At the start of 2011, the Leadership for a Winning Nation portfolio posed a question: “How can we move away from a crisis-management approach to youth, and begin engaging with young people as agents of their own, and the country’s broader successes; as innovative, capable and with the potential to input wisely, inventively, and responsibly into the public realm?”
So what are we looking for?
The portfolio strategy that emerged this year focusses on three key strands where we believe we can have a catalytic impact. We thus support initiatives that:
- aren’t simply youth development programmes, but that equip and support young people to lead and innovate for the public good;
- are able to shift a narrative, at different levels of society, about young people’s capacity;
- open key opportunities for young people to substantively participate in driving public innovation.
Overlaid on these three strands was a sense that there exist catalytic mechanisms to develop leadership for public innovation. One of these mechanisms is building a strong sense of identity among cohorts of young leaders, focussed on the common goal of public innovation. The most effective of these cohort mechanisms will connect the poles of South African society by crafting spaces where young people can connect deeply across multiple barriers and inequalities. It is also important to build a mind-set of innovation, one in which young leaders are pro-actively seeking out ways they can tackle key social challenges. Finally, a critical catalytic mechanism is to create opportunities for personal growth and development for young leaders, in ways that serve as a precedent for other young people. This is crucial in the South African context where many of the major challenges facing young people stem from a real and perceived lack of imminent opportunities.
What don’t we fund?
This year the portfolio has received a number of applications from organisations doing youth development work. These interventions often focus on imparting life-skills or specific information-based content to young people, rather than equipping them to be drivers of public innovation. We also receive a number of proposals from organisations offering leadership camps, and short once-off personal development leadership interventions. What is missing in these programmes is the process by which leadership is directed at key social challenges and/or a lack of support to develop a cohort-mechanism that can lead to a more impactful multiplier effect.
What did we fund this year?
Under this strategy, some of the initiatives we supported this year include:
– A grant to TSiBA Education was made to support the broader youth leadership sector. This grant enabled TSiBA to convene a conference of leadership development practitioners, and develop a book of interviews with key leadership development thoughtleaders in South Africa. Books are available from TSiBA.
– A grant to Enke: Make Your Mark to support the development of an alumni network across cohorts, and to improve monitoring and evaluation systems to enable them to track and remain in contact with participants over time.
– Oasis South Africa builds young change agents in Cosmo City outside Johannesburg. Through their intensive model of peer support and development, young people are actively creating and deploying projects to uplift their communities while gaining access to opportunities to rewrite matric and begin studying at tertiary level. [there are cool photos on their website if you want them?]
– RAPCAN are exploring mechanisms by which young people’s participation in School Governing Body decision-making processes can be enhanced.
2012 also sees the roll-out of the flagship programme for the portfolio – Activate! Leadership and Public Innovation – which is a national-level leadership programme which aims to develop a critical mass of extraordinary young leaders from across the spectrum of South Africa who can individually and collectively drive public innovation in South Africa.