Tomorrow morning I depart for the southern area of Johannesburg, South Africa where I will have the privilege of participating as an executive in residence with a non-profit organization as part of the Western Union/Ashoka program.
For the next two weeks, I will be working with Siyafunda, an organization whose mission is to Empower, Educate and EConnect local communities by delivering a network of community technology centers (CTC’s) in disadvantaged areas. But the mission goes well beyond that. While the CTC’s offer low cost IT related software and hardware courses to promote computer literacy in communities, itself a high-value goal, the CTC’s act as a community hub so that individuals in the community can communicate on their particular issues and challenges and find solutions to overcome those challenges. Some examples might be offering business skill courses to aspiring or existing small businesses or providing access to online educational courses. Siyafunda has developed excellent relationships with large IT companies and local government agencies to help build and support the mission.
The goal of my placement will be to help Siyafunda develop a plan to transform the current model into a social franchise model with the aim of engaging local communities to run the centers independently and as a result increase the reach of the Siyafunda mission.
Over the last month, I have already been engaged in excellent dialogue with my Ashoka Fellow and head of Siyafunda, Ahmed Smiley Ismael. Even before I am intended to arrive, Smiley has been gracious with his time and has already taught me so much about the organization so that I can hit the ground running. The schedule he has carefully put together includes visiting centers, meeting local social entrepreneurs, IT service partners and an esteemed professor who focuses on social entrepreneurship. I am looking forward to meeting Smiley and the rest of his team in person. Smiley has insisted on picking me up at the airport himself on the weekend.
I am very excited to start this journey and to contribute to Siyafunda’s goals of change making and social entrepreneurship in the local community and am grateful for what will be a tremendous learning experience.