Unloc and Acts of Gratitude: Equipping young people with practical social entrepreneurship skills
"I am passionate about helping other young people to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to create change."
Hayden Taylor, co-founder of Unloc
Unloc co-founder Hayden Taylor (UK) first met Jean d’Amour Mutoni, co-founder of Acts of Gratitude (Rwanda) at the One Young World Summit in 2016. After each discovering that the other was operating a similar enterprise model to empower young people to become social entrepreneurs, the two CEOs decided to collaborate to form Ingenzi.
The partnership between Unloc and Acts of Gratitude seeks to connect young people aged 16-30 in Kigali, Rwanda in order to share and develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for leading in their communities through social enterprise. This connection also serves to establish a positive world view amongst young people in both countries, and fosters cross-region collaboration where shared enterprise can be explored and flourish for the economic and social benefit of both cultures.
QCT funding has enabled Unloc and Acts of Gratitude to launch and implement the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme: an initiative which equips young people with the practical skills and tools to become social entrepreneurs. Ingenzi is delivered as a year-round programme made up of three 12-week courses, plus further follow-on mentorship offers to young social entrepreneurs.
To allow ongoing programme delivery during the COVID-19 outbreak, QCT further supported Unloc and Acts of Gratitude to develop an online programme for Cohort 4 of the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme which was affected by the global lockdown measures. For this group, Ingenzi developed an e-learning offer, alongside live Zoom seminars.
Continue reading to learn more about Ingenzi, and hear from Hayden and Jean d’Amour as they talk about starting out, their proudest moments and their top tips for young leaders working to drive positive change.
Ingenzi is primarily working towards SDG number 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and contributing to goals 1, 4, 5, 10, 12 and 17.
70% of Rwanda’s youth population are unemployed or living on less than US$2 a day. With traditional employment methods such as subsistence farming appealing to this generation less than ever before, young people are finding new, innovative solutions for income and seeking answers to the problems they see around them. However, there is little in the way of formal support to help these young leaders turn their ideas into sustainable and impactful social enterprises.
The Ingenzi programme supports 3 cohorts of 30 young people (aged 16-30) each year in Kigali, with each cohort taking part in an immersive 12-week social enterprise course, plus receiving follow-on mentorship. Acts of Gratitude facilitates the course and mentorship day-to-day, with Unloc providing staff training, educational resources and quality management support. Cohorts graduating from the programme will have developed a business plan, as well as an industry-standard business pitch.
Since the partnership began, 90 changemakers have been supported with training and mentorship. Since the project launch 12 months ago, 38% of participants have gone on to create social enterprises and as a result, an estimated 386 new jobs have been created. Beyond the direct impact on these individuals, the profile of young social entrepreneurs is now being raised in Rwandan communities, in turn encouraging more young people to aspire to achieve and unlock their own potential.
QCT’s dedication to championing young leaders is both inspiring and impactful. In my case, I am grateful for the support received, in partnership with Unloc UK, that has allowed us to build and expand the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme for young Rwandan changemakers.
Jean d'Amour, co-founder of Acts of Gratitude
Being part of the QCT network means a huge amount to me. I am so grateful to be surrounded by, and learn from, so many other brilliant young leaders from across the Commonwealth.
Hayden Taylor, co-founder of Unloc
Getting to know Jean d'Amour and Hayden Taylor
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Jean: I am the co-founder and CEO at Acts of Gratitude (AOG) - a Rwandan Social Enterprise that supports Rwanda’s social entrepreneurs and their social enterprises. In 2015, I was honoured with the Queen’s Young Leaders’ Award and successfully pitched for a donation from HE Paul Kagame to AOG. Under my leadership, AOG has supported 230 social entrepreneurs as of July 2020 and has a goal of building a community of 10,000 social entrepreneurs for Rwanda by the year 2030.
Hayden: I am a 24 year-old social entrepreneur passionate about helping other young people to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to create change. I set up Unloc with my co-founder Ben when I was 16, after leaving school with the mission of helping to support young people as changemakers and innovators. I’m also passionate about politics and democracy, and I love travelling and exploring new cultures.
What were your first steps to get the project off the ground?
Jean: I met Hayden via the One Young World Summit in 2016. I was hoping to connect with a potential partner with expertise in using social enterprise models to empower youth. Hayden arose as the right fit, not only because he is young, but also because of his vast experience and impressive achievements with Unloc.
Hayden: After meeting Jean at the One Young World Summit, he shared with me his vision for supporting young social entrepreneurs and building a social enterprise ecosystem in Kigali - I was immediately keen to work with Jean to make it happen. After returning home from the conference, we held a number of video calls, organised a trip to Kigali to deliver some initial training and meet with key stakeholders - before applying for funding from QCT to bring the programme to life.
What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
J: My greatest challenge has been to evolve from just a passion-driven leader of an initiative to combining that passion with a strategy. When my 12 friends and I co-founded Acts of Gratitude in 2011, we were young and unexperienced, with only a shared passion about giving back. We went in with an attitude of doing anything and everything to help support those who needed us, but soon realised that wasn’t a sustainable approach. It became clear that we needed a strategy and focus to take AOG to the next level. In 2015, we chose to focus on social enterprise development in Rwanda. In 2016, we partnered with Unloc to launch our first ever social enterprise programme for youth. Today, we have two programmes up and running, and are looking to launch another one early next year. If it hadn’t been for our focus on strategy development, this path would have been quite different.
H: One of the biggest challenges I have faced whilst setting up Unloc is getting school, college and NGO leaders to take us seriously. I was just 16 when we launched Unloc, which meant there was some scepticism about our ability to deliver exceptional education programmes. I overcame that by opening up about the challenges I was facing, and with the support of my team, we persevered and worked really hard to change people’s hearts and minds. Now, at 24 and with a reach of over 10,000 young people a year through our school and college programmes, I think we’ve absolutely achieved that!
What has been your proudest moment within this work?
J: We have so far supported more than 230 social entrepreneurs and have just launched a new cohort of 30 learners through the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme.
H: Last year, Unloc reached over 10,000 young people. I am incredibly proud of this achievement and the difference we are making every day.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt?
J: Young people have the power to make the world a better place and supporting them is always inspiring. Through the AOG-Unloc partnership, with the support of QCT, I have seen young entrepreneurs such as Jean Claude support young people on the street through upskilling them to become professional tailors at his social enterprise ‘Mount Kigali Youth Center’. That is why I will continue to do my work at AOG.
H: The most important thing I’ve learnt is that we are stronger when we work in partnership with like-minded people. Linked to that, I’ve learnt to always ask for help and embrace my weaknesses as opportunities to learn from others.
What are your future goals for your project?
J: We are excited to build a community of 10,000 social entrepreneurs for Rwanda by the year 2030.
H: The future of the Ingenzi project is bright indeed, and I’m so excited about the potential to further scale its impact and reach across Rwanda and Central Africa in the coming years.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to be equal partners in driving change in the world?
J: When channelled into the right things, young people’s energy and passion makes a huge difference. They can dare to bring about radical change.
H: The world is in a perilous place; war, climate change, poverty and a whole range of other issues threaten the planet’s prosperity. It is crucial that young people, as the leaders of today and tomorrow, are front and centre in addressing these challenges. After all, it is young leaders that will need to step up to the plate and deal with the inaction of previous generations.
What are your top tips for young people who have a great idea, but are wondering how to get started?
J: 1. Have passion and be community-focused: Being passionate about using home-grown solutions has helped us to solve problems in communities.
2. Build a strong team: Having a community of like-minded youths who have consistently donated time, talents and money to support the AOG cause since 2011 has been an integral part of our success.
3. Seek mentorship: We have been able to drive positive change more effectively through having mentors who have connected AOG to the right networks.
H: 1. Seek mentorship: Having a supportive mentor that was always there to listen was invaluable to me.
2. Have a support network: A brilliant team of volunteers, staff, family and friends has been a key part in the progress made so far.
What does working with QCT mean to you?
J: QCT’s dedication to championing young leaders is both inspiring and impactful. In my case, I am grateful for the support received, in partnership with Unloc UK, that has allowed us to build and expand the Ingenzi Social Enterprise Programme for young Rwandan changemakers.
H: Being part of the QCT network means a huge amount to me. I am so grateful to be surrounded by, and learn from, so many other brilliant young leaders from across the Commonwealth.
Follow the work of Ingenzi on Twitter.
Article published: May 2020
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