Indigenous communities and organizations are formed principally to protect and promote socio-cultural, economic, political and physical development of the communities which the members hail from. In Nigeria, it is hard to find a town or community without such an organization. This ranges from large ethnic organisations such as Afenifere (Yoruba); Norther Elders’ Forum Hausa/Fulani) or Ohaneze Ndigbo (Igbo). Others may be town based while some of them are diaspora organizations who get together not only to protect their interest but also to assist each other in times of need. What is apparent is that there are as many of these organisations as there are towns and cities in Nigeria. In today’s globally linked world, such associations push programmes such as scholarships; health outreaches and fund raising for the collective progress of their towns or cities.
One of such initiatives that is possible is Osun Development Association’s partnership with Opolo Global Innovation to train 5,000 Osun youths in various digital skills such as product design and management, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital media management, cyber security and blockchain as well as data science and analytics. For clearer context, the Osun Development Association (ODA) is a non-governmental independent association established for the promotion of non-governmental development initiatives dedicated towards improving the quality of life of the people of Osun State and the development of Osun in general. The association, formed about 28 years ago, comprises sons and daughters of the state who have excelled in their different callings. By the collaboration with Opolo Global, a social enterprise, whose focus cuts across ideation, incubation, acceleration and development of viable solutions to both local and global issues, is an innovation company that is interested in digital skills, innovation and enterprise. So, with its presence spread across universities in Nigeria, and especially on the campuses of both the Osun State University, Osogbo and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Opolo Global was a perfect partner for the Innovation and Technology Group under the ODA to realise the organisation’s objectives of training 5,000 Osun youths in high demand digital skills.
How did the Partnership Work?
The ODA keyed into the digital training template of Opolo Global on digital skilling of 65,000 youths in Nigeria. Tagged the Skilling Revolutionary Innovators to Build Entrprise (SkRIBE), the training programme is designed to enable opportunities, provide access and supports for talents to get skilled, innovate, thrive and promote digital inclusion. It has a special focus on female and persons in underserved communities. It also has the intention to increase youth earning potentials. So, it was a partnership built on business-community relationship. Therefore, when the ODA’s intention of training 5000 youths from Osun met with Opolo’s proposal to skill up 65,000 youths across fused, a bond was created to chart a future of digital enterprise for the young participants.
In this era of digital transformation, empowering youth with essential digital skills is crucial for their personal development, economic growth, and social progress. However, the opportunity has a caveat- participants must part with the 30% of the training fees. This was to ensure that participants stay committed throughout the three months.
What are then are the valuable lessons that can be applied to empower youths in other communities, fostering their digital literacy, innovation, and entrepreneurial capabilities?
Leveraging on strategic partnership and collaboration
The ODA and Opolo Global model shows the high potential of partnership and collaboration in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in towns and communities across Nigeria. Encouraging this kind of collaboration would lead to more impact with a high possibility of reducing crime and criminal tendencies among the youths of such communities and areas. It requires values to values for wonders to happen. This demonstrates that with communities and indigenous associations willing to work together with businesses, youths could be empowered and jobs could be created.
Deploying collective resources for social impact
Being a group of highly successful people who are willing to give back, the ODA working with Opolo has shown how to effectively deploy collective resources, expertise, and networks to provide comprehensive support and opportunities for the participating youth. As it was emphasized at the opening ceremony of the programme, Mrs Lola Ekugo-Aworanti averred that those who excel on the training would have internship opportunities with companies across the country especially in Lagos. It is a good way to expend scarce resources for the good of the society. By acquiring these skills, the youth are better equipped to adapt to the changing world and contribute to the progress of their society.
Building digital skills of the youths of underserved communities
In pursuing the general good of the entire Osun people, the ODA-Opolo partnership is bringing the playbook of digital skilling of the youths to play. When the inclusive nature of the training is considered, it is easier to conclude that the collaboration is a worthy venture. Recognizing the significance of digital skills in today’s rapidly evolving world, the association has formed a strategic partnership with the Opolo community to empower its youth population. This partnership has been instrumental in equipping Osun youths with essential digital skills. Through a structured training programme, and mentorship initiative, young individuals are provided with comprehensive instruction in digital skills. This is coupled with the hands-on learning and practical applications. This ensures that the youth gain both theoretical knowledge and practical competence, enabling them to navigate the digital landscape with confidence.
Creative funding for social good
The Opolo ODA partnership also made use of creative funding model between itself, the participants and other groups concerned. While ODA carries the larger part (70%) of the funding for the programme, the participants are required to commit (30%) of the funding themselves. The Ife Summit Group, another group of ODA members who are from Ife further parted with a 50% subsidy for the 30% paid by the participants from Ile Ife for the 3-month long training. This kind of creative collective funding indicates the possibilities of what could happen with collaboration and partnership. It ensures that all stay committed and focused for the duration of the training programme.
Building culture of giving back
Executing the youth-focused training is basically passing across the message of sustainability in giving back to the society. If it is believed that the youths of today would become the leaders of tomorrow, then the ODA-Opolo partnership has the high potential of ingraining the culture of philanthropy in the minds of the young beneficiaries. This model of youth empowerment is building a sense of ownership, support, and collective responsibility, ensuring long-term sustainability and local impact.
In concluding this piece, communities are enjoined to learn from this business-to-community model of empowering the youths. By embracing the lessons learned from this partnership, other communities can develop effective models for empowering their youth, equipping them with the digital skills, innovation mindset, and entrepreneurial capabilities necessary to thrive in the digital era. As we work towards a more inclusive and digitally empowered future, let us draw inspiration from the ODA-Opolo partnership and invest in our youth as catalysts for positive change and sustainable development.