A few months ago, I was invited to speak to students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, which happens to be my alma mater. The event was the institution’s annual Tech Week and I was invited alongside other distinguished folks in the ICT space in Nigeria. I spoke about my work at Paradigm Initiative (PIN), at the centre of which is the LIFE Legacy program. After the event, one of the co-speakers who himself is doing amazing work training young people on the use of ICTs in the local community, walked up to me. He wanted to know about the LIFE Legacy program and as I was sharing, I noticed he was recording what I was saying on his phone. I looked at him as though I needed an explanation. He couldn’t offer any and began to stammer. It dawned on me that this fellow was trying to “steal” the idea, perhaps to replicate the model. Before I continue the story, let me tell you about the LIFE Legacy program.
The LIFE Legacy program is an offshoot of the LIFE program. LIFE is an acronym that stands for Life Skills, ICTs, Financial Readiness and Entrepreneurship. The program targets youths from less-privileged backgrounds in under-served communities, who do not have the financial capacity to acquire relevant education and skills that can make them compete economically in this digital age. LIFE itself is an offshoot of Paradigm Initiative’s flagship program, Ajegunle.org. Ajegunle, a Lagos suburb between the docklands of Apapa and Tincan, notorious for poverty, crime and prostitution hosted this intervention at inception. Twenty-five young people from Ajegunle got the chance to participate in ICT and entrepreneurship training – free of charge, monthly at this time.
The stories of impact from the LIFE program are well documented in PIN’s Echoes from LIFE series. I love to share the story of Funke from this series. Funke was one of the early beneficiaries of the program. She geometrically increased her business income by over 2000% as a direct result of her participation in the program. We knew clearly at this point that we needed to expand this type of impact. PIN opened other LIFE centres in Aba and Kano, Nigeria in 2014. For 15 years, PIN worked in communities across Nigeria and across Africa since 2017, impacting the livelihood of over 6,700 under-served youth over this period.
However, COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased reliance on digital technologies to access opportunities including essential services like education and healthcare. Participation in the digital economy was impossible without access to digital skills and technology. The pandemic led to the exacerbation of pre-existing disparities in digital access for disadvantaged populations.
The need to connect more young people with ICT enabled opportunities to create better livelihoods became more apparent after COVID-19. During our annual retreat in December 2021, we decided to expand and multiply the impacts of the LIFE program. However, we realised that we can not achieve this alone. For this to succeed, we would need strategic and funding partnership. It was this resolve that birthed the LIFE Legacy program.
The Life Legacy program involves partnership with community-based organisations and initiatives to replicate the LIFE program in as many communities as possible across Africa. The approach provides a sustainable low-cost model that allows cost-sharing with like-minded organisations to close the digital literacy gap that exists among young people. The focus is on digitally-excluded people that lack skills, confidence, opportunities and motivation. We prioritise those with limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. The training program’s objective is to equip young people with relevant digital skills and connect them to opportunities in the digital economy.
So far, the LIFE legacy model has been launched in Senegal, South Sudan, Nigeria. On September 6th, 2023 we will launch the LIFE Legacy program in Kenya marking the beginning of a transformative journey offering young underserved people in local communities an opportunity to unlock their potential. The launch will take place in Tana River County with the first partner in the country, Amani Centre Community Based Organisation in the County. We will also be activating another partner, Gonline Africa in Kibera, a neighbourhood about 7km off the Nairobi. Kibera is Africa’s biggest slum.
Meanwhile, back to my story. Unknown to my friend who was secretly recording me, the LIFE legacy model is accessible to people like him. He wouldn’t need to “steal it”. The idea itself is about owning and sharing the program success with others. For us, it is enlightened self-interest. We want to show others how they can implement this program in their communities. We have created a process to onboard organisations with shared vision. We have created a bespoke system of program implementation, leveraging the lessons of the last 17 years to give community-based organisations a head start to impact their immediate community, standing on our shoulders. In addition, we provide a little financial resource to support the administrative cost of partner organisations.
Life legacy is about multiplied impact, co-ownership, and shared success. We envisage that in the next 10 years, we would reach 100,000 beneficiaries with the LIFE legacy model. The beauty of this is that this wouldn’t just be a PIN’s win. It’s going to be a win for partners who would be owning this win and demonstrating impacts with lesser investments.
Written by Adeboye Adegoke. Senior Manager, Grants and Programs Strategy at Paradigm Initiative
Reach out to the team at email@example.com if you are interested in becoming a LIFE Legacy partner