African Leadership Academy’s Global Scholars Program (GSP) is unique in many respects. A truly global program aimed at young aspiring leaders from all over the world, led by facilitators from all over the world, this mid-year holiday program is a transformative African experience that leaves a lasting impression on all participants.
But how does it work? Uzo Agyare-Kumi, ALA’s Dean of Global Programs, and GSP Youth Programs Manager Khosi Zulu give us the lowdown…
This is not your typical community service experience!” exclaims Khosi. “ALA’s mission is to develop the next generation of African leaders for a peaceful and prosperous continent. Our summer camps translate that for participants from around the world into a transformative leadership experience that launches them on their own journey of affecting change – that they’ll be on with their new global network of friends for a lifetime.”
The ALA difference, adds Uzo, is that ALA has an implicit understanding of the environment in which it operates. “There are a lot of service-based summer travel programs out there that make a lot of assumptions about what’s needed, are not truly rooted in the communities where they operate, and often-times undermine local capacity. ALA has been in South Africa for over 10 years. We know our community, the issues and dynamics, and the people affecting change. Our summer camps are rooted in that knowledge and those relationships, providing participants with deep learning in partnership with social entrepreneurs who are the future of South Africa.”
A 10-day program designed for kids, aged 13 to 16, Explore Africa looks at the foundations of leadership – with the theme being one of self-exploration. “Here, we look at building at each emerging leader as a person, by encouraging self-awareness, and raising questions such as ‘How do I understand my identity? What informs my purpose? How do I want to lead; and How do I weave who I am and develop into my leadership story?” explains Khosi.
“We dig into all those elements, and emerging leaders decide for themselves: ‘This is my goal and this is how I want to achieve it.’ They chart their leadership path through the program. We pack a lot of activities into those 10 days, too; they’re thinking about all these things in an environment with historic significance and the context within which it has evolved. The impact therefore becomes more of a personal experience,” adds Khosi.
Designed for teens aged 15-19, this program is more outwardly focused than Explore and, says Uzo: “immerses participants in learning human-centered design through team-based practice in partnership with young South African social entrepreneurs who are grappling with real challenges in their communities. There is an authentic exchange of ideas and solution creation that impacts those partners and their ability to effect change locally. Participants, in turn, develop the mind-set and skills to impact their own communities; they leave inspired to do more, take risks, and explore their passions more deeply. It’s a win-win-win.”
Khosi breaks it down further: “They figure out how to engage with rest of the world as leaders by digging into the practicalities of ALA’s BUILD model – interacting with young entrepreneurs to figure out how to solve some of the problems these organisations face in either expanding impact in their community, or accelerating growth or scale of their operations.”
It’s an immersive entrepreneurial learning experience that offers youngsters opportunities to uncover real solutions to existing problems by understanding the root causes and implementing solutions that can propel progress, adds Khosi. “That’s the crux of our Build model: by asking right questions, we will equip them with the tools to implement solutions.”
A real slice of life
By forming groups and encouraging teamwork, the journey becomes an iterative process of conversation. “Young people understand that they’re looking at real problems faced by real businesses with real challenges. They understand that they can change lives for the better, and they tend to take that really seriously and have come up with real solutions that have a real impact,” adds Khosi.
“It also gives them a different sense of a continent that is seen to rely on aid – and to question so much of what the world says about what Africa needs, and whether it really is aid – or something else. We want young people to always interrogate that,” asserts Khosi.
The results are tangible, she says: “It leaves them with a sense of purpose, and a sense that they can effect change wherever they come from and with whatever they have. The tools we give them are universal: they start to think from wherever they are, be it in school, at home in their neighbourhoods… ‘Is there a problem that I have the power to change?’ Because they have seen young people who, despite having very little, have effected change themselves. They see that solutions can start small; you don’t need to spend money; just time and passion – and the desire for change.”
The impact, says Uzo, is lifelong. “On day 1 participants connect with peers from across the African continent and around the world. On the last day of camp, they can’t believe they have to say goodbye to their friends who they feel like they’ve known forever. They’re building a global network – something that is becoming essential in today’s world – that will last a lifetime!”
Don’t just take their words for it, though: see how GSP has transformed those who’ve experienced it first-hand, here: