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LEAP Africa brings scale-up tools to young Nigerian social innovators

Leadership Effectiveness Accountability Professionalism (LEAP) Africa is providing resources that young Nigerian social entrepreneurs can leverage on to become sustainable as they scale-up their social enterprises.

Every year, the organisation sorts through a thousand plus applications to select candidates for its Social Innovators Programme (SIP). This is an accelerator fellowship that empowers young changemakers to deliver more impact and build sustainable social enterprises. It is an offshoot of LEAP’s Annual Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards (ANYLA).

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Each year, SIP culminates in the SIP Awards (SIPA), which supports the growth of innovative youth-led social enterprises and creates opportunities for the global community of social innovators.

Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental challenges in support of social progress.

“it is ten years to the end of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we are consciously raising change agents. The SDGs cover social challenges in healthcare, education, hunger and poverty,” Segun Alimi, programme manager at LEAP Africa told BusinessDay at the launch of SIP 2020. “We are raising social innovators and this is a yearlong programme.”

Nigeria’s social challenges are many. It is estimated that over 11 million children are out of school in Africa’s most populous country. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 percent of all deaths of under-five children in Nigeria and the country has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world.

Nigeria generates 32 tonnes of solid waste per year the highest amounts in Africa, most of these are non-biodegradable plastics. These social and environmental problems have defied traditional solutions and require the type of innovative solutions provided by social enterprises.

These are some of the problems that social innovators offer new ways of solving. From social enterprises focused on helping women prevent cervical cancer or manage it, to helping low-cost schools source for funds and teaching materials, to those working to end malnutrition or using art to raise environmental consciousness in slums, SIP’s 2020 edition was packed with 18 energetic social innovators solving both social and environmental problems. However, these social enterprises need to be sustainable and this is the goal of the SIP Fellowship.

“Sustainability means continuity and for social impact projects to be sustainable they need to be commercially viable too. These social projects are important because you cannot be said to be succeeding in a country that is failing,” said Pearl Uzokwe, head governance and sustainability at Sahara Group, a vertically integrated energy company.

The young social innovators were introduced to various aspects of business development from concept to commercialisation. They learnt how to make personal the leadership the cornerstone of their social enterprises, time management, personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, and emotional intelligence.

“You have to crystalise your idea and create a powerful elevator’s pitch. To achieve this, you need to understand the hedgehog concept, which helps you focus on the one big idea and not chase after many unfocused alternatives,” Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro, founder and chief executive of Mitmeth, a social enterprise that transforms water weeds and waste into economic goods.

The yearlong fellowship will see these social innovators attached to mentors, follow webinars, take advantage of LEAP’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) and other support systems put in place to help them scale-up their impact.

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