Please trust me!
I am not criticizing your empowerment programs but the temptation to be a quick fix and take nice pictures has led many people with the best intentions to do more harm than good. I have suggestions for you if you think your program might have a similar effect to what happened to Titilayo below.
Titilayo was 22 years old and in a dire situation when she benefited from a program job creation in her state. The organizers came to the Baale of Ajedo community requesting his special list of people they should give jobs to and she was lucky to make the list.
Excitedly, she moved to the city to be close to work and was even granted a loan for her rent. She became the breadwinner of her family. Even though her salary wasn’t a lot, it was steady. After a while, she was able to enroll her brother in school and was contributing majorly to cover his fees. Life was good!
I am sure you are wondering what could be wrong in this scenario.
Unfortunately, about a year later, the company decided to move their operations outside the country, leaving employees jobless yet again.
I am back to square 1" Titilayo mused.
"I am still paying off this loan and my rent is almost due oh! What about Segun's school fees! Who will help me?!" She became overwhelmed by frustration.
Within a few weeks, she was back in the village. She was embarrassed and feeling hopeless. You can find her, day after day at the Baale’s palace, hoping, praying and waiting for another job recommendation.
You may think that she was already out of the village and did not need to go back. She should have brushed up her CV, hit the road and gone in search of another job, or start a business, not go back home to wait. Well, that is the problem!
As sad as Titilayo’s story is, it is the reality of how some empowerment programs can become crutches, making people believe they cannot help themselves. You need to guars against that. People and organizations who are genuinely trying to make impact sometimes make their beneficiaries handicapped down the road.
When you hand people things on a platter, you deprive them of the opportunity to learn and build capacity to get it on their own.
I have a policy. Empowerment programs must mirror the real world as much as possible so that people can develop the resilience and rigor to fend for themselves. The only way I know of to make people’s lives better, in the long run, is to improve their capacity, so here are 3 keys;
1. Opportunities are competed for in real life:
Implement a transparent process that requires people to earn a spot by competing instead of lobbying. Titilayo had 1-year experience, she had no business in the village. She only needed to dust her CV, brush up her interview skills and hit the road but she had never done that before. For all she know, she felt that the only way to get jobs is through 'connections'. This brings me to point number 2.
2. Never take away their personal power:
Try to do for people what they cannot do for themselves, and let them do what only they should do.
People may not be able attract new businesses into town and create jobs- attract them.
They many not be able to train themselves on employability - train them
They cannot give themselves constant electricity to produce goods - do that
They might not be able to create an enabling environment or acquire skills and education - provide it.
But ensure you don’t prevent people from discovering what they are made of in a bid to achieve things quickly. Interestingly while starting Poise Graduate Finishing Academy, we maintained an 87% employment rate by initiating a job hunt project. Job seekers would come to us for a 12-week employability training expecting us to ‘give’ them jobs afterwards. Instead, we help them see that they are the superheroes in their own stories. While teaching them employability skills, they go in groups - dressed to the teeth and with good C.V.s- from organization to organization on a job hunt. Not all of them get jobs through this process, some get jobs at the job fairs or after their internship but what they all get, is a direct understanding of how the job market works. Everything relies on them exerting and uncovering their God-given personal power.
Similarly, I thank God we have resisted every pressure to make EdoJobs similar to the one Titilayo benefitted from. We ensure that every opportunity is advertised and competed for. The competition may be strenuous but the strain is actually excersize. It is part of what they gain, resilience, consistency, overcoming adversity, the will to win and when they 'win' they believe in their capacity to win even on their own
3. In life, money doesn’t fall from the sky, and it is never given in exchange for nothing:
So when you are teaching entrepreneurship and doling out money without a process that builds entrepreneurial capacity, you might be doing more harm than good.
Do not get me wrong, giving fish is sometimes so helpful and necessary and I am FULLY in support of programs that simply give donations to alleviate the pains of poverty, they make a lot of impact. In this post I am referring to programs meant to do more, programs that want to teach people how to fish -Job Creation, Entrepreneurship Development, Market Systems Development e.t.c
Keep Making Impact, and please remember, you must believe in the people you are called to serve, you are not the superhero in their story, they are.