ALA: Theories of Social Entrepreneurship in Practice by Debanjan & Prestige
The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is a two-year university preparatory institution that has been around since 2008, but was originally founded in 2004. It is situated in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. ALA brings in students from across the African continent for a two year entrepreneurial curriculum experience. Students also have to take subjects in the Cambridge A-levels curriculum during their two-year stay, including African studies. The institution has a clear goal: to generate a minimum of 6,000 leaders in Africa over the next 50 years.
On the 22nd of January, two days shy of the Middlebury CSE’s Social Entrepreneurship and the Future of Education Symposium, we had the opportunity to interview Faith Abiodun from ALA via Google+ HangoutOnAir (HOA). Faith works as ALA’s Communications Associate. During the hour long discussion we had, Faith shared with us his passion for seeing Africa’s future generations write a different story about a continent that has so often been portrayed as a place of perpetual misery, famine, disease and war. Introducing students to both the successes and failures of some of Africa’s 54 sovereign states is just part of the ALA. The institution’s educational philosophy is to introduce young people to the entrepreneurial leadership mindset. ALA believes that it is possible for people to be entrepreneurial in every aspect of their lives. The engine for this mindset is teaching students how to identify challenges and engage with those challenges to come up with solutions using the BUILD model.
The Believe-Understand-Invent-Listen-Deliver (BUILD) model is the heart of ALA’s Entrepreneurship curriculum, and this is how it works: 1) Believe you have the capacity to affect change; 2) Understand the field you are trying to affect change in and the stakeholders, and really tap into the nuances of the problem; 3) Invent (come up with) a proposed solution; 4) Listen for for feedback on your model of change from the community you are working with; and 5) After continuous iteration and dialogue, Deliver by implementing your project. Many ALA (as well as non-ALA) students have used this model as a blueprint for building their own entrepreneurial ventures. Jihad Hajjouji, Middlebury College ‘14 and ALA ‘10, co-founded and currently is a Director of the National Entrepreneurial Camp in Morocco.
During Faith’s Google+ HOA, he emphasized the importance of ALA in relation to how the world envisions the African continent. Faith believes that Africa will not develop in a vacuum. Instead, the world needs to see the continent in all of its diversity, beauty, successes as well as shortcomings. Allowing current and emerging world leaders to interact with some who will surely be the continent’s next leaders allows the world to meet and see the Motherland in her own terms. This made us think back to Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie’s famous TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.”
Indeed, even as we gave our presentation on the Friday of the Symposium, we found ourselves drawn in a conversation about the notorious sad-story states such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s, instead of focusing on the improvements in social, economic and political leadership in these parts of the continent since the late 2000s. We needed to understand as students of the class Social Entrepreneurship in the Liberal Arts that it was imperative to have an understanding of what the organizations we were presenting believed in. Indeed the work of writing and sharing a different, objective story about the continent will be a long and laborious one, but ALA is truly at the cutting edge of that movement as it shows the world the entrepreneurial and innovative side of the Motherland. It is a lesson that the ALA is not just employing from a standpoint of education, but also in the continent’s future of business, politics, health and leadership at large. The BUILD education model is exactly the type of theory of social entrepreneurship we saw throughout the entire symposium this past weekend.