Welcome to Lesson 6 of African Leadership Academy CEO Chris Bradford’s reflections on lessons learnt over the past 10 years of establishing Africa’s leading educational institution.
‘Everything that we do is influenced by a market. If we do not solve our own problems, the market will – and the market will be ruthless.’
LESSON NUMBER SIX: Solve Your Problems – Or The Market Will
Our first class graduated from ALA in 2010. We knew that they were on track to become exceptional, world-changing leaders. We could see it in the quality of the work they were producing on our campus, and we could see it in the trajectory of their academic and leadership learning. The career educators on our team knew that this group of students was special. In the eight years that have passed since their graduation, we have not been disappointed.
Despite our certainty of their readiness for university, over 30% of that exceptional cohort of students was not placed in university on graduation day. Virtually all had gained admission to university, but many did not receive the funding they required to attend.
This group of students without a university place included multiple students who would go on to be named the outstanding student at their university in the years that followed!
Meeting the Challenge
The placement challenge was not a competence or readiness issue; it was a market issue. We had been so focused on the core of our diploma program that we had insufficiently “marketed” our students, and we had inadequately invested in the creation of the kinds of institutional partnerships that we would need such that this market could clear.
We had to solve that market problem. We needed to reduce the cost for a university to acquire an ALA student, and we needed to increase the willingness of universities to fund our graduates.
In the months that followed, we created partnerships with universities such that they could interact directly with our students and understand their readiness for university rigor. We built partnerships with major foundations to ensure that there was adequate scholarship money for young African leaders to pursue their dreams at top universities around the world. We ensured that all ALA graduates could access university – and 99% of our graduates have successfully enrolled in university as a result.
Everything that we do is influenced by a market. If we do not solve our own problems, the market will – and the market will be ruthless. Whether it is the market for the exceptional people we must hire, or for the market for the programs that we run, we must demonstrate our unique ability to create shared value.
What pressing challenge do you need to solve?
What markets are at work?
What actions might you take to increase demand, or do reduce your cost, such that you can serve that market?
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