Transforming Youth Employment Through Social Entrepreneurship

In 2012, the Mastercard Foundation partnered with Ashoka on the Future Forward initiative to identify and support social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions for youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through our partnership, these young leaders were able to:

  • Scale social innovations;
  • Influence policy change;
  • Identify major paradigm shifts to transform youth employment and leadership; and
  • Secure employment for over 230,000 African youth.

With an entrepreneurial mindset and a commitment to social issues, social entrepreneurs identify the root cause of challenges and tackle them with innovative and practical solutions. When this happens, systems change.

The Partnership

The Future Forward initiative identified 25 Ashoka Fellows and provided them with capital, capacity support, and networking opportunities. Beyond the Fellows, the partnership built a deliberate community around Future Forward through a pan-African challenge for youth innovations in employment, the Ashoka Globalizer program which focused on scaling impact, and online courses on the Future of Work that launched Ashoka’s Youth Champions network in Africa.

Supporting Solutions from Africa’s Young People

The partnership was integral to social entrepreneurs’ ability to transform employment in their communities and included elements such as:

  • Networks that provide peer support and forge collaboration: Fellows were able to connect, share experiences, and provide one another with council and encouragement. Driven by a shared sense of responsibility to help one another succeed, Fellows collaborated on solutions beyond a country level to a regional or even continental level.
  • Visibility to policymakers: Fellows were provided with platforms, such as webinars, impact articles, and media partnerships to share their innovations. They were provided with local and international speaking opportunities, presented scaling strategies and received input, contacts and advice.
  • Mentorship: Mentorship from senior advisors and management consultants led to the implementation of scaling strategies.
  • Capacity strengthening: Fellows received training in impact measurement, media relations, and personal coaching.
  • Investing: Fellows received living wage stipends that enabled them to focus wholly on their ideas and gain connections, networks, and opportunities. The partnership also connected Fellows to funding partners.

Lessons for Our Work in Youth Employment in Africa

When given the opportunity and the right support, social innovators and entrepreneurs can create systemic change to unlock society-wide transformation. It is critical for  these young leaders to participate meaningfully in decisions about issues that impact them and in the development of solutions to youth employment.

Under our Young Africa Works strategy, we will continue to:

  • Engage young social innovators and entrepreneurs to assess the support needed and programming necessary to support youth’s transition to dignified and fulfilling work.
  • Support the capacity of young people and organizations run by young people, equipping them with the skills they need for meaningful work. We will focus on programming that empowers young people to be transformative leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators, committed to giving back.
  • Connect young people to each other, opportunities, mentors, industry experts, and other youth group.
  • Connect young people to platforms of influence and put them in front of decision-makers.

Innovation Guide

Insights from the Future Forward network are featured in Youth Unstuck: Innovations in Youth Livelihoods and Leadership, an innovation guide that provides a roadmap to enabling a better future for Africa’s youth.