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Empowering the Youth of Africa Through Social Entrepreneurship at the South Africa Ideas Festival

Hear from this year’s ALA cohort on how their trip to Aspen helped equip them with the entrepreneurial and leadership skills necessary to bring a successful SAIF to life.

Each year, we partner with the African Leadership Academy (ALA) to select five students and one educator to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival with the 12 students and 12 educators chosen from around the U.S. After a week of inspiring speakers, leadership development education, and networking with fellow Scholars, the ALA cohort then organizes the South Africa Ideas Festival (SAIF) in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city. SAIF has grown every year since its inception in 2012. Hear from this year’s ALA cohort on how their trip to Aspen, time in the Bezos Scholars Program, and education at ALA helped equip them with the entrepreneurial and leadership skills necessary to bring a successful SAIF to life.

SAIF’19 had Empowering the Youth of Africa, Through Social Entrepreneurship as its theme. An unprecedented number of 76 participants from various South African schools attended the three-day event. For the first time, all the participants resided on campus for the duration of the festival promoting a sense of community and maximizing the opportunities for learning from ALA students. Five scholars (also known as The Executives), ten interns (two interns under each Executive), 11 presenters, and 12 mentors were involved in delivering a successful SAIF’19. On the last day of the festival, the participants initiated a Gratitude Circle to reflect on their weekend experience.

Learning from the confident and eloquent Executives, being inspired by the caring interns, and receiving one-on-one support from their mentors were few of the highlights mentioned. This year's SAIF is described as “the best thus far” by those who have experienced all the seven SAIF festivals at ALA.

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In addition to delivering an impactful festival, the Executive team also demonstrated exemplary team dynamics.

The members spent the first few weeks getting to know one another, welcomed conflicts, and openly explored team management strategies. Above all, they became a support network for one another and created a family dynamic beyond planning for the festival.

The team also had exemplary time management and organizational skills. They populated their annual calendar and created a Gantt chart to track all deliverables. They divided tasks to departments, delegated some activities to interns, and met every Sunday outside of class time to track progress. They kept one another accountable without sacrificing their friendship. Due to such a strategic and organized approach, all team members were on the same page resulting in smooth SAIF 2019.

During their time at Aspen, the ALA Scholars presented a skit detailing the characteristics of Level 5 Leadership; they intend to demonstrate these characteristics through their actions. Hence, they are now preparing a playbook to guide the SAIF 2020 team. They have also taken it upon themselves to mentor the new team over the next four months. The SAIF 2019 team hopes that SAIF 2020 team will raise the bar even higher.

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