Wedu Fund is a leadership development program for young, underprivileged women who come from some of the least developed countries in Asia and demonstrate strong leadership potential. Wedu helps to finance their higher education through scholarships or loans and provides them with one-on-one, lifelong mentorship.
The mentorship aspect of the program provides critical, and often lacking, support to help students navigate through their university education and achieve individual goals. Wedu matches selected women, or "rising stars", with mentors based on overlapping interests, individual values and principles, and time availability. Mentors may be located anywhere in the world and are responsible for "meeting" with their respective rising stars twice per month online, usually via Skype. The first meeting of each month is dedicated to personal development and incorporates goal-setting exercises, developing a plan to achieve short-term goals, and discussing long-term goals. The second meeting of the month centers on leadership development using an original curriculum created by Wedu. The mentor receives conversation guidelines and sample topics include identity, empathy, religious pluralism, and human rights and democracy.
Mentors apply to become part of the Wedu network; so far, word of mouth has proved the most successful method to generate interest. While not all rising stars currently have mentors, the program is looking to partner with organizations and develop a more sustainable supply of mentors in the future by recruiting alumni, or its returning rising stars.
Wedu supports women to attend local or foreign universities. Still in the program's early stages, Wedu is currently developing a more sustainable financial model than supplying scholarships. Wedu distributed its first student loan in September 2013 and hopes to provide more loans on an income-sharing agreement.
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CEI approaches in actionStudent supportFinancingEducation FinancingEthics & Values/ReligionEntrepreneurship skills
Model details2012Not-for-profit21st century skills (soft skills)Ethics & Values/ReligionEntrepreneurship skillsActiveLong-term projectScholarships16100%
Wedu's local talent spotters recommend potential candidates to participate in the program's application process. Applicants are chosen according to three qualities:
- Leadership potential - Wedu evaluates recommended candidates across 7 measures of leadership adapted from Acumen and Echoing Green fellowship models. Candidates then write essays and complete 2 rounds of interviews.
- Commitment to home community - Wedu selects candidates who are forward-looking and intend to return home to tackle a particular problem. Candidates should have a vision for the future and express a plan for how to get there.
- Financial need
Wedu aims to expand both its mentee, or "rising star", and mentor network in the future. Wedu is looking to double its number of rising stars ever 6 months and reach 100 by 2014, and some 6,000 women by 2022. As women finish their higher education, Wedu expects its mentor base to incorporate returning mentees. In the future, Wedu hopes to provide mentor training.