Special Reports

Top marks for the youth

Iwan Pienaar

Enke: Make Your Mark is a youth entrepreneurship organisation creating a network of young South Africans to take action on urgent social issues.

Empowering: Enke’s 2012 forum. The forums bring young people from all walks of life together for leadership and practical skills training

Winner

Civil Society Award

Enke: Make your Mark

Iwan Pienaar

Connect, equip, inspire — that is the mission of Enke: Make Your Mark, a youth entrepreneurship organisation that is creating a network of young South Africans to take action on urgent social issues.

Derived from the Tswana word for ink, Enke wants to empower young people to make their mark on their peers, their community and their world.

Since 2009 it has run the Enke youth award, a nine-month programme that addresses inequality by bringing youngsters from all social groups together for a common purpose, and worked with more than 600 youths. The programme focuses on grade 11 pupils and helps them to develop their personal leadership skills.

"The concept was piloted in July 2009 and started in June the following year. The pilot [project] had 94 participants and, in 2010 and 2011, we had intakes of 114 and 146 participants respectively.

"While we need to do further market research around pricing, the model has been tested and has proven to be scaleable," says communications manager Rufaro Mudimu.

In underresourced schools in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal, the Enke founders worked with youths who were unhappy about conditions in their schools and communities but were not given a chance to make the changes they wanted to see.

"Combining this anecdotal evidence with research on unemployment and inequality statistics in the country, we identified a need for an innovative approach," says Mudimu.

Part of this approach saw the introduction of Enke forums, which kick off the youth award programme. The forums bring together young people from all walks of life for a week. Intensive leadership training takes place and practical skills are developed to help the participants to turn their ideas for social change into action.

Since 2009, Enke has run five forums and, in 2011, the participants tackled educational challenges, which had an impact on 4 656 people living in different communities in South Africa.

The Enke community action projects have built on the forums and provide opportunities for pupils to act on issues they are most passionate about.

In the past few years pupils have run projects that have addressed educational, environmental, health and other social issues that affected them and their communities.

Tevin Richard, from the Merebank Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, wanted to address educational issues and access to modern equipment. He set up an internet and computer laboratory at his school, which changed the lives of more than 1 000 pupils.

Claudia Penny, a pupil in the Western Cape, decided to run a design class for 11 girls over eight months to focus on social and environmental issues. The girls each chose an issue that most concerned them and designed T-shirts to put a message across. The T-shirts were printed and sold.

Financial and developmental indicators are taken into account to measure the sustainability of all the projects. Success is gauged according to the organisation's three mission objectives.

First, says Mudimu, it aims to connect people. The social capital accrued by participants is measured by the diversity of networks created and sustained, by the type and strength of the relationships between individuals, as well as by the longevity and value of each social tie.

Second, the development of the participants' social and emotional skills is measured with both quantitative and qualitative methods throughout the programme by looking at the social, emotional and entrepreneurial skills developed.

Finally, the organisation wants to inspire others by showing the impact that its community action projects have not only on society but also on the development of individuals.

The judges of the Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change awards chose Enke: Make Your Mark because of its strong focus on leadership.

Its programmes are solid, well thought through and successfully inspire young people take to grassroots action, they say.

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