INSPIRED IMPACT™ is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of purpose-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Educate! prepares youth in Africa with the skills to succeed in today’s economy.
We tackle youth unemployment by partnering with schools and governments to reform what schools teach and how they teach it so that students in Africa have the skills to start businesses, get jobs and drive development in their communities.
Educate!’s experiential model teaches the “hard skills” of business including planning, budgeting, savings, and market research. Educate! complements these skills with the “soft skills” demanded most by both employers and students themselves, such as teamwork, public speaking, networking, critical thinking, self-confidence, and creativity. By creating a new educational model that reforms what schools teach and how they teach it, Educate! is empowering teachers and youth mentors to equip students with the skills to drive measurable change.
Currently, Educate! reaches more than 42,000 students intensively and 530,000 more broadly, and has partnered with the governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya to advise on national curriculum reform and incorporate aspects of our model into the national curriculum of each country.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Educate! targets one core problem: the mismatch between education and life after school in Africa. Africa’s youth population is surging: nearly 50% of all Africans are younger than 18, and that number is rising. These demographics, along with a scarcity of jobs, have led to dramatic rates of youth unemployment. Education systems in Africa already face challenges meeting young peoples’ needs – current curricula and teaching methods don’t consistently prepare students for what’s to come following graduation. Despite an eagerness and commitment to learning, even students who finish secondary school often find themselves lacking the skills needed for the few available jobs.
We believe that by transforming secondary education we can equip youth with the skills to disrupt the systemic problem of youth unemployment and improve their livelihoods.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Two rigorous external evaluations, including a randomized controlled trial, found that towards the end of secondary school, participants of our program earn nearly DOUBLE the income of their peers and are 44% more likely to launch a business. Girls achieve even greater results! Girls earn 244% more than their peers who did not complete the program and are 91% more likely to own a business.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
In 2002 when my co-founder Eric Glustrom visited a refugee camp in Western Uganda, he met a refugee named Benson. Benson believed that with a formal education, he could change his life. Soon after, Eric created Educate!’s initial model – a scholarship program for young Congolese refugees. While attending Amherst College, I met Eric and listened to his stories about students like Benson. The stories resonated with me – in my own life, education had unlocked a world of opportunity. As a child, I emigrated to the U.S. from Latvia as a refugee, and I had seen firsthand the value of an excellent education, attending high-quality public schools that eventually enabled me to attend Amherst. I was inspired by Eric’s vision and decided to join his cause. Traveling to Uganda, Eric and I met the young scholarship recipients and learned that after completing school, even these extremely bright and motivated youth couldn’t find work. Unfortunately, these top graduates entered the job market only to find themselves lacking the skills needed for the few available jobs. As a result, we set out to develop a new model for Educate! that would address the mismatch between education and life after school, fulfilling the broken promise of education by equipping youth with the skills they need to thrive after graduation.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our goal is to make this practical, skills-based model of education part of national education systems, and prepare youth across Africa with the skills to succeed in life after school.
Educate! is working to create a massively repeatable and scalable solution for African youth. We have worked towards optimizing our model for scale since our inception, preparing to scale both at the school level and through national education systems. Ultimately, we see national education systems as the most effective way to make a large-scale, sustainable impact on millions of young people, and our model is designed to be integrated into national education systems and delivered by governments.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
Educate!’s work is made possible by our amazing partners who believe in the power of quality education and in the potential of African youth. For more than 10 years, we have worked to equip young people with the skills to thrive in life after school, and we see the coming years as a pivotal moment to leverage the potential of Africa’s creative, resourceful, and talented youth demographic, and prepare them with the skills to succeed in today’s economy. Continuing to build strong partnerships with like-minded individuals, stakeholders, and governments will be essential to Educate!’s mission and hopes for the future – a future where all youth receive the skills to develop their talents and realize their potential.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
The most significant strategic challenge Educate! has faced is attempting to answer the question: How do proven solutions integrate into national education systems? We believe this will be a major question of the next 20 years in international development. Educate! takes an “always learning” approach to all our work and are doing the same with this question. To date, Educate! has partnered with the governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya to integrate our solution into national curricula and to support the rollout of skills-based curriculum reforms. We are constantly learning from these partnerships and developing best practices which help us reach our goal of creating long-term impact by incorporating our model of skills-based education into national education systems across Africa.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
In my experience, the absolutely essential ingredient for any organization with a strong impact is its people. I’m proud of the strong organizational culture we’ve worked so hard to develop, and I always advise up-and-coming leaders to invest heavily in culture and talent.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
You can learn more about Educate!’s mission, model, and impact on our website. Educate! is also active on social media channels, where you can keep up to date with exciting news and join our conversations around education, youth, and skills development. Those looking to invest in the next generation of Africa’s young leaders and entrepreneurs can donate here: experienceeducate.org/investing.
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