The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) “from marginalized youth to social entrepreneurs”
SINA’s self-organized, informal, and residential learning environment in Uganda puts marginalized youth in control of themselves. Scholars are between 17 and 27 years old and are refugees, orphans, street children, former child soldiers, former inmates, former prostitutes, or young people from other marginalized and poor backgrounds. They have dropped out of school and society has labeled them as useless. Many have started to believe this label. SINA has proven that they can flourish if given responsibilities and a space to unfold. Scholars transform their own personal tragedies into a social enterprise, disrupting root causes of social problems. The youth does not leave with a certificate, but instead with their own employment. Mindset change, skills, and knowledge are linked in such a way that scholars unlearn limiting beliefs, expand their comfort zones, and develop their personalities and visions. A holistic entrepreneurial concept tests and incubates ideas into profitable and impactful social enterprises.
If empowerment is controlled, then it can never be true empowerment. If a boss trains a subordinate, he will stop at the point where he sees his trainee soon overtaking him in skills and abilities. SINA does not control. There is not one specific preset outcome but a plurality of outcomes that scholars set for themselves and are guided by structures. Everything is centered around the scholar and the community gives a sense of belonging and safety. There are no courses, no right answers, no teachers, and no set timeframe. Every student creates his or her own curriculum. The empowerment stages give structure and support and have to be filled by every individual differently according to his or her personality, needs and goals. Scholars run SINA and thus drive their own education and make decisions for themselves. It is “freesponsible education.” The more responsibility that one takes, the more freedom that one gains. Managing a social enterprise requires experience and the ability to lead, which can only be learned by actually leading.
SINA distributes all authority among all members. Taking up a few of 170 different roles empoweres to make autonomous decisions, do the accounting for the entire academy, connect to the government or who handle all logistics. Scholars who have successfully transformed their difficult past, often make great life-coaches for new scholars. Scholars who are successfully running a social enterprise often share their experiences as startup mentors.
SINA is dynamic and ever changing. You can find more details from our 2017 Impact Report here: Social Innovation Academy (SINA) Impact Report 2016-2017 and some more insights from our (outdated) concept note from 2016 here: Social_Innovation_Academy_SINA_Concept