Social Entrepreneurship: LEAP Africa Grooms Innovators in Lagos

IMG_0546 - CopyThe magnificent facilities of FirstAcademy in Iganmu, Lagos State played host to Fellows of the LEAP Africa’s Social Innovators Programme (SIP) from April 19 to 25, 2015.

The week-long workshop brought together 16 young Nigerian change agents, innovators and social entrepreneurs from different parts of the country. A few of the fellows were not present due to other commitments, however. They rather ‘participated’ with their colleagues from distance through various social media channels.

Impressive FirstAcademy

The 2015 SIP Fellows arrived the FirstAcademy in Iganmu owned by First Bank Nigeria Limited, on Sunday, April 19 as directed by LEAP Africa officials. The courteous Jennifer Pearse kept in contact touch with expected participants and gave directions to the venue, somewhat located in a hidden part of the bustling Lagos.

It proved to be an ideal location for such intensive learning, as FirstBank also welcomed its new staff for a three-month training. The complex has everything – great classrooms, conference halls, a tennis lawn, a functional swimming pool, a well-equipped gym, and other sporting needs.IMG_0283

The equally impressive cafeteria probably explained why people needed the fitness facilities. Indeed, the SIP Fellows, like other trainees initially found it difficult to cope with the schedules, as there are four meal breaks. Even the so-called “tea break” could go for a proper meal.

The hostel facilities are like your regular four-star hotel accommodation. The fellows were paired in twos according to gender, except for those whose partners could not make it for the workshop. They thoroughly enjoyed the facilities and thanked FirstBank for partnering LEAP Africa for the SIP.

World Class Faculty

One thing all the participants in the 2015 SIP workshop seem to agree with is the quality of the training personnel LEAP Africa assembled. Starting with the coordinator of the one-week event, Asuquo Asuquo, every one of the facilitators proved their expertise in the various subjects.

Asuquo kicked off the week’s activities by introducing “Systems Thinking” process that required the participation of all the fellows. Through the concept, participants understood why it is important to see things in whole instead of from a myopic view. Using several examples, they learn that except that is done, creating solutions could lead to bigger problems.

A former LEAP Africa staff and lead facilitator, Oje Ivagba took the participants on a journey of self-discovery, revealing the possibility of blind spot about oneself. The fellows participated in a number of exercises from the sessions. Another seasoned facilitator, Jide Adeyemi led the class into engaging and personal development and goal setting sessions.IMG_0277 - Copy

The CEO of Kasher Consult, Mrs Dayo Oluwole spoke on the need to build sustainable brands. She said change agents should not focus too much on money initially and must not despise the incubation period they would have to pass through. Using her example regularly, she admonished the fellows to select a strong board and have a functional team.

Other facilitators for the SIP workshop include Sola Adewumi, who coached the fellows how to properly strategise and be productive in their endeavors. He shared some of the tools that have worked for him and his business. Mrs Ndifreke Okwuegbunam, who is the current programme manager of LEAP Africa disclosed some innovative strategies for time management.

Arguably one of the most engaged session was facilitated by Osayi Alile, the current Chairperson of WIMBIZ. She spoke on “Networking” and participants could relate with her vulnerability. There was a social media buzz, while participants could not resist the temptation to demand for photo-shoot with her. The Lagos Angel Network also made an expository presentation on fund raising and value proposition.

The workshop ended on Friday with quality time devoted to a strategy session with Ademide Adefarasin, a representative of Accenture. Virtually all the fellows realized that their strategy plan for the year needed to be reworked after the class. They were grateful for having more than they could pay for.

And the session with Henry Ononiwu of Poise Nigerian was a fitting climax to the programme. Drawing on practical experiences, Henry spoke on the necessity of soft skills for change makers. The class was both fun and educative.

The Fellows’ Delight

In all, 16 fellows out of the 20 inducted in November 2014 were present at the SIP workshop. While some of them reside in Lagos, a good number came from other parts of Nigeria. Solving wide-ranging social problems, these innovators quickly forged friendships for the rest of their stay in the FirstAcademy facilities.

From their reactions during and after the workshop, it is obvious that the fellows valued the week’s commitment. They were actively engaged in all the classes, asked relevant questions, did the activities, participated in exercises and completed all surveys.

They enjoyed the meals and other paraphernalia of being at the FirstAcademy. They lodged in cozy rooms, had access to the best of food and drinks. When some of them came down with health challenge, management of the facilities quickly attended to them. The camaraderie among the fellows was obvious.

IMG_0748They also had time to catch fun – whatever that meant to everyone. The guys used the swimming pool, the gyms as well as played table tennis. The ladies also had access to TV entertainment. But there was an entertaining activity that brought everyone together: the screening of #Selmamovie on Thursday night. From that experience, they derived a theme song for the fellowship year – John Legend and Common’s song, “Glory.”

“One day, when the glory comes it will be ours”

The fellows expect to use the inspiration from the SIP workshop to improve on their respective initiatives in the coming months. Next stop for everyone is the Social Innovators Programme & Awards (SIPA), coming up on Thursday, November 12, 2015.

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