Challenges Worldwide’s strategic partnership with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), UK, comes at an opportune time. In the past three years, we have consistently contributed to emerging market economies and the domestic private sector through consulting interventions for small and medium-scaled businesses (SMEs). Simultaneously, we have built capacities of young people in-country using CMI’s professional consulting modules to become consultants and primarily problem solvers. Our contributions are evident in the 400+ SMEs we have engaged within Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia with many making great and tangible strides to growth with increased revenue, profit and operational efficiency through our timely support. The strategic partnership with CMI which comes along with the opportunity to offer Management and Leadership modules as part of our CMI offerings/portfolio provides us with a structured pathway in steering businesses and organisations towards growth through capacity building of its leaders and staff.
Leadership and management competence is essential to business success. The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) in its recent publication, while highlighting insights on business accelerators within emerging markets showcased the importance of management quality as key attribute for investors. As an investor rightly iterates; “With a strong team, context doesn’t matter” (GALI, 2017). We at Challenges Worldwide (Challenges Group Ghana) recognize the pivotal role of strong and skilled managers or leaders to the growth and success of any business (local, international, big or small) and are committed to using our resources and expertise to enhance the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurs, supervisors, mid-level and senior-level managers operating within emerging markets.
The CMI Management & Leadership modules are designed to support leaders to implement best management practices within their businesses creating corporate cultures that stimulate growth and efficiency. In our work with SMEs, 3 major challenging areas within SMEs have been discovered; financial management, sales and marketing, and leadership. Our CMI modules which are inherently activity-based and reflective learning addresses these challenges to support managers to adequately improve their internal process to satisfy stakeholder needs and expectations. It is often contended that small businesses especially in emerging markets are not ready to learn how to properly implement best practices to ensure efficiency in operations and proper quality management; these only become necessary when they are huge or growing. We at Challenges Group Ghana/Worldwide think otherwise. We are eager to learn along with managers and entrepreneurs to help implement the world’s best practices in project, financial, quality and operational risk management in small businesses and giant businesses alike. An SME operating efficiently just like any huge global brand, has a relatively high likelihood of survival and growth.
Our partnership with QSI in March (22-23) provides the opportunity for us to facilitate learning on a boarder scale for business leaders and managers across Ghana. Come on board on this training program aimed at enhancing management efficiency using CMI’s module 5012 – Being a Leader; to support managers and entrepreneurs to be better leaders and to build sustainable and efficient corporate cultures, ultimately, contributing to business growth with a broader impact on Ghana’s economy.
Having many of the attendees coming from Swahili-speaking countries, I thought that ASENTI was the Swahili word for thank you (Asante) and had just been misspelt. This was however not the case as it turns out that ASENTI really stands for African Summit on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It is the forum that gathers over 1000 entrepreneurs and different stakeholders around the continent to discuss how African entrepreneurship can drive forward the continent’s respective economies.
I got extremely excited when I received an email saying that I could attend this summit. However, my happiness levels decreased the further I read the email which later mentioned that to be part of the summit one had to pay a fee that I couldn’t afford. Fortunately, during one of our meetings as Communications Committee, Nicola (Program Manager of Challenges Worldwide Uganda) broke the news to us that Challenges Worldwide had partnered with ASENTI and they had offered 4 tickets for Challenges ICS volunteers.
Hardly had Nicola completed the communication when I shouted that I would be more than glad to attend. I expressed interest at a personal level and was also more than glad that I had to represent Challenges Worldwide at the summit. This was a dream come true, a prayer answered because I had been seeking for connections into an ecosystem of like-minded entrepreneurs. Attending this summit was killing two birds with a single stone.
Anyways, to cut the long story short I was accompanied by James, Laura and Nicola. On reaching Innovation Village where the summit had been organised, being my first time visiting I was speechless. For the first time in a long time I had finally landed in a place where innovators, government agencies, manufacturers, suppliers and all other key stakeholders could gather as equals; this was a true ecosystem. This place was also conducive for the creator’s mind; it was a home for the innovators and for the dreamers. I recall turning back and thanking Nicola because I was so overwhelmed by this whole experience.
All this was before I saw the vibrant young entrepreneurs that had come for the occasion with a special kind of hunger for transformation that you couldn’t miss if you looked deep into their eyes. This is the kind of hunger that was on the eyes of the moderator as he called upon the speaker of the day – Maggie Kigozi – who is the most prominent woman in business in Uganda today. She has served as a Minister, civil servant, farmer, business consultant and patron of all secretaries of Uganda. She brought to our attention the SDGs and how entrepreneurs can help in accomplishing them, but also how we could benefit in doing so. We lost track of time since she was so thorough in explaining but when she was through, everyone in the room was inspired and had the look on their faces that suggests, “I am doing what she has recommended immediately after this session.” We were lucky enough to get both group photos and personal photos with the most influential woman before she left – new stories to tell my grandchildren.
Also attending the summit was EarthEnable, a social enterprise that has focused on the provision of clay floors as an alternative to cement. The floors are sealed using a plant-based oil, similar to linseed. This alternative is not only more durable than cement, but also 75% less expensive whilst producing 90% fewer emissions. This will therefore reduce the construction costs in rural areas of developing countries by almost half, a huge change. The invention was introduced by one of the speakers of that day, something that sparked off more thoughts, more ideas and more questions in people’s minds. Other speakers encouraged us to focus on social enterprises as a solution to majority of communities’ problems.
To finish the day in style we had an interesting pitch session where selected candidates had to present their innovations and business ideas to a panel of judges. The judges in turn selected the best three pitches who were to win prizes. The best part was when the opinions I shared after the pitches were warmly received by the audience and panel, making me feel welcome into this community of creators.
ASENTI did an amazing job thereafter by encouraging us to exchange contacts and also to write our needs and abilities, pinning them on to a board where those interested could find them.
This was really helpful for me because we got to actually interact with software developers, website designers and Agribusiness experts, most of whom I will try to build close connections with in the future.
My sincere appreciation to the ASENTI crew for delivering what they had promised and of course to Challenges Worldwide for enabling us to take part in this event that had gathered entrepreneurs across boarders.
Empiricism is the act of making decisions based on what is. It enables us to understand what really is possible, and what can be achieved. This is best done by doing. Trying something. Experiencing it. Then learning from it and adapting your approach accordingly.
This way of working is heavily advocated where I work back home in software development. Why? Because technology projects in businesses are complex. And when things are complex, they become hard to predict. Technology changes quickly, as does the business landscape. Empiricism in this context promotes responsiveness in a domain that can often prove to be constraining and frustrating.
The way this is done is by applying some key principles from empiricism. One – encourage observations to be made by being transparent about new ideas and work. Two – prioritise some ideas to test the value you think they will have. Three – try these ideas out, and agree how you will measure their relative success. Four – reflect at a given time to see how successful the idea was in practice. Five – build on the idea, amend it and try it again, or discard it entire. Then rinse and repeat.
But why stop at software development I thought – why not consider International Development?
This was the question I began to ask myself this year, and has led to my joining Challenges Worldwide on a 3 month placement working on private sector development. Before, I was set on building theoretical experience of development through a Master’s degree. With development spanning so many industries, countries and types of programmes, I figured that it was more valuable to gain broad knowledge which I could apply later, on the assumption I wished to pursue it. Equally, many jobs in the UK in development require a Master’s as a minimum, meaning in many ways I felt it was a “must”.
Sadly, empiricism is distinctly limited here. It would take a long time, in full time education, to get a feeling of what the Development work was like. I would argue that you would be bound to miss out on key information on what people really need – as opposed to what theory may dictate. As such, it felt like the last thing the sector needed would be another Master’s student. Instead, it would be more beneficial to do work in the field (and adding value) before using this practical experience in a next step. This could be more international work, spawning one’s own ideas for social development, or building more skills in a business environment. When considering feedback from independent sources and personal contacts, I realised that this opinion was usually shared – unless one was 200% on doing the Master’s.
This lead to me finding Challenges Worldwide, an organisation that reflected my specific interests in development: private sector growth, value creation in agri-business and youth employability. Their opportunities were also distinct in allowing me to try out leadership techniques in a new environment. In addition, I would be able to observe an urban area in Sub-Saharan Africa, so I could see particular development challenges that exist at a local level.
Now, I am not writing this post to slate post graduate study. Some courses I looked into seemed interesting, inspiring and challenging. And as said, if someone is 200% sure they want to do it, they should do it! Master’s in International Development often offer great internships as part of the course and frequently provide superb access to world leading networks. Many successful policy researchers point to “grad school” as an ideal method for gaining hard skills which can be applied quickly.
However, for me, gaining first hand access to the developing world was more valuable for now. In doing so, I could see for myself the potential for growth, along with some of the barriers. Development enthusiasts often talk of the local nuances that determine the success of policy and programme design; it truly is far easier to observe what is beneficial and what isn’t with your own eyes. How can I really determine what the needs of people are on the ground through study alone? And how could I determine whether I was suitably skilled and ready to assist in helping address those needs?
This is in essence why I valued a placement in Uganda above my Master’s offers, and why I am here now with Challenges Worldwide. And I don’t regret that decision in the slightest. Everyday I gain insight and information about all I was curious about, which will inform my next steps. So many new ideas and contacts have come from it – I have discovered new options as I have gone along. For example, it has helped me realise that I would like to do study more, but to gain technical skills in econometrics and data analysis, alongside learning some programming languages. The good thing is, this kind of education does not have to happen in a full time context. An example here is the series of MicroMasters being offered by edX and multiple universities across the world. They are run remotely and there much more affordable. They are also much shorter, yet recognised by an increasing number of organisations.
So here’s to adopting an empirical approach to career decisions. And here’s to building practical experience in the development sector wherever possible.
My decision to work as a Business Support Associate with Challenges Worldwide has helped me realize that the benefits of volunteering are immense and cannot be undermined. Volunteer engagement in economic growth and development is in its own way a strategic investment in skilling the youth, which will, in the long run, contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Upon joining Challenges Worldwide, I was pleased to discover that alongside respective placements, the program offers volunteers the chance to progress personally as well as professionally through networking opportunities and partnerships. This soon became a reality when the volunteers actively participated in the 5th Annual Youth Skills Expo held at the Uganda Museum on the 20th October 2017.
This Expo was organized by the Youth Advocacy Foundation Uganda (YAFU) in partnership with other government, private and civil society organizations. These included organizations like Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB), Restless development, Plan International and Centenary Bank among others. The skills Expo was facilitated and honoured by some of the leading figures from both government bodies and the private sector. These included the assistant commissioner of Uganda Revenue Authority, the deputy registrar of URSB, Captain Mike Mukula, Prof Maggie Kigozi, Hon Betty Kamya, Odrek Rwabongo, Innocent Nabasa from NBS television and above all the Youth Member of Parliament Ann Adeke.
Talented and innovative Youth entrepreneurs from different parts of Kampala and the surrounding areas were given an opportunity to exhibit their work. Participants exhibited a variety of items on different stalls and these included art and craft pieces, fabric materials, herbal soap and body lotions to name a few. Besides the exhibitors, the Expo attracted youth from different walks of life; these ranged from secondary to university students, representatives from different civil society organizations, individual business people and youth refugees from neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. The theme of the expo, ‘’EmploymentOopportunities and Linkages for Youth’’ was an obvious hook for its target audience and went a long way in explaining why people turned up in their numbers. Someone would wonder why this was the case but it’s simply because Challenges Worldwide empowers youth between the age of 18 to 25 years to actively participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As member states, we believe that the SDGs can fully be attained if youth are fully engaged.
Based on a skills-building approach, facilitators like Odrek Rwabwogo, one of Uganda’s leading entrepreneurs, helped mentor a youth audience about the various techniques of scaling up a business. This was the most captivating and significant topic to volunteers because Challenges Worldwide’s main objective is to help small and medium enterprises to grow. Key issues like commitment to short and long-term goals of the business, professionalism, values/standardization, collaboration, honesty and integrity, competence and customer care were identified as some of the key determinants that can foster the scaling up of any business. With politics being one of the hindrances of Uganda’s economic growth, youth were educated on how they can contribute to their personal development, as well as that of their country as a whole, both without relying on government support.
Following Odrek, the deputy registrar of URSB gave a presentation about the importance of registering a company or business and she further explained the key requirements that qualify an individual or company to register a business with URSB. Many youths, especially those who have a background in science courses are very innovative in their business plans so this kind of advice was very key. Though a few of them were already aware of how they could benefit from commercializing these innovations, this talk helped guide them even further towards taking the next step. The registrar used it as a platform to educate us about the importance of patent rights and/or copyrights and the procedure of procuring a patent. The experience was one of its own kind because the participants were given a chance to register their businesses free of charge.
Additionally, Alfred Yeko, Supervisor Tax Education and Stakeholder Engagement, domestic Taxes of Uganda Revenue Authority presented during the Youth Skills Expo about Tax. He answered a number of questions and the criteria for taxation; whether or not businesses will be taxed, why and how much mainly. This re-enforced to the audience the inseparable link between business and taxation. Furthermore, providing this guidance can enable Challenges Worldwide volunteers to go on to advise businesses on how to grow, scale up and succeed. The sudden reality check was however complemented by the presence of staff from Centenary Bank, who encouraged the idea of business loans which are usually hard to obtain in in Uganda. Making this kind of finance affordable and accessible is a key way that doing business can become easier in Uganda.
In conclusion, we believe that by working in partnership with other organizations with related goals and visions, a lot more can be achieved rather than operating in a vacuum. As volunteers, we believe by actively participating in the Annual Youth Skills Expo, we not only acquired knowledge and skills but also directly contributed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically goal 8 which aims at promoting, inclusive, sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Written by Maria Gorret,
Business Support Associate, Kampala, Uganda – 2017[/themify_box]
Mary Nayiga, 26, from Mukono Nabuti did her Bachelor in Development Studies. Before her Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, supporting Ugandan businesses, she was unemployed. “I had worked on some contracts but I had no previous experience of volunteering. I wanted to discover what it’s like to volunteer and to work alongside volunteers from the UK,” she shared.
During her placement, she worked with Mashambani Dairy Goats Farm, an enterprise that has been producing milk and yoghurt with locally sourced goats since 2016. Mary, together with her counterpart, did an evaluation of the organisation and made, as well as implemented, recommendations.
“The business needed support with organisational structure. The CEO does everything so she needed support to look at operations management. As a new business, marketing was a big focus of our consultation intervention,” Mary said.
She said that many people have never heard about goat milk or they do not know about their benefits. That is why part of her job was to talk with an identified targeted market and raise awareness about the product.
Mary shared with us that she “created awareness by visiting children’s homes which is one of the identified target markets. I personally visited 6 homes. I developed sales skills and followed-up with potential customers. Part of my work was to provide educational interventions to help them understand the benefits. The work I did around marketing, helped to raise awareness of the product.”
“My proudest moment during my placement was my first presentation. At first, I was very scared and I was feeling nervous as I have watched the previous volunteers deliver their presentations with confidence. However, I delivered my presentation to the business development team and I received positive feedback and comments. This was really encouraging and has helped improve my confidence in future public speaking opportunities,” Mary said.
Finally, Mary commented that the Challenges Worldwide ICS placement was a “great opportunity to discover individual strengths and weaknesses.” She also said that “the placement has changed me so much. It has widened my knowledge of the business world. I now know how to start up a business and how they are managed. As a result of my Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, I’m thinking of starting my own business with packed fruits. I feel more employable and feel I could develop my own business.”
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19 years old Jesse Cross, from Slough, England, decided to take a year off before going to university, “to explore some new opportunities and real-world experiences outside of mainstream education.” That’s when he became a Business Support Associate with Challenges Worldwide and travelled to Zambia to work with AWC Fine Foods Limited, an enterprise that produces smooth peanut butter while supporting local agriculture and empowering women, as part of their business plan.
Jesse, as well as his counterpart Kondwani, did not have any previous business experience. Yet, they were able to support AWC with a strategy for growth thanks to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accredited tools and training. He shared with us that, “in terms of the content, the Challenges Worldwide/CMI training sessions provided useful methodologies for managing a variety of situations that arise in a workplace. It concisely structured both new and familiar ideas into practices that were easy to understand and follow.”
“I found the CMI training provided structure and clarity to the placement in Zambia. It meant my counterpart and I could provide as much value as possible to AWC in the work we carried out with them,” he added.
Also, for many of our Business Support Associates’ relief, the CMI training is not a typical class that you just attend, sit, listen, and copy in your book the relevant information. As Jesse highlighted, “the CMI courses are a learn-through-doing style of education,” which “was great to practice and develop a largely unexplored style of learning in the supportive environment Challenges provided.”
The whole volunteer experience allowed Jesse to learn new skills that have been very valuable for his personal development. “The skills I learnt are largely transferable – evidenced quickly to me during experiences at my current job, only shortly following my placement in Zambia,” he shared.
“I’d recommend a Challenges Worldwide ICS placement because I think no matter what background you’re from you’ll gain a valuable experience and plenty of skills from it. Living and working in Zambia for three months opened my eyes to so many new ideas and perspectives on the world which I’ll take forward with me for the rest of my life. I also found it naturally very motivational for working towards my future goals,” Jesse concluded.
Learn more about the placement here and become a business associate volunteer with Challenges Worldwide!
We know the statistics – worldwide more than 1 billion young people will enter the job market between now and 2030, 600 million jobs are needed globally over 15 years to keep current employment rate, 71 million young people are unemployed globally, the youth population in Africa will double to over 830 million by 2050, 75% of young people in developing countries are in irregular or informal employment.
Even among young people who are lucky enough to receive an education and go to university, there is no guarantee of a job at the end. In Uganda, 40,000 young people graduate university every year, with only 8,000 securing employment. Part of the issue is a lack of jobs available, the other is the skills gap between what employers want and what graduates have.
To start solving the problem two things are needed:
1. More jobs
2. The right skills to do the jobs
Which comes first?
With the job market as it is, there is little surprise that many people turn to starting a business – with 285-345 million informal enterprises in emerging economies. And, whilst starting a business can be a solution for many young people, most remain purely as livelihood businesses – remaining in the informal sector and struggling to move to a position where they lift their owner out of poverty, let alone create jobs for others.
So instead of focusing on starting a new business, why not look at the existing ones? There are 25-30 million SMEs in emerging economies, contributing up to 45% of total employment and 33% percent of GDP. If each SME gave an opportunity to two young people then youth unemployment would be virtually eradicated.
If each SME gave an opportunity to two young people then youth unemployment would be virtually eradicated.
However growing SMEs is not without its challenges, with failure rates high, access to finance difficult and leadership skills lacking. SMEs need more skilled employees who can raise the game in terms of management and leadership, financial accounting, and use of technology. These skills can help bridge the gap needed to access finance, and create more stable organisations – in turn helping them to grow and employ more people.
But which comes first? SMEs can’t grow without the right people working for them, and the right people can’t get the jobs unless they grow.
A virtuous circle
At Challenges Worldwide we’ve looked at how we can solve these problems together. Our ICS programmes place young people in an African SME for 12 weeks, pairing a UK volunteer aged 18-25 with a national from Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia or Uganda to work as Business Support Associates. We provide training in Professional Consulting and Management and Leadership that is accredited by the Chartered Management Institute. Through a structured programme these young people identify the needs of the SME, working to recommend solutions to help them grow. Longer term we utilise the information collected in our software to understand the barriers to growth and help SMEs access the finance they need.
We have spent over 15 years providing access to finance, consulting and private sector development services to SME’s in emerging economies. As you probably know, that sector is dominated by professionals with countless years of experience. So when we first started working with 18-25-year-olds we were sceptical. They arrive mostly with no training in consulting, no experience in business, and if they do have a degree it is often in an unrelated subject. Honestly, we wondered what young people could achieve. But after working with over 700 young people providing 132,000 days of onsite support to 300 enterprises – the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Our Business Support Associates have enabled us to identify the key barriers to growth for these enterprises – through learning about enterprises from within and getting their hands dirty they’ve discovered as much, if not more than many more experienced consultants we’ve worked with.
51% addressed issues with marketing strategy
31% addressed issues with lack internal processes
38% implemented new record keeping systems
23% improved market knowledge
20% addresses a lack of human capital
Our young people have demonstrated that they can learn the right skills – in a week; that they can apply these quickly and create lasting change for themselves and the SME’s – in 12 weeks; and that these SMEs can grow – and in many cases employ them.
Each SME we work with has seen that the skills of two young people for 12 weeks is hugely valuable, and each placement has demonstrated that real-life experience in an enterprise provides more of the skills young people need to be successful in their career than months of classroom learning. Young people can start to create the jobs which will employ them.
“Each placement has demonstrated that real-life experience in an enterprise provides more of the skills young people need to be successful in their career than months of classroom learning”
We’re 0.001% of the way there. How do we connect the other 29,999,700 SMEs and 70,999,300 young people?
Challenges Worldwide work to provide innovative solutions that engage, grow and connect people to emerging opportunities for development and investment. We support young people through structured work-based placements, support enterprises to grow organisational capacity and deliver a range of consulting services enabling growth connections in trade and finance.
If you are passionate about making a change and want to use your skills to make it happen, then the Global Goals Jam is for you!
What is the #GlobalGoalsJam?
It is a worldwide event where teams in different countries will be developing innovative and practical solutions for the most pressing world challenges based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this year’s Jam, you will have the opportunity to address real-life issues related to the SDGs that different Edinburgh organisations are currently working on:
Good Health and Well-being
Sustainable Cities and Communities
When and where will it be?
The Jam will start this Friday 15th September and will run until the afternoon of Sunday 17th September, in the Informatics Forum at Edinburgh.
Challenges Worldwide (CW) is one of the organisations that will be challenging your creativity and inventiveness this weekend, together with the Oxchain project, University of Edinburgh Social Responsibility and Sustainability, City of Sanctuary and Climate_KIC.
CW’s global issue to be addressed is related to Sustainable Cities and Communities, how can this be achieved by using bamboo. How can bamboo also contribute to improving the other four mentioned Global Goals.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where we work, a lot of conferences and research papers have celebrated the opportunity in bamboo. Indeed, there has been significant investment into bamboo production and processing, with very ambitious goals around what can be achieved with it. With potential uses from construction to mobility, as well as being a potential source of more stable rural and farming jobs, the opportunity seems enormous. The efforts are yet small and disseminated, as well as many times mostly focusing on few market opportunities.
However, in Ghana, for example, the efforts are yet small and disparate, sometimes also clustered on potentially limited local addressable markets. Perhaps the machinery or expertise is lacking to introduce successful use cases from other markets…
This is why we want to invite you to work with us to think through how countries like Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and d Zambia might harness the opportunity of bamboo at scale and more quickly. Will acceleration come from greater competition, or perhaps greater aggregation or even consolidation?
The #GlobalGoalsJam is a unique opportunity for you to design and test solutions to global issues, where you will be able to put into practice or learn new skills in different areas that can go from data science to digital design and building relationships and connections. You will also have the opportunity to apply your teamwork skills and do networking and connections with people that share your interests.
“Over many years the Young Enterprise Scotland Company programme has given tens of thousands of young people a great grounding in business skills and helped them to develop the associated entrepreneurial mindset. By forming this strategic alliance with Challenges Worldwide we are extending the opportunity for young people in Scotland to further develop these skills in a different and challenging environment. I would urge any young person who has benefitted from the Company Programme to take a look at the Challenges Worldwide International Citizen Service (ICS) programme where you will make a difference socially and economically.” Geoff Leask, CEO, Young Enterprise Scotland
The Next Challenge
Last year Challenges Worldwide and Young Enterprise Scotland struck an exciting partnership with the intention of accelerating enterprise based learning for young Scots. This spring has seen alumni of the YES Company Programme volunteer in African enterprises with Challenges Worldwide. Edinburgh based International Development Charity Challenges Worldwide run an International Citizen Service (ICS) programme in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.
The programme sees 18-25-year-olds from the UK volunteer with African SME’s for a period of 12 weeks. During that time they can gain invaluable business and life experiences whilst working towards a qualification. The authors of this article both heard about Challenges Worldwide through the newly formed partnership and can both testify that Challenges Worldwide ICS is a natural extension of the YES Company Programme.
Bruce and Jamie both share a passion for enterprise and thank the YES Company programme for igniting this passion. During their school years, Bruce was Managing Director of Alba Hampers who represented the Grampian area in the 2010 Scottish finals. Jamie completed the programme much more recently, as Company Secretary of Infinity Enterprises representing Tayside at the 2015 National finals.
“Young Enterprise gave us a solid foundation of business experience and skills for us to move forward with,” said Jamie. The range of skills picked up by working in business is illustrated by the different paths that Bruce and Jamie took after the programme.
Bruce went on to complete a Degree in Property at the University of Aberdeen and has since started his own commercial property development business. Whilst at University Bruce also volunteered as a YE Business Advisor at his former school, encouraging future generations to take full advantage of the Young Enterprise experience. Jamie has been working in Market Research since leaving school and remains a keen follower of YES.
“Young Enterprise gave us a solid foundation of business experience and skills for us to move forward with,”
Bruce and Jamie are now in Kigali, Rwanda, volunteering as Business Support Associates with Challenges Worldwide on the ICS programme. Here is our interview with them on their experience so far:
What are your thoughts on the partnership between YES and Challenges Worldwide?
The experience of the Young Enterprise Company Programme, in allowing participants to set up and run their own business within a relatively controlled environment presents an unparalleled educational opportunity in Scotland today. There is no real substitute for practical learning and that is exactly what both programmes offer in abundance. We both firmly believe that Challenges Worldwide placements are a natural progression from the YES Company Programme and when combined, put participants in a very advantageous position in terms of personal learning and for their future careers.
Please tell us about the work you will you do on a Challenges Worldwide ICS placement?
A placement with Challenges Worldwide sees UK volunteers matched with an in-country counterpart and the pair placed in a local SME that is delivering a social impact. After the initial week of in country orientation and training, volunteer pairs are assigned along with their businesses – this is where the real work starts! The first three to four weeks are spent observing and analysing the assigned business using comprehensive tools supplied by Challenges.
Thereafter recommendations are developed to aid the business in its objectives – these are unique to every business so every pair is going to encounter different challenges throughout their placement. These recommendations are then refined and presented to the senior team of the business. A strategy is also developed for how these recommendations will be implemented to maximise the impact achieved in the time left.
Do you feel you are being well supported during your placement?
Throughout the placement, there are very capable staff and team leaders on hand to aid volunteers and training is delivered following the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) syllabus for a qualification in Professional Consulting. After completing the experience, alumni have the opportunity to complete CMI qualifications at a vastly reduced rate, an offer reserved exclusively for young people learning through Challenges.
Do you need any specific business skills to take part?
No specific skills are required ahead of the training so we would encourage anyone who has a passion for international development and a willingness to help businesses develop, to apply for the programme.
How does the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme relate to the YES Company programme?
There are many similarities in the learning points taken from the two programmes but the context in which they are learnt make the programmes unique and worthwhile. The business lessons are vast and far too wide ranging to possibly cover but much like working with school-mates can be challenging, the opportunity to work in a cross-cultural environment is truly eye-opening for everyone involved. Different people, places and cultures have different norms and the process of learning and dealing with these challenges allow for a great deal of personal growth over a short period of time.
Would you recommend the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme to other young Scots currently taking part in the YES Company programme?
“From our combined experience, we can safely say that the YES Company Programme really does leave you with lasting skills and helps prepare you for a Challenges Worldwide ICS placement. The Challenges Worldwide placement will help volunteers grow personally and professionally and make them a more rounded individual. If you want to use the skills you have learnt whilst creating a positive social and economic impact, don’t hesitate to volunteer through Challenges Worldwide and be prepared to have an incredible journey!”
Green Harvest Products is a home grown small food processing business, producing their products in Kigali using Rwandan ingredients. Their brand identity is reinforced by their brand name ‘Sabana’ which means ‘sociable’. Currently, they make chilli oil, two chilli sauces (the only ones made in Rwanda) as well as a Sabana Ketchup. Challenges Worldwide Business Support Associates Jamie and Patrick will be helping in key areas such as sales and marketing and trade/export links.
SafeMotos is the localised ‘uber’ of Moto taxis within the Kigali area.They have developed an app which allows users to effortlessly hail a moto using their GPS location. SafeMotos offers the user a set price for the journey with the option to pay by card or cash and the ability to review their driver. Key safety statistics are taken from drivers smartphones to show acceleration and deceleration speeds and through the use of an insurance style algorithm, they give their drivers a safety rating. This ensures that only the safest drivers are matched with SafeMoto customers. Challenges Worldwide Business Support Associates, Bruce Morrice and Kenneth Nabimanya, are working on refining the strategy of the business and future expansions into other East African markets.
We are currently recruiting for the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme starting in January and March 2018. If you are aged between 18 and 25 you can apply for here
Arriving at a new place always brings uncertainty with it. Going from Venezuela to Edinburgh to do my master’s degree was definitely a big cultural shock. But then, not happy with this change from South to North, from not so developed to more developed, going from amazing tropical weather to cold winters and summers, I decided to travel South again. This time, to India. And whenever this happens, stereotypes are begging to arise. Going from South to North makes you believe that you can buy whatever you need there, but when you go the other way around, you quite freak out, even if you come from a country in the Global South like me.
Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t alone in this not-so-positive opinion about India. When I told my friends and family that I was going to Bhubaneswar, the capital of one of the poorest states in the country, different opinions arose. All of them started with a celebration: “That’s awesome!”; “What an adventure!”; “Congratulations!” Yet, most of them were also followed by a “but”. “But be ready, your heart will shrink with all the poverty you’ll see”; “but don’t be walking around alone, you’ll get raped”; “but don’t be eating in the streets or drinking water”; “but why did you choose such a dangerous country, especially for women.” Suddenly my mind was full of buts and, I’ve got to admit, after receiving so many warnings and concerns I got a little bit more worried than I already was.
Then, what started as a small suitcase, turned into 23Kg of luggage, full of just-in-case things, from movies and books to keep myself entertained, to water purifier tablets, loads of medicines and even toilet paper! I know, being cautious never hurts. But my caution was based on a prejudice which, also, was based on a quite biased reality, the one that we hear about back home (in Venezuela). So that’s one of the big problems of stereotypes. It is not that they are not true, but they are just one version of the truth; that part of people’s and countries’ realities that has been decided to be told. Suddenly the big date arrived, and with all the “buts” in mind and my 23 kg I got into the plane. After half a day travelling, and a couple of guilty pleasure movies watched on the plane (all Disney), I arrived in Bhubaneswar’s airport. A very hot place, with a spectrum of colours mixed with a curry smell, where all eyes were on me (foreigners get all the attention) and there were mostly men around. Of course, one of the “buts” came to my mind right away.
So there I was, trying to play it cool, ignoring all the looks and trying to find the person of the NGO I was going to work with. But punctuality is not a thing in India, and after 20 minutes of “playing cool” Alok arrived. Then there I was, having my first glance of a city of contrasts, where poverty and underdevelopment mix with luxury shops and cars almost in every corner. After a month, I got more than just a glance of Bhubaneswar and at the end, most of the “buts” were replaced. Yes, there was poverty, but also opportunities and people wanting to make those opportunities available for everyone. Yes, men can sometimes be very pushy even just to take a picture with you, but more than that nothing will happen and, if it does, people around will help. Yes, it can be more complicated for women to move around, but it is not impossible and Indian women are already breaking paradigms. Yes, your stomach will get delicate, but you didn’t travel to India if you didn’t try their delicious food variety and something didn’t suit that well. Then no, those preconceptions are not the main characteristics of India.
The India I got to know is a country of very friendly people that will go out of their way to help you and make you feel at home. A country full of hard working people, that wake up at 5 am and sometimes stay in their shops until 9 or 10 pm because it is more pleasant for the client to go shopping at night (believe me, it’s a wise decision). Also, it’s a country full of passionate people, who want to make their city, state and country a way better place. People who have out of the box ideas to improve rural communities and that quit stable jobs just to work for their passion. I also found a country –at least a state– where leisure time and sharing with the people around you is very important, so you end up playing cricket during work hours and eating altogether during lunch. I found a country where, as in Venezuela, everything can be fixed with a smile. A place of volatile people that can scream at each other but the next day everything is ok. Also, a country of tolerance, with many religious beliefs that interact with each other and are respected by everyone.
At the end, I found that my mental sluggishness of generalising our opinions about people and countries in a very simple way made me be prejudiced, which can affect the attitude we take when start working in a different culture. Being aware of the risks of the places that we travel to is necessary, but acknowledging the differences and rescuing the positive aspects of them is as or even more important. Understanding this last point allows us to succeed in working with other cultures and learning from them. In this sense, I developed patience and respect for the former work dynamics, which also made me have to put in practice communicational and negotiation skills in order to be able to carry out my dissertation. I also learned to work with a translator to help communicate with the locals, which is complicated, and understood the importance of religion in the daily dynamics. Finally, I stopped having the necessity to find that India that I was expecting to find, and enjoyed the fast growing country full of ideas, willingness and contrasts.