Pan-African Awards Select 4 CEI-Profiled Innovators as Shortlisted Finalists

October 14, 2016Duncan McCullough

CEI is focused on helping innovators access the resources they need to improve and increase their impact. One such opportunity shared by CEI with our network earlier this year was the Teach a Man to Fish Foundation’s call for the Pan-African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education.

The Pan African Awards reward projects which are using enterprise and entrepreneurship to innovate in the field of education. There were over 400 nominations from across the continent this year, and we’re thrilled to share that four of the Shortlisted Finalists - Camara Education, Junior Achievement (JA), LivelyHoods, and ORT-South Africa - are members of the CEI innovation community! And since the initial shortlist, Camara Education and Junior Achievement have been selected as final award recipients for 3rd Prize and the Future Partner Prize, respectively!

We asked these inventive organizations about their work, navigating the awards process, and how they plan to continue improving lives in their communities through education. [Editorial note: ORT-South Africa had important work that understandably constrained their ability to submit responses in time for this publication. To learn more about their exciting program, click here.]

child workskills skills 21st century technology education learningQ1: How do you encourage self-sufficiency or other critical 21st century skills among your beneficiaries?

LivelyHoods: Our training and employment program equips youth and women with essential life skills and professional skills. The education system in Kenya does not provide practical and employable skills and our trainees also lack exposure to employment opportunities in the informal settlements of Kenya. Our training focuses on developing soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, innovation of thought and independence, which we cultivate through a vocational sales and marketing-based training. After the initial two-week training, LivelyHoods employs underprivileged youth to sell sustainable products, like clean- burning cookstoves and solar lamps, and earn commission on every sale. We then use the sales revenue to reinvest in product inventory, which ensures that each individual sustains their own employment. In our trainings, we emphasize the importance of savings and compare options for safely saving money. LivelyHoods also engages the sales agents in team-building, goal-setting, motivational activities, as well as continued sales training.

Junior Achievement (JA): Our mission is the economic empowerment of youth. JA’s work focuses on three key areas: entrepreneurship, work-readiness and financial literacy.  We start with young people as soon as they enter school and have curricula that close the gaps between what they learn in school and what they need to be successful in the workplace in future. In JA’s model, self-sufficiency is key; being goal-oriented, being a self-starter, focusing on results, having integrity, being a team player and critical soft skills that are not taught in traditional academic settings.

Few young people entering the workplace today understand the realities they face: of global competitiveness for skilled labor, of the odds in and against their favor, of what it takes to get a job and to keep a job, of the importance of attitude as a complement to aptitude and of numerous other components of success. By exposing them to these elements, JA Africa positions them for a future of self-sufficiency and increases their likelihood for success.

Camara: Improving grades using technology is a core impact of our work in Camara. There is a growing need for 21st century skills, and not only for those who graduate through the higher grade levels. Thankfully the successful integration of technology enables us to respond to this increasingly pervasive need. Critical skills such as self-sufficiency are gained by students who are set tasks in an eLearning centre environment. At these centers we work to teach our students how to succeed at diverse challenges, without having the answer spoon-fed to them. This more open approach is also vital in developing other 21st century skills like critical thinking and problem solving.

Q2: How do you document and demonstrate successes for your program? And how do you share that evidence with others in the education or development sector?

child workskills skills 21st century technology education learning

Camara: Our number one strategy for the past three years has been to “prove” the positive impact that technology has on education. As such, operationally and programmatically we include measurement of educational outcomes on every level. For example, we now know that students in Computer Studies achieved on average a 14% better grade than those who did not have eLearning access. In Kenya we know that students who had >90 minutes access to Maths Whizz, via our iMlango portal, achieved twice the international rate of progress than other students.

We’re committed to not only collecting, but sharing this impact as well. We work to disseminate successes via blogs, press releases and by producing one of the most comprehensive monitoring and evaluation reports in the INGO sector.

LivelyHoods: We demonstrate success for our program through documenting the income each individual earns as a LivelyHoods sales agent, and for how long they work with us. We also carry out a PPI survey (Progress Out of Poverty Index, by the Grameen Foundation) to measure improvements in household quality of life and likelihood of living below key poverty lines. This is done one year after starting training, and we’ve so far seen a significant improvement in household quality of life, and a drop in poverty likelihood. We also ask our sales agents and trainees what they consider to be the most significant change they’ve experienced thanks to LivelyHoods, and we’ve found that the outcomes align perfectly with our missions statement and values.

Our key metrics are shared on a monthly basis on our public blog, where we share learnings and challenges as well. We are a part of several networks with other players in the education, clean energy and development sector, such as the Clean Cookstove Alliance of Kenya, and we collaborate with youth employment initiatives headed up by international development mechanisms such as USAID and the wPOWER hub (women in energy entrepreneurship hub, coordinated by the Wangari Maahai Institute). We regularly take part in advocacy and knowledge exchange forums and meetings with these institutions.

child workskills skills 21st century technology education learning

Junior Achievement: JA prides itself as an organization with integrity and transparency. For example, points of reference are used to ensure accurate reporting, such as the number of students per class. Paper-based pre-tests are administered at the beginning of each project to obtain baseline data on participants’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors/practices around entrepreneurship, work-readiness, financial literacy and STEM. This data is then analyzed against post-test data to gauge business knowledge gain, understanding of entrepreneurial concepts and skills development, and changed perceptions about the above subjects. Student surveys are also helpful in measuring practical impact, and results are then used to determine the need for any improvements to the program content or methodology.

Sharing is a key value for JA within and beyond its networks. For JA Africa specifically, there is new and added intent and effort to share knowledge more broadly through social, print and other media. Additionally, during the program cycle local staff liaise with facilitators, monitoring through monthly site visits, troubleshoot problems and share learnings from across the network to improve program quality. We produce cumulative progress reports submitted to the regional office quarterly, and Best Practice workshops are held for stakeholders to discuss the results. JA is committed to systematic impact measurement and recognizes the exercise as a pivotal way to monitor and demonstrate the value JA is delivering to young people.

Q3: What advice do you have for other innovators seeking to apply lessons or processes from the private sector to their work in education?

LivelyHoods: Innovators must adapt their private sector processes to their specific situation and target audience. Similarly, they should aim to continuously evaluate the curriculums provided, measure the increase in knowledge and skills, as well as the level of social impact among the target audience, such as increased household spending and higher standards of living.

Junior Achievement: It is important for other innovators to understand the complexity of interventions in youth entrepreneurship education and the need to engage with private sector professionals in providing these services to youth.  Private sector professionals bring practical examples to the classroom and offer access to certain resources for youth more easily. These include networks, credits, mentorships, coaching, apprenticeships, job shadows to name a few.

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In cases where mergers and acquisitions have been successful in the private sector, there have been significant benefits primarily in the areas of business growth and visibility, access to larger networks and resources amongst many others. Innovators in education also have a unique capacity to work at scale. We would advise organizations in education to work together and partner with each other to reach more communities. Scale is important in generating certain efficiencies that smaller interventions cannot create as easily.

Ideally, the private sector should engage through trusted public sector actors, such as NGOs who bring expertise in this field. Most importantly, the private sector should create interventions that deliver not a handout but a hand up. Emphasis should be placed in ensuring the sustainability of all interventions and rigorous metrics should be put in place to measure impact.

Camara: Be open, listen, learn. Don’t reinvent the wheel. And also, don’t underestimate the challenges that exist in having a transformative impact in the education sector.

Q4: 2016 has been an exciting year for your program! What do you have planned next for your organization?

Camara: We plan to go even deeper into education and explore the many possibilities of how technology can transform education by working closer with ministries, schools and teachers. Above all, we will continue to be relentless in measuring our impact and using that to improve our work and share it with the sector.

LivelyHoods: LivelyHoods plans to increase the number of branches we have throughout Kenya from 12 in 2016 to 38 by 2020. With this growth, we will create jobs for over 5,200 youth and women, and become a financially sustainable social enterprise providing training and jobs to disadvantaged youth and women across Kenya, and beyond! We’re planning on expanding into the western part of the country soon, and are looking to secure funding to make this a reality. We’re also going to be further expanding our curriculum to encompass even more life skills and work-readiness skills.

Junior Achievement: As a year in which we’ve transitioned leadership, 2016 has been one of change and excitement. It was also a building year for JA Africa, in which we are planting the seeds for some significant changes we hope to make next year.

Prominent among these is the need to work at scale. As indicated earlier scale is able to generate certain economies that working in small levels does not. The challenges of youth unemployment across Africa are significant. Millions of young people leave school every year by default or by design: by design because they graduate and by default because they drop out for any number of reasons. We cannot afford to be timid on our responses to the urgency of the need for them to find gainful unemployment that suits their skills levels, their ambitions and their capacities.

For this reason, JA Africa expects to partner more intentionally than it has ever done in its past. Throughout its history JA Africa has worked successfully with private corporations across Africa; receiving funding, implementing programs, co-developing projects, etc. We want to take this experience and apply it as well in the public sector. We believe that our experience can have value in helping us bridge the gaps between the needs of the private sector and the aspirations and goals of the public sector especially as they relate to policy-making.

child workskills skills 21st century technology education learning

JA Africa will invest its energies in thought-leaderships and thought-partnerships that can inform change at a macro-level. We will be looking to work closely with organizations whose goals are aligned with ours and whose voices we can mutually amplify as change-makers. Here, we believe that this award from Teach a Man to Fish, will signal the commitment of both organizations in finding proven, sustainable solutions to Africa’s education challenges and highlight the need for urgency for attention and investment in schools and education as a pathway to ending poverty.

LivelyHoods: LivelyHoods plans to increase the number of branches we have throughout Kenya from 12 in 2016 to 38 by 2020. With this growth, we will create jobs for over 5,200 youth and women, and become a financially sustainable social enterprise providing training and jobs to disadvantaged youth and women across Kenya, and beyond! We’re planning on expanding into the western part of the country soon, and are looking to secure funding to make this a reality. We’re also going to be further expanding our curriculum to encompass even more life skills and work-readiness skills.

At CEI we are honored to be working with innovators like these, and cannot wait to see how their impact continues to unfold. To learn more about other new approaches to solving education’s toughest challenges, search through over 700 innovative programs in the CEI Program Database. 

Photo Credits: LivelyHoods ; Camara Education, Tanzania ; Junior Achievement (JA)

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