passion to see young Africans that come from the poorest communities know how rich they are and how much they have to share if they respond to their circumstances with a sense of purpose. I also realize that with all the potential in the world, unless there is an enabling environment for young people to flourish, potential will not come into being. These need to be addressed systemically and at policy level. An intervention strategy that hopes to be effective must address root causes, meet young people where they are at in their communities, get to grips with the challenges they face and offer relevant help to confront challenges and make life-affirming choices.

Q: What’s the Social entrepreneur definition from your point of view?

A: I think a true social entrepreneur is an innovator. A person that is committed to discovering solutions for the world’s most pressing issues of the day and the big social challenges which are normally also economic in nature. A social entrepreneur is a unique breed. They are thought leaders that are committed to questioning and challenging the status quo by developing strategies, models and products to change systems and start movements of positive change that can be sustained and scaled. They change things for the better over the long haul.

Q: How did you come up with your GOLD’s idea?

 

A: My idea was birthed out of a dream to see young people provided with the platform to lead and shape their future-politically, economically, socially and culturally. The dream is to see a generation of young African leaders very often labelled as the youth bulge crisis at the bottom of the pyramid – to see them given the platform and the tools to confront and overcome the pressures and desperate circumstances at home that make them do what they do to survive and forget the pain.  And to harness their potential and impart vision and skills so they can mobilise their peers and younger children to be a part of a revolution of hope for the next generation.In South Africa particularly, the legacy of apartheid required an intentional approach to empowering youth in a restitutional manner and providing opportunities without forgetting the need for responsibility to go hand in hand with rights. The lack of leadership as a whole regarding HIV in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s led to a need for strong civil society organizations to address the key drivers of HIV and inadequate education whilst also challenging decision makers and addressing structural changes required for sustained change. Throughout history, key transformation was initiated by individuals, many of whom were young. If young people are given the tools and mentorship, their potential to lead change can be realized as the greatest force for development and improving their quality of life in the future. The stigma around technical skills as opposed to university degrees has perpetuated the skills gap that is fuelling the unemployment crisis amongst school leavers most of whom will never attend university but are the backbone of the economy in taking up potential semi-skilled jobs and internships.

Q: Entrepreneurs are usually struggling and facing problems and challenging all the way long until they succeed, I am sure you have definitely faces some, can you share the most challenge that you’re facing nowadays?

A: I have faced many during my life to start GOLD. I am a great believer in allowing adversity and difficulties to help fuel innovation and make you stronger. I think the biggest challenge has been dealing with donor cycles when you are trying to implement a long term model.  Being committed to quality and scale is a challenge but has been an important part of our DNA. We can only sustain wide if we go deep first.

Q: Give us an overview about GOLD activities, Methodology, vision,…etc? And how could GOLD contribute to South African society? 

A: GOLD Peer Education Development Agency (GOLD Agency) is a dynamic non-profit organization that aims to grow young African leaders with hope, character and integrity to mobilise their generation with the tools and support to complete their education and go on to reach their full potential, despite obstacles such as poverty, apathy, inadequate education, unemployment, orphanhood and HIV. GOLD Consulting is a for-profit social enterprise holding company which is 100% owned by GOLD Agency.  I established GOLD Consulting as a social enterprise to leverage commercial value in GOLD Agency to help towards sustaining the work of GOLD Agency in under-served communities. This is done through unlocking solutions in emerging markets and in doing so, creating jobs for the GOLD Agency youth beneficiaries.At the heart of the GOLD methodology is the belief that the message giver is the strongest message. The GOLD Model harnesses the influence that young people at grassroots have on their peers and younger children. Youth encourage each other to make informed choices and develop health-enhancing and purpose driven socialnorms.In order to createchange in the peer group, personal change needs to beignited. Adolescent Peer Educators from hard-hit communities, who demonstrate leadership potential,are selected from among their communities and peer groups to enter the GOLD programme. They are then equipped, mentored and supported by skilled young adult Facilitator Interns over a three-year period. Their personal change has a ripple effect on their peers, younger children and their communities. The GOLDselection process is well tested and includes volunteering and nomination with an interview process.The GOLD Peer Education Model, using a well-researched curriculum and supporting resources, has been tested and refined over ten years. Peer Educators attend weekly  skills training and mentoring sessions, run by the Facilitator Interns, equipping them to perform the four roles of a GOLD Peer Educator, namely to:

  1. Role model health-enhancing behavior.
  2. Educate their peers and younger children in a structured way.
  3. Recognize peers in need of help and refer them to relevant community resources for assistance.
  4. Uplift their communities through advocacy and volunteerism.

The Peer Educators thus gain valuable skills as well as practical work experience, while uplifting their communities, ultimately leading to an increase in their employability and to a stronger community.GOLD Agency’s future forward initiative connects GOLD Grads (Alumni) to future opportunities in further education, workplace internships, access to entry level jobs and entrepreneurship support.The concept of Peer Education, which harnesses the influence that young people have on their peers, is not new. The new idea that I developed and implemented is the concept of a Peer Education Model that is measurable, replicable and scalable, with clear indicators and expected outcomes which are entrenched in the understanding of character attributes as core to sustain change at an individual, peer group and ultimately at a community level. This new idea is the GOLD Youth Peer Education Model and if rolled out in enough countries, provinces, schools and community sites can effect systemic change and will positively impact the way that the education and health systems interact with and support youth.

Q: GOLD is a very successful and sustainable social enterprise; definitely, you have received some international awards for your magnificent work, could you share some of them?

A: We have been rewarded many times before, the recent one and the most prestige’s award is being Ashoka Fellow in 2014, Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in seventy countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. GOLD won first prize in the first Commonwealth Good Practice Education awards 2006, for a best practice model in supporting education in difficult circumstances out of applications from across 56 countries. In Dec. 2013 GOLD received the Impumelelo Social Innovation Award. In 2010 GOLD won best health project by the Mpumalanga Provincial AIDS Council.

Q: What’s your vision for South Africa and the green Continent Africa? 

A: I have a vision to see GOLD Peer Education being implemented across Africa so that millions of young people are developed and given hope and are better able to make good decisions for their lives and access future employment and study opportunities or grow their own businesses. Systemically this will strengthen education quality and increase healthy and purpose filled social norms. I think Africa has the potential to show the rest of the world what true community and servant leadership is about. Africa is rich – its full potential is untapped. Its greatest resource is the GOLD at the bottom of the pyramid and I think how we develop the human and social capital of grassroots youth will determine our future.Finally; Africa continent needs each one of us efforts, change happened when we believe it will happen, it doesn’t come by chance, African entrepreneurs & activists will not be in rest until they see our continent flourishing, and we no longer have development countries, long live Africa.

 

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