• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Nigeria’s social sector must attract young professionals to accelerate impact – Kelvin Enumah

Nigeria’s social sector must attract young professionals to accelerate impact – Kelvin Enumah

Kelvin Enumah is the sustainability and development manager of Wetland Cultural and Education Foundation. In an interview with Chinedu Ndigwe, Kelvin speaks about grooming future leaders, reducing accidental career entry and boosting sustainability in the social sector.

How does the Social Sector Training Programme (SSTP) aim to groom leaders and innovators specifically for the social sector? Could you explain the key strategies involved?

The SSTP has curated a comprehensive and scalable curriculum in collaboration with online platforms to provide participants with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude required for the social sector. The program covers Social Sector Strategy and Management, Programmes and Project Management, Digital Communication and Information Management, Fundraising, Finance and Partnerships, Social Sector Legalities and Compliance, Sustainable Development Goals, and Capstone Projects.

In addition to theoretical learning, the SSTP emphasizes instilling a sustainability and entrepreneurial mindset among the participants.

To achieve this, the program collaborates with organisations like the Institute for Industrial Technology, Educational Co-operation Society, Tributary Initiative for Learning, 9jacode Tech Limited and many others. These collaborations enable leaders from these organisations to conduct masterclasses, providing practical insights and expertise to the trainees.

From the program’s inception in May 2023, the SSTP has invited industry experts to share their knowledge and experience with the participants. For example, the CEO of the Tributary Initiative for Learning, the Foundation Head of Tetra Foundation, and others have given masterclasses on strategy and management for the social sector and in fundraising and partnerships, respectively.

Also, during the Sustainable Development Goals course, trainees were tasked with identifying at least two problems in their communities related to each Sustainable Development Goal, fostering critical thinking and problem-definition skills.

Can you shed light on the importance of sustainability in the social sector?

Having a sustainability mindset is essential for players in the social sector. We need to rethink operational strategies, income generation models, and people management approaches for long-term impact. By adopting this mindset, we can sow seeds of lasting change, operate optimally, and address challenges like every other sector. Prioritising sustainability enables the social sector to contribute effectively to problem-solving and create meaningful solutions.

What are the underlying factors contributing to the issue of graduates entering the social sector without adequate preparation?

Many non-profit organisations and social enterprises have yet to work to attract graduates into the social sector actively. It is crucial to sow the seeds now to ensure a future influx of talent. In contrast, in other societies, organisations establish university programs to empower and prepare students for the future.

Irrespective of the prevalent opinion held by many graduates and young professionals that working in the social sector is a license to poverty, organizations are still responsible for attracting these young professionals into the social sector.

Can you shed light on how the SSTP aims to mitigate the issue of accidental career entry into the social sector?

While volunteering in schools has become more prevalent, the lack of organisation and structuring often leads to scattered learning experiences for undergraduates.

The STTP addresses this by providing a structured framework that helps participants understand the purpose and potential outcomes of their volunteering efforts, the need for mentoring by a leader in the social sector and the need for an internship with a nonprofit.

The program aims to rectify the issue of accidental entry into the social sector by equipping graduates, undergraduates, and young professionals with the necessary mindset and preparation to work effectively in the social sector.

Can you provide some examples of success stories and challenges from the Wetland Cultural and Education Foundation’s SSTP since its launch in May?

The SSTP has witnessed several success stories since its launch. Forty-three candidates across twelve states in Nigeria received scholarship admission into the program.

About 65 percent of the participants have shown immense interest and passion for the program by participating in live sessions and submitting assessments. The virtual masterclasses conducted in the program have motivated many of the trainees, inspiring them to consider a possible career in the sector. They have also had the opportunity to clarify many doubts and concerns about the social sector.

However, they still have a long way to go in the social sector. We hope that the other 35 percent currently fluctuating in their participation and attendance due to work and study commitments manage to make it to the finish line.

What measures did you implement to address the issue of fluctuating attention rates among participants in the SSTP?

We created nine learning groups and separate group leads to address this issue. Regular weekly calls with group leads and monthly calls with the learning groups have been initiated to foster participation and engagement. Additionally, plans are underway to organise monthly meetups for participants based in Lagos, further promoting networking and active involvement. The programme coordinators reach out to trainees regularly to check up on them.

What sets the training programme apart from similar programs in the social sector? Can you highlight the distinctive features that make the SSTP unique and stand out in its approach?

There appears to be a lack of initiatives specifically focusing on preparing individuals without experience for the non-profit sector. Our program aims to address this gap by providing comprehensive training and support for undergraduates, graduates and young professionals who wish to start a career or transition into the non-profit sector. We prioritise individuals who have zero or limited knowledge of the social sector and offer a foundation-building approach.

Can you provide some insights into the calibre and expertise of the instructors and mentors involved in the SSTP?

Those that teach our trainees are industry experts and leaders of organizations with years of impact in the sector. We rely on and collaborate with organizations to provide hands-on content, mentorship and internship opportunities.

Are there plans for your foundation to collaborate with private and public universities to further enhance participant grooming for the social sector?

Regarding partnerships with universities, yes, we are currently looking at possibilities. We see the need to partner to deliver SSTP directly to their students. We also know there is a need to certify the trainees and a partnership with universities might be the right approach.

Read also: Nigerian entrepreneurs should leverage social capital for sustainable business – Akintayo

In what ways do you envision the government providing support to non-profit organisations like the Wetland Cultural and Education Foundation?

We want an institution, ministry or parastatal that can accredit the certificates obtained through this program, rendering them valid and recognized for recruitment and further studies. If the government could provide this, it would be truly remarkable. We are actively seeking partnerships that can lend credibility to our certifications.

What are the short-term and long-term plans of the Wetland Cultural and Education Foundation for the SSTP and the organization as a whole?

For short-term plans, we want to run this 6-month program severally to monitor and get results and identify problems to address. We want to create a network of social sector professionals for long-term plans. We plan to develop a pool of trained professionals with internship and professional experience to strengthen recruitment.

Recognising the importance of cultivating a foundation in individuals for a career in the social sector, are there initiatives underway or future aspirations to introduce similar training programs at an earlier educational stage to instill the necessary skills and mindset from an early age?

Regarding concerns about cognitive capacity and understanding of setting terms, it may be beneficial to consider tailoring the content for a younger audience. The ultimate goal is to prepare individuals for the social sector, so revisiting the curriculum and potentially delivering it in a physical rather than a virtual one may be a logical approach for younger audiences. Exploring how we can redesign the solution to address these considerations is crucial.