In 2014, the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO)stated that: “To create a sustainable world where peace and justice thrive, all people must be equipped with values, relevant skill-set and heightened awareness.”
With four bootcamps completed in three states and another city in Nigeria- Abuja, Sokoto, Lagos, and Delta- involving 33 facilitators and 28 volunteers to impact 190 participants averaging 25 years in age, Sozo Networks has in the last one year impacted this number of youths in delivering skills and knowledge in the areas of policy making and advocacy, impact analysis and assessment, strategic planning, grant writing, social entrepreneurship, fundraising, and design thinking.
This was accomplished via Sozo Network’s Youths In Development (YID) bootcamps and fellowship programme. So far, a total of 511 people have been reached through step-down training.
Speaking on the reason for the programme, founder of Sozo Network Segun Fatudimu said, “Sozo Networks was founded in 2015 in anticipation of the youth bulge in Africa. The goal is to place young people at the forefront of addressing some of the critical challenges facing them, achieve the aim of the global action programme (GAP) on education for sustainable development which is to generate and scale up action at all levels and areas of education and learning, and to accelerate progress towards sustainable development.
“Sozo Networks trains and empowers young people through experiential training on social change and leads an ecosystem of young change makers that are providing solutions to some of Nigeria’s most critical problems through civic leadership and social entrepreneurship.
“In Nigeria, youth unemployment has caused a surge in professional development and entrepreneurial programmes targeted at empowering youths to participate in nation-building. The success of these programmes targeted at nurturing leadership potential has led to the emergence of Nigerian youth with increased awareness and participation in nation-building.
“Notable among the success recorded is an increased number of youth-led organisations in the development sector which includes community organisations, advocacy groups, and social enterprises. Sadly, many of these organisations struggle with sustainability.
“To address this challenge, we developed and implemented the Youths in Development boot camp – a train-the-trainer capacity development, and mentorship programme for emerging civic leaders.
“This provided 200 youths in Nigeria with the information, skills, and support required to effectively lead sustainable initiatives, capable of promoting democracy and socio-economic growth in Nigeria. The project was implemented by the Sozo Networks and was sponsored through grant funding by the United States Embassy, Abuja.”
For selection of participants, there was a call for applications through partner organisations, independent blogs, YALI Network Newsletter, social media, and community-based information sessions.
A total of 4,556 applications were received and screened by independent reviewers and a long list of participants were interviewed by another set of independent assessors.
The selection of participants was based on demonstrated community leadership, strong ambition for the future, those whose work has not enjoyed enough recognition and have not participated in any major local or international development opportunities before and especially those from the US State Department. Due to the competitive nature of the applications, a total of 200 participants were selected.
Sozo Networks conducted a two-week online training and a four-day intensive, practical and experiential workshops in four locations across Nigeria, namely Abuja, Sokoto, Lagos, and Delta in the months of August and September 2019.
The camp provided a total of 28 hours of learning to a total of 190 participants that attended. The online training included the online grant writing course-facilitated by Professor Jesse Lutabingwa of Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.
The online training engaged participants through daily assignments, practical data collection and need assessments.
The topics covered at the bootcamps where participants were physically present included policymaking and advocacy, impact analysis and assessment, strategic planning, grant writing, social entrepreneurship, and design thinking.
There were 33 facilitators across all four locations. The bootcamps adopted an experiential learning model and the sessions were practical featuring real-time problem scenarios, problem-solving simulation exercises, and case studies.
Notable among the facilitators were Olajide Aribisala (Executive member, Guardian of The Nation International), who emphasized on “system thinking” while planning any activity during the strategic planning session in Abuja.
Also, Ms. Eugenia Abu, a veteran broadcaster, who made a guest appearance on the last day of the Abuja bootcamp, conducted a one-hour practical session on creative writing, at the end of which participants knitted strings of sentences to produce a fictional tale of a Dangerous Deer.
In addition, Bukola Shonibare, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and founding member of #BringBackOurGirls kicked off the “design thinking and Impact Analysis” session with those words and then highlighted five steps to achieving a proper impact analysis.