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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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.
Planning a successful and impactful trip for your summer/gap year is not always easy given the number of voluntourism opportunities out there. You may have seen the stories that more and more young people are travelling abroad to volunteer so that they can fill up their Instagram account with selfies, or the report from Save the Children that states that “an overwhelming majority of children living in orphanages in developing countries actually have a living parent”. Even J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is campaigning against irresponsible volunteering placements, tweeting “I will never retweet appeals that treat poor children as opportunities to enhance Westerners’ CVs”.
“I will never retweet appeals that treat poor children as opportunities to enhance Westerners’ CVs” JK Rowling
So, how can you steer clear of the minefield of irresponsible and purely commercial options out there?
Follow our tips below to ensure you don’t fall into the voluntourist trap:
Research the company and placement you are about to embark on
Be sure to look at “development impact”. Does the charity appear to monitor and report on the impact that their volunteers are having in the community? This could form the basis of an impact page on their website or an annual report. If they don’t seem to have a monitoring and evaluation function in their organisation then chances are they care little about the impact they are having and simply want money from their volunteers.
Find out how the programme is funded?
If the programme is purely volunteer funded then it is likely that once again there is little focus on community impact and creating positive change for the so-called beneficiaries of the volunteer placement. When looking at a placement advert ask yourself, “Is all the language geared at convincing me to part with my money, in order to benefit myself?”
The existence of a recognised funder, such as a development body like UKaid (UK Department for International Development) or SDI (Scottish Development International) shows that a larger body has a vested interest in the programme and the social impact it has pledged to create. Being expected to pay something towards the cost of the programme via fundraising is usually okay as long as the main purpose of the fundraising effort is to raise awareness of the programme and its aims.
What is in it for you?
Is there a tangible benefit to taking part in the programme? Will you be supported to overcome new challenges? Is there room for personal and professional growth alongside delivering genuine social, economic or environmental impact? Organisations that run a programme that encourages personal growth will tell you about what previous volunteers have accomplished and what skills they have developed, they may even offer a recognised qualification.
Apply for a volunteering placement with International Citizen Service (ICS)
International Citizen Service (ICS) is an overseas volunteering programme for 18-25 year olds, it is funded by the UK Government and aims to bring about three things: project impact, volunteer personal development and the creation of active citizens. There are eight different development organisations delivering ICS projects in over 20 countries.
Challenges Worldwide, an Edinburgh based International Development charity, runs an ICS programme to support businesses in Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda. The programme includes 10 weeks of training in Professional Consulting paired with a business placement in one of 4 African cities. The programme is split into three stages: Analysis, Recommendations and Implementation.
After your placement, Challenges Worldwide will continue to support the growth of the business and you will return home with a chance to complete a level 5 qualification in Professional Consulting with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Ghanian tech startup TinyDavid has created an exciting location mapping service that is revolutionising the market for African enterprises. With the Support of Challenges Worldwide TinyDavid are on a path to change the world.
Why are Challenges Worldwide working with TinyDavid?
Charity and NGOs both in the continent and across the world are indispensable combatants in the war waged against poverty in Africa. Their humanitarian efforts in fighting off disease pandemics, providing shelter, potable water, and other important relief services have continually been hailed. While most of them are persistent at first in providing as much aid as possible to selected communities, they can only do so much and would have to channel their resources elsewhere.
Sustainabilty and Scalability
This lack of continuity always begs the question of how scalable and sustainable these projects are in the long term. This inconsistency defines the incentive for the alternative approach of other pioneering NGOs. Challenges Worldwide believes that by supporting the development of fair and inclusive local economies we can help alleviate poverty and bring a lasting positive impact to communities in low- and middle-income countries by empowering emerging businesses to make them more sustainable and successful. Through the International Citizen Service (ICS), a UK Government funded development programme that brings together young people from the UK and developing countries to volunteer in disadvantaged communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Challenges Worldwide volunteers work together with micro and small-sized enterprises where they can have a direct positive impact through sharing their capabilities, skills, perspectives and experiences.
Whats in it for the volunteers?
It’s an enviable opportunity to develop professional skills to enhance the employability of volunteers over the long term and create a global cadre of future wealth creators who have a practical understanding of the vital role of economic development in reducing poverty. Having already influenced dozens of small businesses in Ghana, the programme seeks to increase its impact to further parts of the country. TinyDavid is one of the enterprises being supported by Challenges Worldwide.
For a technology based enterprise, TinyDavid is a particularly peculiar name. However, the story behind the name brings the company’s mission to life. The business’s motto ‘tiny solutions to big problems’ is clever mantra from the famous bible story of the encounter between the giant Philistine warrior Goliath who was defeated by a tiny teenage boy, David. This creativity, illustrated in the brand, amongst other such ingenuous and unique ways of thinking is what has allowed the business to overcome any challenge thrown its way, and flourish in the process of becoming a game-changer in the Ghanaian tech industry.
So what is TinyDavid?
In Ghana, it is no mystery that finding your way around can be a bit of a hurdle, especially if you’re new to an area or in worst cases a visitor from a different continent. Although the average Ghanaian is irrepressibly hospitable and beaming with friendly smiles willing to give a helping hand to lost people in the neighbourhood, he is poor at giving directions. Unfortunately, our goodwill often gets such people who have gone astray even further confused. People cannot necessarily be blamed however since houses rarely have numbers, and street names are near enough invisible. The usual practice is that well known locations such as businesses or schools are used for navigational purposes but are rarely reliable in poorly zoned areas. This is where TinyDavid and more importantly their app, SnooCode comes to salvage this menace of directional errors.
The SnooCode app founded by Sesinam Dagadu in 2011 produces a unique specified code which uses a combination of any of the 26 letters from the English alphabet and numbers to accurately generate a code which will pinpoint your location using GPS technology. You are then enabled to use this code to identify the distance, time expected for distance to be travelled and plot routes to your very exact location without the usual stress of asking your way around town.
The prospects of such an amazing app coded to be user friendly to every layman is just limitless. This multipurpose usefulness of SnooCode has already been exhibited as a potential ally to not only the individual but to benefit broader society.
Why is SnooCode so revolutionary?
In an epidemic situation for example, the ability to produce an accurate location for local authorities to use allows them to act swiftly and efficiently, reducing the risk of several damages occurring. In different areas across the capital where up to 160 emergency workers have been trained to use the app, its social impact already in these early stages of development is phenomenal. An application like this has the possibility to do wonderful things.
How will it help the people and enteprises of Ghana day to day?
Mr Dagadu has reiterated that pertinent avenues like ambulance services and food delivery services have very low efficiency rates in Ghana as compared to that of other advanced countries largely due to the inability to produce an address and know where on earth to deliver to. While such efficient addressing systems are popular industries in places like the UK, and provide employment for many (particularly the youth) they are still fledgling in Ghana. The system has the potential to benefit young people greatly, as the addition of work experience in any form has the ability to bolster your CV remarkably and make you more employable.
The vision of TinyDavid is to export this ideology to Ghana which can provide jobs for a developing country where unemployment is rife, and essentially bridge the gap of uneasiness of finding directions in the country. It is quite apparent that Mr Dagadu is on the verge of revolutionising both transport, address systems and service delivery in Ghana. With the correct guidance, support, investment and marketing in place, SnooCode along with TinyDavid can balloon in size especially in a country which is as consumed with cellular technological advances as Ghana is.
During the 12-week programme in which Jon and Kailian (the assigned volunteers), from the UK and Ghana respectively, have both undertaken rigorous Chartered Management Institute (CMI) training as Junior Business Associates. The pair has added a fresh insight to TinyDavid’s operations and offer recommendations based on the Challenges Worldwide Enterprise Support Framework, paired with their cross cultural perspectives which has proven invaluable to the business over the past weeks.
They have conducted analysis involving the financial performance of the business, as well as using other tools to segment the market, and get to the root of the business’s hitches. All whilst gathering enough data to profile the business to be able to recommend suitable changes. As well as the analysis conducted, Jon and Kailan have gone the extra mile of getting involved in the day-day activities of the business while using their previous experiences and acquired training to make relevant decisions to positively influence the business such as developing potential features for the app.
Continued support from Challenges Worldwide
However, the programme doesn’t just end there. Challenges Marketplace, an online platform linking businesses across Africa to investors across the globe has the capability to help TinyDavid reach its peak potential. TinyDavid will be able to report monthly and build up a portfolio of themselves, which they can then use to attract investment. The more information uploaded on Marketplace allows for more investors to trust the business, understand it’s purpose and their track record to judge whether investment will be a worthwhile venture. Making funding accessible to these businesses is a key part of the programme in its mission to achieve the ultimate goal of alleviation of poverty in Africa through enterprise empowerment and strengthening business ties. While the attraction of funding is purposefully a keynote for Marketplace, it also enhances networking and creates specialised contacts in relevant fields all geared towards achieving TinyDavid’s business goals whilst meeting Challenges Worlwide’s wider social targets.
As Challenges Worldwide volunteers, Jon and Kalian have both gained massive experience with this opportunity to work on a project such as SnooCode especially in the early stages where their help, and guidance have had a substantial impact.
Their input into SnooCode has been invaluable for TinyDavid, but the Challenges Worldwide’s work does not, and will not stop with the end of the 3-month volunteer placements. With an in-country business portfolio team as part of Challenges, TinyDavid has access to all the support it needs, and with other relevant opportunities available, TinyDavid could quite possibly become one of Challenges Worldwide’s biggest success stories.
“So what exactly will you be doing in Africa and what precisely does a team leader do?” These are questions that I have been asked many times before, during and after my placement. It’s also a question that I asked myself a lot before I boarded my flight to Lusaka, Zambia to be a team leader with Challenges Worldwide.
I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad whilst building leadership skills that would be useful to my learning and development as a consultant. After some intensive googling I came across Challenges Worldwide and thought it was a perfect match. Challenges Worldwide is a pioneering social enterprise that offers volunteers the opportunity to work with small to medium sized enterprises on 12 weeks placements. It was everything I was looking for in a volunteer placement; building upon my consultancy experience to lead a team to deliver sustainable changes. As I excitedly submitted my application little did I know the adventure I had just signed up to?
Being a team leader is both incredibly challenging and rewarding. One of the main challenges I faced was adapting my management and training style to the different personalities, experiences and cultures. This was especially true for delivering the weekly Chartered Management Institute (CMI) learning sessions. These sessions were an excellent opportunity for volunteers and team leaders to be trained to an internationally recognised standard on core consultancy skills. However, as a facilitator it was often challenging to cover the basic business fundamentals whilst keeping those with business experience still engaged. I learned to link the theory and tools with how I have used these in my job as a consultant. I also ensured that CMI classes were interactive through group discussions, activities and exercises that combined useful practical learning with vocational training
As much as we had many challenges, we also had many successes. One of my proudest moments was watching the Mid Programme Review (MPR) presentations. At the MPR presentations the teams present on their work to date in their enterprises, including their challenges, successes and findings. To add to the pressure they were presenting to a panel of industry experts including the Department for International Development (DFID) who would ask questions and provide feedback. As much has the team had prepared and practiced in advance everyone was nervous as presenting to a room of 50 isn’t an easy job, especially to a panel of experts! However there was no need for all the nerves as it was an excellent day and as a team leader it was an amazing opportunity to reflect on the progress and growth of the volunteers. To see how much they had learned and achieved over such a small period of time was incredibly rewarding.
Through my experience as a team leader I have enhanced and developed many skills that are hugely transferable to my job as a management consultant. Prior to this placement I would have called myself a good manager, but not a leader. However, the role as a team leader is essentially a free, intensive, three month leadership training course. It has taught me so much about leadership and the importance of developing and inspiring.
This experience has also being incredibly rewarding from a cross cultural experience. By living in a host family and having a Zambian counterpart it was an amazing opportunity to be fully immersed in the local cultural and ways of life. This has helped teach me the importance of cross cultural differences and truly highlighted the needs to be adaptable, flexible and understanding. Yes, every country has different cultural norms and approaches which can be daunting as well as frustrating – but these differences should be embraced and celebrated. This is an incredibly important skill in today’s interconnected global world.
I equally learned the importance of admitting when you don’t know the answer. As a team leader you generally do get bombarded with questions from bus routes, exchange rates, supply chain theory to even the chances of rain today (and I am most definitely not a weather woman!). To be a good team leader you don’t need to know everything – realistically we are still volunteers and we are learning as we go the same as the team. If you don’t know the answer – that is fine – you just need to work through the problems logically and ask for help when you need it. In a group of 42 there are always going to be other people that can help and support you and that you can learn from.
I still can’t quite believe that my three month placement is over. It has been one of the most challenging, frustrating, enlightening and rewarding things I have ever done. When I applied I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain real life leadership experience and enhance my CV whilst experiencing a different culture. Little did I realise how much I would truly learn and that it would spark new career interests. I plan to continue within consultancy, with much more of a focus on training and learning and development. In working with Challenges Worldwide, I’ve learned that leading and managing volunteers is hard work, but rewarding. I would recommend this programme to anyone wanting to explore their leadership potential while discovering the beauty and diversity of Africa.