Fourteen alumni from Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the U.S. (YES Abroad) gathered in Arlington, VA from March 24-April 2 for the 2019 YES Alumni Social Entrepreneur Leaders Workshop. Alumni were also there to take part in an annual training and development workshop for close to 200 AFS USA volunteers and overseas staff involved in implementing ECA sponsored programs.
The main workshop goal is to provide YES alumni with change-making and project management skills and tools they can apply to a concrete action in their community. The workshop utilizes curriculum from social entrepreneur organization Ashoka’s Youth Venture to guide participants through the basic principles of social entrepreneurship, project development and management to empower alumni to be changemakers in their communities. Participants are provided with an action plan template to complete during and after the workshop which guides them through the steps involved in various aspects of project development such as cataloguing their skills and passions, identifying community issues and solutions, awareness raising campaigns, building a team, and developing project goals, timelines and budgets.
YES India alumnus Najmuzzaman Mohammad (YES ’09), who has a background in entrepreneurship and training, was invited to join the workshop as a trainer. In 2011, Najmuzzaman attended an alumni Training of Trainers workshop and he holds an MBA with a specialization in Innovation and Intrapreneurship. He currently works for Capria Ventures developing and delivering training modules to support new entrepreneurs in building investable businesses. Najmuzzaman guided alumni through sessions on pitching to funders and the importance of conducting needs assessments to improve project sustainability. Throughout the workshop alumni also explored such topics as group dynamics and best practices for building and leading an effective team and engaged in Community mapping, an exercise to identify resources, assets and issues in their own community.
Participants were then divided into small groups and pitched their ideas to panelists composed of AFS-USA volunteers, YES staff from overseas partner offices and an ECA Program Officer. These “mock” panels give alumni the opportunity to practice their pitching skills and gain valuable feedback and support.
On the final day, alumni took part in a day-long digital storytelling workshop where they gained skills and tools in using visuals and social media to promote their projects and develop awareness raising campaigns. Alumni created short videos based on their project ideas.
Alumni also utilized their new storytelling skills on Capitol Hill, when they visited offices of the Congressional Representatives of the states in which they were hosted to convey the impact the YES program has had on families and communities in the US and around the world.
A highlight for the alumni was meeting Susan Crystal, ECA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, who was delivering a keynote speech at the training workshop. The Secretary met briefly with alumni prior to her speech, where they spoke with her about the changemaking workshop, their projects, and alumni activities.
Alumni Anthony Mulanzia from Kenya (YES ’13), Allyson Adams from South Africa (YES ’17) and YES Abroad alumna Emily Rodriguez (YES ’15 to Indonesia), served on an alumni panel along with NSLI-Y and CBYX alumni. The alumni spoke about their host family experiences, on-program enrichment activities and answered questions from volunteers and staff on ways to best support participants before, during and after their programs.
Projects developed during the workshop include a youth-generated e-magazine to counter violent extremism in the Philippines, bringing global education curriculum to classrooms in Indonesia, addressing rising obesity among youth in Malaysia, providing IT and coding skills to youth in Mozambique, and a waste management/recycling social entrepreneur project in Ghana.
Check out the workshop photos on the YES Flickr and the alumni created project videos here