BY VICTOR ADAR
Ever wondered why lack of professional skills has been a major challenge to economic and national development, or how to boost employability of young people? In this day and age, it is only innovative and creative ideas that will hold. And empowering Kenya’s youth with professional skills and exposure is generally one of the ways to make things happen. It is no wonder DHL Global Forwarding, a provider of air, sea and road freight services, is currently in a partnership with My Dream Now, a Swedish non-profit social enterprise that provides mentorship programs to school children and youth from lower-income backgrounds to equip them with new skills and inspiration for future jobs.
Launched in November 2018 with three employees visiting Cheleta Primary School in Nairobi, the program is expected to involve more staff, who will also be trained as volunteer class coaches, before going into schools three to four times a year for two-hour coaching sessions.
Although this is just but one of many non-profit social enterprises in Kenya, the collaboration makes the logistics firm the first partner in Kenya for My Dream Now, and is expected to benefit more than 700 students by end of 2019. What it means is that employees from DHL will spend time in primary and secondary schools, to facilitate as type of mentors, called class coaches, to school children and youth.
According to Pramod Bagalwadi, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding, Eastern Africa, in a country where half of children are born into abject poverty, education and connection to global opportunities play a direct and crucial role in improving young lives.
“Receiving guidance from positive role models can go a long way in increasing a student’s confidence and in spurring them in the right direction,” he says. “We hold strong to our belief that education and connection to global opportunities play a direct and crucial role in improving young lives.”
As a logistics player with a stake in Kenya and the region, Mr Bagalwadi says there is need for companies to go beyond business excellence. He argues that the significance of this collaboration is immense as it not only aims at reaching out to children and youth from lower-income backgrounds in order to equip them with new skills and inspiration for future jobs but also maximises social change.
“We value this partnership as a long-term commitment to inspire the young to pursue their dreams and contribute to Kenya’s socio-economic progress,” he says. “This partnership is part of a long-term commitment that we believe will inspire the young to pursue their dreams and contribute to the socio-economic progress of all.”
While DHL employees will facilitate as mentors and coaches in weekly sessions in schools, 15 Kenyan students will also be visiting the DHL Global Forwarding’s office in Nairobi for study tours, allowing them to explore their interests and get to know different career types available to them in the near future.
Thriving in the midst of tough business environment especially for start-ups points to the increase of use of social enterprise model. Many companies and individuals who are smart these days think of social enterprise model as a way of tackling effects of unemployment.
Apart from My Dream Now, Acumen, which is based in Nairobi’s Cape Office Park, Kilimani, is another organization that’s transforming future leaders and ideas, an indication that this is not just a trend. Social enterprise is a model that has worked, and is about scaling and driving not only entrepreneurs but also enterprises. The model is generally targeting the youth and women – from the low-income lot to those who can come up with innovative solutions, those that are of much greater benefits to the society. As always the case, opportunity seems to favour the youths, women, and people in the low income lot.
Experts believe social enterprise model is the current wind of change. It has the same objectives as a non-profit organization that is independent of any government, which is generally to maximize social change. But how would non-profit social enterprises transform the issue of un-employability and scarce jobs in Kenya?
My Dream Now was started in Stockholm, Sweden in 2011. It was later expanded to four other cities in Sweden. Today, Kenya is the first country outside of Sweden where the organization has operations. Its founder, Jonas Bygdeson, says that social enterprise partnerships create business value in employer branding, engages staff, and builds a stronger brand. Perhaps partly explaining the reason why a majority of companies are opting for the same.
Mr Bygdeson says that even when all funding from partners are used to cover salaries of employees and other operational expenses, while ensuring financial stability, the experience should be fulfilling. He says: “Our staff is very engaged, knowing that we are making a difference to children from low-income areas. Our partners also see us working to benefit the society… The business model has proven to be very sustainable, through long-term agreements with partner companies. Resources come from partner companies, who work with us to engage their employees.”