Deep in heart of Alexandra Township is a group of young people being groomed to take on the world.

They are problem-solvers in the making. Already active in their homes, communities and schools, learning the ins and outs of business and service on a micro level.

They are future innovators who must first learn to manage and overcome some pretty severe challenges: poverty, lack of basic services, physical and sexual abuse, overcrowded schools, lack of opportunities. To name a few.

But with Driven Entrepreneurship’s new program, Xpose, this group of Black youth has a chance to learn how to build on their innate skills and abilities—resilience, imagination, ambition, creativity, that hustle factor—to change the trajectory of their lives and communities.

They are students at Realogile High School in Alexandra Township, and they are the future of South Africa.

Funded and supported by Lombard Insurance, this program exposes students to different ways of thinking: tools and practices such as design thinking, game design, and entrepreneurship training as a means to generate solutions to social and economic problems surrounding them.

Nearly one hundred students were selected for this program, out of 278 applicants. They were selected based on a variety of factors, including their current activities: perhaps helping a parent with an income-generating activity, or selling snacks and candy on their school campus, or getting involved with academic or extracurricular activities in their community. Some were specifically selected based on their presence and reputation at school. One young man was chosen to participate because of his behavioural problems at school; he was considered one of the most challenging students on the campus.

After selecting the students, Driven gathered them all for a week-long retreat in rural Mpumalanga. Taken out of their everyday environments, they played and bonded, learned and explored, found new ways to express themselves, and discovered new strengths and abilities. They ate good food, rested, and experienced life in a completely different way.

They also worked. They learned about design thinking and how it can be used to generate workable solutions. They opened their minds and imaginations to consider new possibilities. What about taking the enormous rat problem in Alexandra and making it work for us: What if we collected the rats and made them power up some kind of generator that would bring electricity to the parts of the township that need it most? How can we create some kind of transport solution for disabled people in the community so that they can get around more easily?

By the time the week was over, these students had seen a glimpse into the future, into what they could become. They saw that they were strong and gifted as they are, regardless of what their circumstances and society might tell them. They saw their own value.

Even that troublesome kid? The one creating problems at school? He also had an epiphany of sorts. The positive attention and reinforcement he received, the opportunity to use his significant strengths and gifts for a good outcome, the chance to be around peers and mentors who saw him in a different light, all came together to drive him to tears by the end of the week. And with much of the troublesome aspects of his nature stripped away, Driven staff saw clearly the extent of his leadership skills and influence. They saw the ways in which his peers listened to him, gave weight to his actions and words. They realized he was a strong leader in the making. With the right kinds of intervention and support, he could become a major influencer for other South African youth.

With their week away at an end, the real work now begins. Driven will continue to work with the students for the next two months, showing them how to take the ideas they generated at camp and turn them into business ideas. Students will learn how to determine the feasibility of their ideas, create a business plan, and they will learn how to pitch their ideas. In August they will participate in an official Pitch Day, where they will have a chance to earn real money to turn their ideas into reality.

Because of the limits of Lombard’s sponsorship, the program only lasts three months. Unless additional funds come in, the students will be on their own after these three months. But Driven is doing their best to create a practical, wholistic program with tangible and accessible tools that students can use to build their future.

Still, imagine the difference it would make if these students receive the continued mentorship and support to deal with the inevitable challenges they will face, to recognize and embrace their strengths, to learn how to be their best selves at every stage of the game.

Imagine if they had YOUR support.

Here are some specific ways you can get involved:

  • Pitch Day for these students is on 17 August 2018, at the Goethe Institute in Parktown. Come out and show your support! For more information or to RSVP, contact: muzi@drivenentrepreneurs.co.za OR portia@drivenentrepreneurs.co.za.
  • Driven is looking for both financial and non-financial supporters of this program in order to deepen and solidify students’ learning. Non-financial support can be any number of things, including mentorship, academic assistance, professional guidance, to name a few. If you would like to offer your support, contact Owen Muzambi at owen@drivenentrepreneurs.co.za.

To learn more about Owen and the birth of Driven Entrepreneurs, check out his video here.