Leadership webinar article asset
Youth Leadership

QCT in Conversation: Leadership and learning in times of crisis

In September, CEO and Founder of Cambio Consultancy Peter Ptashko hosted a QCT in Conversation webinar on leadership and learning in times of crisis, as part of our.

Peter was joined by three panellists from QCT’s Sub-Saharan Africa grants cohort: MAYEIN Founder Edem Ossai; Jean Michel Habineza of iDebate Rwanda; and Boundless Minds Founder Benjamin Rukwengye, who looked at some of the hurdles they have faced as social entrepreneurs and the ways in which they have worked to overcome them.

During the webinar, Jean Michel, who founded iDebate Rwanda to encourage critical thinking skills in future generations, explained that the impact of CV-19’s lockdown had meant that debate leagues and face-to-face sessions were put on hold – but this setback had actually led to more creative opportunities.

Jean Michel shared: “Because there was no travelling and because everyone was at home, we thought of new creative ideas. For example, why not engage in debate with people from all over the world? So, we started our global debate series and had our students debate against Pepperdine University, schools in the UK and in Tanzania.

We have also used this time as an extended holiday to look at building our teams and our volunteers. So, from the start of the pandemic in March until now, we have held about 22 training sessions for our volunteers and trainers. Some training sessions had as many as 75 participants across 6 African countries – the cost to do that, if not using the internet, would have been great.

We have been able to let go of what could have been and what should have been and just embrace what is. We looked to figure out how we pivot, how we use whatever is available to still accomplish our goals – maybe not in the way we hoped, but in a way that is still good enough.”

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Jean Michel Habineza, founder of iDebate Rwanda

Benjamin Rukwengye, who founded Boundless Minds in Uganda to bridge the skills gap between education and employment, explained that the pandemic also forced himself and his team to think digitally.

“We put a stop to our programmes and started investing in our alumni,” explained Benjamin. “The alumni would decide what topic they wanted to discuss, such as renewable energy, international development or marketing, and then we would find a professional to add to their WhatsApp group. The alumni would come up with questions and have an engagement session for about 60 – 90 minutes.

But we knew we couldn’t just work alongside our alumni, so we also created a blog, where one alumni member would transcribe the WhatsApp discussion. This worked really well. We didn’t use platforms like Google Meets as young people struggle with data pricing so it’s not possible – we tried at the start and had about 5 - 7 attend, but noticed we had many more [alumni] active on WhatsApp, and those sessions blew out!

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Benjamin Rukwengye, founder of Boundless Minds

The session ended with a Q&A, comprised of questions sent to QCT by our digital audience. Edem Ossai, founder of MAYEIN – a non-profit in Nigeria working to provide access to quality digital education to youth in Oyo State – shared exactly what it means to be a young leader and her attitude in times of crisis:

“For me, it’s very simple. After many years of navigating, it’s the capacity to influence somebody or people through positive lines of action. Whenever I find myself in a space where I’m influencing another individual towards a better outcome, I’m exercising leadership. If I envision a better future, and I communicate it to somebody - I say, ‘let’s do this’, ‘it is achievable’, ‘it is possible’, ‘here’s what we need to do’, ‘what are your thoughts?’ ‘Let’s deliberate, let’s put ideas together but let’s act’ – I’m exercising leadership.”

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Edem Ossai, founder of MAYEIN

After the session, Peter reflected on some of the key learnings:

“It was clear from the powerfully personal stories shared by the incredibly passionate panellists, as well as the insightful questions and debate that followed, that all of these entrepreneurs and their networks had benefitted significantly from building and sustaining successful partnerships, that were durable even now. Indeed, there were clear intersectionalities drawn between the Black Lives Matter movement, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Agenda in terms of both frameworks and tangible alliances that added real value and emphasis to their growing businesses and the marketplaces in which they were operating in. They are increasingly acting as catalysts for the change we see emerging all around us today.

Each entrepreneur had shown their own brand of authentic leadership in reflecting on their circumstance and then pivoting their enterprise, seeing business opportunity at a time of great change – and we share some of these with you below. There was a real desire to capture their own stories of both challenge and success, and to share these so as to replicate what works and learn from failure when something at some point inevitably went wrong – which has been a shared experience in 2020 for so many of us around the world during this global pandemic. This moment represents a real opportunity to do things differently – business, but not as usual, with a focus on what the next generation can bring to the debate around Global Capitalism and the power of impact to truly change the world."

This webinar is the latest session in our 'Youth Leadership During COVID-19' series. Catch up on previous discussions here.

Article published: October 2020

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