Creating an army of changemakers

In a bid to ensure that innovative young Kenyans make real their dreams and support a generation of young changemakers, Ashoka East Africa through its Youth Venture is currently supporting 3,000 youths in Kenya and Uganda with ideas to solve various societal challenges to become changemakers they are set to be. The young people aged between 12 and 22 are mentored through Youth Venture programme. The Director of the Youth Years Program at Ashoka Vincent Odhiambo shares the transformational story with LILIAN KAIVILU.
Tell us about Ashoka’s Youth Venture Programme
Over the last 30 years Ashoka has built a global network of 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs in an effort to create an ‘Everyone is a Changemaker’ world. These Ashoka Fellows are working in various fields to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Launched in 2001, today we have 60 fellows from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, all working in diverse fields. It is against this background that Ashoka introduced Youth Venture in East Africa in 2012. With support from the Segal Family Foundation, we are working directly with seven organisations under which there are 87 others. So far, the programme has young people directly coming up with solutions in education, health, agriculture, sanitation and financial literacy.

A good number of your partner organisations are schools. Why, and how do you select the schools you work with?
Fifty per cent of our partner organisations are schools. This is because majority of our target group are between 12 and 22 years. Our champions are Informed Mashinani, Global Education Fund,The Youth Banner, and Carolina for Kibera, Tatua, Growth Hub, Junior Achievement and Riara University.

How does Youth Venture work?
It has four phases: Dream it phase, Do it phase, Grow it phase and Celebrate it phase. At the Dream it phase, the young people share the challenges they see in the community and they are keen to provide a solution to. They are then assisted to start their one-year youth venture experience at an Everyone A Changemaker (EACH) inspire event. At the Do it phase they are attached to mentors who help them refine their thoughts around the challenge and the solution they are working on. At the Grow it phase, they refine their solutions and develop teams for their social venture and link them to the bigger eco-system. At the Celebrate it phase, they have a Change City event where they get to showcase their ideas.

What does the programme hope to achieve?
This programme equips young people with the necessary skills that help them grow as critical thinkers, innovative individuals and team players. Since last year we have identified nine schools in Kenya and Uganda to work with  in this programme. These schools include Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, Disciples of Mercy and New Generation Academy in Kisumu, and Ndagani Children Centre and Kaagani Day Secondary School in Tharaka Nithi.

This year, Kailash Shatyarthi who is an Ashoka Fellow shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala. Who are some of your  beneficiaries in Kenya?
In Kenya, we have 25 Fellows including Lulu Saidi, the founder of Y-ACS who after going through the youth venture experience, took the insights to her work place at One-FM where she runs a show dubbed ‘Changemaker’.

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