On #ImpactThursday serial social entrepreneur and changemaker, Njideka Harry floats our boat as we observe the strides her Youth for Technology Foundation has made over a 15-year period.
“Social entrepreneurs are a unique population – we’re driven by passion, not profit. We’re not satisfied until we become a part of the change we wish to see, but also understand that change does not happen overnight. We’re willing to work on whatever the conviction is for the long haul – with integrity and authenticity. These values, which acknowledge that you have both potential and shortcomings, are integral to the process of creating change in the world.” -Njideka Harry.
Njideka U. Harry is the President and CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) which she founded at 25 while working in the corporate strategy group at Microsoft. She earned her BBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She completed her post-graduate studies at Stanford University. Njideka Harry is an Ashoka Fellow and in 2013 was awarded ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum.
Founded in 2000, the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), is a non-profit organization focused on using the power of technology to transform the lives of youth and women in developing countries. It seeks to equip young people with appropriate technology and entrepreneurship skills. Youth for Technology Foundation works with the government, academia, the private sector and grassroots organizations, to ensure that under-privileged youth have the opportunity to improve their standard of living. YTF believes it is important to increase the employability of youth while working with the private sector and government to fashion a constructive system that will that makes it easier to create businesses and jobs amongst young people.
According to the Schwab Foundation, the Youth for Technology Foundation Academy has partnered with disadvantaged youth and women in developing nations to improve their lives and expand their economic opportunities through employment and entrepreneurship. YTF helps uplift women and young people out of poverty by accessing market demands, designing developmental programs, and providing connections that hasten business opportunities.
The learning environment at YTF Academy includes a curriculum that is tailored to rural life, encourages a participatory approach, promotes creativity, and emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving.
YTF charges a modest fee for enrolment in any of the programs at YTF Academy or a volunteer scholarship. To qualify for the volunteer scholarship, recipients devote 3-5 hours per week to a community service project. YTF has also implemented an “adopt a Tech Student” model. Under this model, local businesses sponsor students who wish to enrol in YTF Academy. In return, the students work as interns at those businesses, giving the businesses the benefit of their knowledge and skills.
With over 1.4 million beneficiaries, YTF has expanded its operations to Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, and to Colombia in Latin America. According to statistics provided by Schwab foundation, 40% of YTF program graduates have gone on to be employed by small businesses and are earning three times the average salary of a non-YTF Academy graduate. 38% have started their own businesses and over 2, 100 small and medium enterprises led by youth and women in Nigeria have been created and sustained.
With over thirteen years experience in non-profit administration and planning, program management and social impact, it is no wonder that Njideka Harry has been able to implement her vision on such a grand scale. She also serves as an advisory board member for the Women of West Africa and Entrepreneurship (WOWe) Council and a board member for Promoting Readiness in Science and Math (PRISM), a program that helps 12-15 year old girls achieve proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
Njideka Harry is the Founder, Kellogg Executive MBA Women, a consultant to social enterprises and international agencies on matters related to ICT4D, and a panellist on international forums, including: the World Bank, WSIS, London School of Economics, Kellogg School of Management, and the United Nations.
On the heels of her success with YTF, Njideka Harry is working on Agric-P.O.W.E.R. a social enterprise platform which supports a deliberately woman-to-woman farmer distribution network while employing youth as agricultural information workers.
She is partnering with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and local agro-universities to lead training on the latest agricultural techniques to beneficiaries at the Owerri Digital Village and will leverage the partnership with IITA and other farming associations to learn about new markets, particularly processing or production plants, form new distribution channels and secure subsidized high-yielding seeds, fertilizers, equipment and tools for distribution to the women farmer beneficiaries.
Agric-P.O.W.E.R. will use SMS messaging on mobile phones to allow farmers and businesses to post-buy and sell offers which will be compiled and sent through SMS to service subscribers. This will help them directly develop commercial activities without total reliance on intermediaries.
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria to a Nigerian father from Imo state, and an American mother from Michigan, Njideka’s journey was a quest to sate her thirst…a thirst to give back and make a difference in the world and exploiting the opportunities available through technology and making them accessible to young people in developing countries was her medium of making a difference.
What do you thirst for? And like Njideka Harry, are you part of a unique population that is driven by passion and not profit? Are you ready to become a part of the change you cry out for?
Think on these things.