South Africa is a country with its fair share of challenges, and particularly amongst its youth, but the way to address those challenges is to empower a new generation of proactive citizens to lead a new way of thinking and to find the much needed solutions for change. Social entrepreneur Amanda Blankfield-Koseff and her Empowervate Trust has a vision to help these new young citizens to be the changemakers of tomorrow.
LoA met with Amanda this month at a conference in South Africa aimed at supporting SMMEs in the country and wanted to find out more….
What does your organisation do?
Empowervate is a youth development non-profit organisation that aims to empower and motivate a new generation of proactive and positive citizens. Our flagship programme is the Youth Citizens Action Programme (YCAP), which was founded in 2009 and operates in every province of South Africa in Primary and Secondary Schools to teach active citizenship experientially. The other programmes include social entrepreneurship for youth.
"We aim to change the mindset to one of "If it's going to be, it's up to me" - positive and proactive citizenship and social entrepreneurship where the citizens take responsibility for their future, their community and their country."
What inspired you to start your organisation?
After a youth dialogue where we had youth giving solutions and ideas to address social, environmental and academic issues, it was frustrating to see that none of the participants knew how to take action on any of the ideas, so YCAP was born out of that need to assist in implementing those good ideas. So we provided a toolkit that explains basic project management and a competition as a motivator and communications platform. Six years later and we're implementing the programme in over 360 schools annually and impacting learners, schools and communities.
Why should people join and participate in your initiative?
The problem in South Africa is that many of our citizens love to complain about problems and wait for government or institutions to fix them. This is not the right way to develop our country, and so with Empowervate's programmes, we aim to change the mindset to one of "If it's going to be, it's up to me" - positive and proactive citizenship and social entrepreneurship where the citizens take responsibility for their future, their community and their country.
"The problem in South Africa is that many of our citizens love to complain about problems and wait for government or institutions to fix them. This is not the right way to develop our country."
Tell us a little about your team
I work with amazing volunteers called the Support Team who are passionate about youth development and active citizenship. We have a team at the Department of Basic Education who are our implementation partners, an NPO called Heartlines who are our NPO partners, and then our special funders Deutsche Bank South Africa Foundation and UTi Mounties SA. UNISA is our pro bono research partner and Airlink provide some free flights for us!
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My parents were both entrepreneurs so I suppose I learned how to be my own boss through osmosis. My mom still runs her home industry that she started when I was a toddler, and my Dad is a serial entrepreneur, opening all sorts of businesses from reinking laser printing ribbons, to selling corporate gifts, to renting out low cost housing...I worked for bosses for 10 years, and I feel I have learned enough of the good and the bad leadership styles to run my own organisation. It is still scary but mostly exciting to be charting the path instead of following someone else’s.
"My parents were both entrepreneurs so I suppose I learned how to be my own boss through osmosis."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We plan to expand our programme offerings when we get more funding, and we plan to go across into Africa and the rest of the world in the future.
#EntrepreneurAdvice: "Don't try to be like a man, being feminine and tough is the answer - & don't ever apologise for being a woman!"
- Amanda B. Koseff @Amands5
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Being able to chart the course of my organisation and do what I am passionate about while being fulfilled at seeing people's lives being changed for the better because of our organisation!
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Don't try to be like a man, being feminine and tough is the answer - and don't ever apologise for being a woman!
Contact or follow Amanda and Empowervate
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love those women entrepreneurs that are passionate about making positive change happen and in the process changing the social entrepreneurial landscape of a country in the future. Amanda Blankfield-Koseff is one such woman who is making a real difference by empowering the youth of South Africa to take responsibility for the future direction of their country. The country needs more visionary people like her if it is to achieve its incredible potential moving forward. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa