A Year Journey with the Social Innovation Mentors

 The Social Innovation Mentoring program (SIM) is a 12 month program from CCL that fosters leadership, entrepreneurship and service through a mentoring approach. To achieve the amplification of the 26 female voices we took under or wings during this project as well leveraged CCL methods like the Life Tree, Social Identity Map and DAC model. The 26 female are all university student at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building and Construction College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The campus is mainly known as a male dominated school in the city.

CCL believes that developing young leaders should be a process achieved through time. Therefore SIM was designed to develop the students as leaders and help unlock their individual potential through a variety of leadership train the trainer session. In the beginning all participants went the Leadership Essentials Program which helped them to see that leadership starts from leading themselves and then lead others using their personal way. According to the participants the Social Identity Map has been a great tool to identify what their Given, Chosen and Core identities are and how they can apply that in a real life. Flavoring the leadership trainings with different Team in a Box activities such as “Irrigation Ditch” opened many of the participants’ eyes to see what Direction Alignment and Commitment is all about and how that applied in their team work. InImage general the Leadership Essentials Training helped them to discover their various leadership potentials and created multiple opportunities to apply those leadership skills throughout the whole duration of the project.

Another aspect of SIM was the combination of leadership and entrepreneurship. Weekly Lunch & Learn brought them closer to the idea of entrepreneurship, while also giving the participants insight in how professional business women in apply their entrepreneurial leadership in very creative ways in Ethiopia.  Through that experience the students learned that limited resources does not necessarily imply limited business and entrepreneurial opportunities. Just recently SIM hosted a Fair Day at iceaddis, the place SIM was operated—“iceaddis is a University-based innovation hub, incubator and co-working space for communities. [It] contributes to Ethiopia’s economic growth by tightening the constructive interaction between researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative workers and customers and by promoting local technological solutions to the public.”—For the Fair Day the participants came up with their own innovative products such as variety of jewelries, creative notebooks out of recycled paper, children’s story books, a concept for a portable public toilet and much more, since they then engage themselves to sell their products to potential local clients, using the connections they have in the community.

“I have learned that I shouldn’t only stick on my Engineering field as if that is the only thing I can do in life; recently I came up with a homemade Herb Mixed Tea Spic, as a substitution of a teabag. At the Fair Day, people liked it and bought my product and that motivated me to take these things forward in life.” Bezawit Admasu, who is a member of the Social Innovation Mentoring program, gave us her comment about what SIM and especially the Fair Day meant to her. Obviously, the program helped participants to think and do things beyond the social boundaries the society has been given to them.

Through SIM we produced entrepreneurial leaders who are now more confident on the things they like to do in their lives rather than struggling with what they have to do.

SIM also opened up doors for the participants to practice their skills and gain experiences in the community through giving services. “I discovered the joy of volunteerism for myself though this program” said one of the participants after her service at the Peace Corps GLOW Summer Camp in BahrDar. SIM was able to partner up with different local and international organization as to promote volunteerism in Ethiopia through the project, in order to broaden the impact on both the society and the participants. Through these volunteer opportunities many of the participants traveled to over 6 regions in Ethiopia to work as a counselor and share their stories with high school students. Another opportunity to apply volunteerism in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, was SIM’s work at the local orphanages by tutoring, counseling young people. SIM participants also helped a local NGO to design a public toilet and shower for a chance of creating income for elders at the age of 60 and above.

The Social Innovation Mentoring program gave 26 female students the opportunity to unlock their potential and become leaders of their generation through a series of leadership trainings, mentorship, entrepreneurship and service. Evaluating the program showed that most of the participants developed new skillset and opened up to new perspectives about their chances in life and ways of impacting their society. They learned about their Social Identities and how to leverage these to increase effectiveness as a leader.

Even though the SIM pilot program came to an end early this year, the participants volunteered to take their experiences and trainings forward to continue to work with high school girls and other female students attending the university. Seeing the impact SIM created on its participants and context you cannot but acknowledge its successes and wonder about how far we could take it with further funding and application opportunities.

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