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The Bridge Project: Building pathways to employment for youths in Kinshasa through volunteerism

The Bridge Project is an online and physical platform of young professionals, which invests in youth potential and aims at 'building bridges' between organizations and youths. The Bridge Project seeks to build pathways to employment for young women and men aged 16-24 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo through volunteerism, professional skill development and access to mentors and sponsors. Recognizing that volunteerism is an important component of any strategy aimed at youth empowerment, the Bridge Project will build long-lasting partnerships to engage youths in social change through short-term projects, while enabling them to acquire new skills and experience that will increase their employability.

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How will the Bridge Project Work?
The Bridge Project will be implemented by LEAD, a social enterprise that helps youths tap into their potential. The Bridge Project is about 'making a way where there seems to be no way' because there is no legal framework in favor of volunteerism in Congo; however, the good news is that it is not illegal for organizations to hire volunteers on short to long-term projects. The Bridge Project will collaborate with organizations, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and other non-profit organizations, and build partnerships with prospective employers through memoranda of understanding. It will recruit volunteers with a potential for growth. These young volunteers will be placed on short to long term assignments with the employers, and will gain skills that make them employable either by the same organization or another.  Because employers are reluctant to employ inexperienced youths, they could at least provide them the opportunity to showcase their potential for growth through volunteerism, which is cost effective for organizations, and beneficial for young volunteers as it enhances their skills and increases their employability.

The Bridge will also provide useful resources to youths such as career training, CV writing skills, access to mentors, access to job opportunities and project management training.

Needs Assessment

The Bridge Project has potential to succeed because there is a need for youths to have decent work in Kinshasa in order to actively participate to the social and economic advancement of their community. This need must be met as soon as possible because youths represent the future of Congo. If we do not take action today, then when we will do so? The DRC is a country full of natural resources, but human resources are still a problem. Youths have great potential for growth, and the Bridge Project will invest on this potential. We need to start somewhere, because it is a process. Youth unemployment rates in Kinshasa are unknown, but they are really high. It is a fact that we see every day in Kinshasa. One of the reasons of this phenomenon is the fact that formal education in DRC does not always equip youths with enough knowledge and skills for the 21st century job market. As a result, there is a mismatch between formal education and the real world of work. The other reason is the lack of career services in universities to prepare students for the job market, which impedes their ability to do basic things like writing a resume or getting ready for a job competency-based interview. Despite the high number of youth centers in DRC, they do not specifically address the issue of youth unemployment. One of the challenges that youths face when filing a job application after their graduation from university is their lack of experience. Yet, society does not always give a chance nor does it help youths get this required experience. Even internship opportunities are not always available because getting an internship opportunity in Kinshasa sometimes implies knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone who can help; and this does not necessarily mean that a positive feedback will be given.

What the Bridge Project will do

While there is a need for a reform in the educational system in Congo, which will take time, the good news is that the Bridge Project is there to try and solve youth unemployment by creating partnerships and volunteer opportunities for young women and men in order to increase their employability. The Bridge will also provide training on entrepreneurship and professional skills. The priority of the Bridge Project is to answer to the immediate needs of youths who finish high school, who want to gain experience through volunteerism, entrepreneurship and access to mentors before they decide to continue their studies at higher education, on one hand, and those who have recently graduated from university and are still struggling to find a decent job, on the other hand. These youths have the potential to actively participate to the social and economic development of their community, and the Bridge Project aims at investing on their potential and increasing their employability. There is a need to be fulfilled. There is a gap to be filled. There is a Bridge to be built.

The good news...

The good news is that organizations always have a project that has never been started or an assignment that is not yet completed, which do not necessarily need an intern. There is still a lot to be done in terms of agricultural projects in remote areas of Kinshasa. The Bukanga Lonzo project is one of these opportunities where youths could volunteer and have access to employment later on. That is where the Bridge Project comes in. We build partnerships with existing organizations in the non-profit sector, public sector and private sector. We get to know their needs and upcoming projects and offer them cost-effective ways to solve their problems: volunteers. We recruit volunteers from high schools and universities to work on short-term projects based on the needs of these organizations. We train these young people on life skills, professional skills and entrepreneurship. We also partner with another social enterprise to train youths on leadership to help them to become change agents. The idea is individual and aims at reducing youth unemployment rates and empowering young women and men  in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, through partnerships with sponsors for entrepreneurships and prospective employers that will provide volunteer opportunities to youths to enhance their skills and prepare them for a more rewarding and decent job.


How will the Bridge Project impact the community?

Research will be conducted and focus groups will be organized in order to address key issues. These are some of the examples of how the Bridge Project will impact the community:


Meet Christelle: Christelle, 24, is a graduate in computer science at Institut Supérieur d’Informatique, de Programmation et d’Analyse (ISIPA). She has always dreamed to create her own computer training center. For three years after her graduation she has been doing small jobs that are not relevant to what she learnt at school, because she never got the chance to be hired because of her lack of experience. She was a waitress at a local restaurant, and quit a year ago. She is now jobless and stays at home, taking care of her younger siblings. She has the potential to do what she is good at, but she does not have the opportunity to land a job in the computer industry. Moreover, she is not very confident that she will get a chance to land a job interview; because she does not know how to prepare a CV (she never did it, by the way). The Bridge Project will train her on writing a good CV, and empower her and help her be self-confident, sign a memorandum of understanding with a local enterprise, where she would work as a volunteer for 6 to 9 months, acquire skills to fulfill her dream.

Meet Antoine: Antoine, 19, is a high school graduate. His mother died a few months after his graduation, and was the only person paying for his studies. His father left DRC for Europe and married another woman. He is left alone with his brothers, and is doing small jobs to feed his younger sister. With the difficult life conditions, they moved and are now staying with their uncle. Antoine is very entrepreneurial and very intelligent; he wants to start a small business in order to get the funds to continue his studies. He has good ideas, but he does not have access to credit. LEAD wants to empower Antoine have help him to get access to credit as little as 300$ to start his small business.

Meet Annie: Annie, 25, studied in Senegal and received a degree in development studies. She came back to DRC, and could not find a job that matches her skills, so she accepted a temporary job as a receptionist at a local company. She wants to serve her community through her knowledge, skills, and potential, but she still has not found a job in her field of expertise. The option left to her is work as a volunteer to put her knowledge into practice.

Meet Paul: Paul, 25, wants to work in the implementation of programs for agriculture. He studied agronomy and received a degree from university of Kinshasa, but he has no experience, and has been jobless for 2 years. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has many volunteer opportunities, but does not find good people to implement its program. LEAD wants to sign a memorandum of understanding with FAO to help people like Paul work on a volunteer assignment on FAO programs, acquire skills and experience that will help him to find a decent job in three years.

These scenarios are just part of the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples to share on youth unemployment in Kinshasa. Informal discussions have already been held with potential partners, including representatives of local employers and organizations, founders of other NGOs, and people working with the government, and they like the idea, and want to work with us to implement it. We welcome the opportunity of having partners, sponsors, and good-will people that can help to fund the idea and work together to implement it.

Update: 8 September 2014:

A meeting was held on 6 September between the Project team members, and we came up with the document as shown below:

SUMMARY OF THE NEXT STEPS FOR IMPLEMENTING THE BRIDGE PROJECT

(Updated on 8 September 2014)

1. Brief description of the project proposal

This proposal will be submitted to  a funder providing grants to implement the ‘Bridge Project’, an innovative project that seeks to build pathways for youth employment in Kinshasa, DRC through volunteerism, access to mentors, professional skills development (including language skills through the establishment of an English Club), in order to foster youth employment and labor creation. Recognizing that volunteerism is an important component of any strategy aimed at youth empowerment, the Bridge Project will partner with selected organizations to engage youths in short-term projects, while enabling them to engage in social and economic change and acquire new skills and  experience that will make them competitive in the fierce labor market and increase their employability. The Bridge Project will establish a youth center that will act as an incubator for career and leadership skills development, entrepreneurship training, volunteer recruitment center, and library. Each project team member brings unique skills and experience in implementing this pilot project, and covers the spectrum of technical assistance required for the success of this innovative project.

2. Where will the project take place?

The project will take place in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

3. Project Dates:
October 2014 – September 2015 (12 months, subject to funding availability)

PROJECT IMPACT

4. What impact will the project have?
• Increased youth employability through volunteerism and skills development.
• Increased access for youths to mentors to foster entrepreneurship
• Increased access for youths to the labor market information and resources
5. What are our goals?
• Establish a youth center that builds a pathway to employment through volunteerism
• Partner with key organizations to help youths gain experience and skills
• Train youths on career and entrepreneurship skills to prepare them for decent work
• Place youths on short-term volunteer assignment to gain employability skills
• Provide youths with career services

6.  Who will benefit?

• 50 youths aged between 18 and 25, including high school graduates with limited resources and unemployed university graduates in various areas of study, carefully selected based on potential for growth.

7. What results do we anticipate?
• Result 1: Increased experience through volunteerism
• Result 2: Increased youth employability and entrepreneurship skills
• Result 3: Increased youth engagement in social and economic issues
• Result 4: Entry to the job market after the short-term volunteer placement
• Result 5: Integrated volunteerism policy as a pathway for youth employment

8 . How will we measure success?
• Number of partnerships built with organizations
• Number of youths (women and men) trained on employability skills
• Number of volunteers placed in key organizations
• Number of volunteers who enter the job market after the volunteer placement
• Volunteerism policy developed

TIMELINE OF MAJOR IMPLEMENTATION STEPS

9. What steps will your team take to implement this project?
• Step 1: Conduct a situation analysis of youth employment to determine the nature of the skills gap between employers and youths.
• Step 2: Build partnerships with key organizations
• Step 3: Recruit volunteers and train youths on employability skills
• Step 4: Place volunteers in identified organizations
• Step 5: Monitor, evaluate, and revise the project strategy where necessary
• Step 6: Share Lessons Learnt and Best Practices

 

What are the next steps for implementing this idea?

Next steps are described above.

Briefly describe a user scenario which illustrates the specific need that your idea is trying to solve.

The Bridge Project hosts an event at the main campus of the University of Kinshasa, and identified Mado, a recent graduate. In a discussion, he discovers that she has growth potential but limited opportunities to employment. The university does not provide career services nor does it help students find entry-level jobs. Finding a job is quite a challenge for recent graduates and can take months and years. Bridges partners with the University of Kinshasa to provide career services to students. Gloria, a Bridge representative uses a designed questionnaire to conduct a training needs analysis through a one-to-one discussion with Mado, and helps her discover her strengths and weaknesses, and recommends a relevant training curriculum (communication skills, marketing and computer software skills) to respond to the labor market needs. Richard, another Bridge representative, makes informal networking discussions with Microsoft4Afrika and Microcom representatives to establish relationships and create mentoring and volunteer opportunities. MicroCom Congo is a reseller of IBM software products based in Kinshasa. Signature of a memorandum of understanding for volunteer placement ensues between Bridge and the two organizations. A mentor is assigned to Mado and orients her on the software industry and keeps contact with her by email on a regular basis. Mado is trained on how to be a better communicator, and how to write a CV. Furthermore she is trained on basic software development and marketing to grasp an idea of the real world. She is also put in touch with a mentor from Microsoft4Afrika. At the same she is put in touch with sponsors in case she has an innovative and entrepreneurial idea. Mado is then placed on a six-month volunteer program with MicroCom Congo. She works on a real software marketing project, and gain skills and experience. On the other hand, MicroCom Congo benefits from her enthusiasm and energy to complete assignments, which is very cost-effective. It’s a win-win partnership. After six months with MicroCom Congo and with the gained experience, Mado has enough confidence to apply for an entry-level position either at MicroCom Congo or any other company in the software industry. Bridge has thus built a pathway to employment for Mado through volunteerism and strong partnerships with other organizations.

Complete a User Experience Map. This will help you visualize how a potential end user will interact with your idea. Once you have completed it, upload it using the Upload File button at the end of this form. PDF files preferred.

  • Completed

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This project will benefit unemployed youths located in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and aged between 18 and 24: those with only a high school diploma, and those who have recently graduated, but did not get the chance to find a decent job, and particularly young women. . The Project will be funded by active members of the leading local NGO that will implement it. The purpose of the project is to build partnerships with existing employers in order to provide short and long-term community volunteer assignments to these young people to help them acquire new skills that will make the more employable. For those who possess a high school diploma, the project will place them on volunteer assignments in local organizations, and for those who had graduated from university, the project will make training and information sessions writing effective CVS and career planning.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

The ‘Bridge Project will increase access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people through its close partnership with prospective employers and its user-friendly blog that will provide useful resources on career management, volunteer and job opportunities for all categories of youths in Kinshasa, and will be promoted through Facebook and other social media. Youths will have the opportunity to freely express their needs and motivations on the blog. The Project will be implemented by LEAD, a non-governmental youth association that promotes youth entrepreneurship and volunteerism, and provides life skills training to unemployed youths in Kinshasa, and will focus on the following areas: training on career skills such as writing a CV and entrepreneurship, provision of useful resources and information through workshops and information sessions, creation and implementation of a job repository and a volunteer management system that links youths to potential employers, and advocacy for a national legal framework for youth employment. The gap between employers and youths is so wide that now, more than ever, is the time to start ‘building bridges’ to fill this gap. Building bridges is about finding sustainable solutions to help youths access to decent work. The challenges that most youths in Kinshasa face are mainly lack of information and useful resources, inadequacy of education and skills that do not respond to employers’ needs, lack of experience, lack of self-esteem, and a feeling of being abandoned. One of the ways to overcome these challenges is to create a cadre where youths would meet and discuss, and have access to mentors and employers’ representatives. Micro-financing youths’ small businesses will be a key component of the project, but only youths who will have demonstrated outstanding performance in the relevant training will have access to funds to start a viable business. This will promote a sense of competition between youths, and will help them to be change agents that participate to the social and economic development of their community. We will train youths to discover the hero in themselves and use their full potential through entrepreneurship. Alternatively, volunteer opportunities will be tripled in order to help inexperienced youths to gain new skills through voluntary action in the community. Choosing to promote volunteerism is one of the best ways to reduce youth unemployment, because volunteerism improves communities, is cost effective for employers, and rewarding for youths in terms of experience and gaining new skills. The first step of the project in the implementation of volunteerism will be to negotiate the signature of memoranda of understanding between the leading NGO and a wide range of employers both in the private and the public sectors. This will necessitate making contacts and networking. Last but not least, we will build strong partnerships with other NGOs, civil society and governments in order to work together towards common objectives.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Social media will be used extensively to hear more from the youth community. Facebook seems to be the most widely used social media in Kinshasa. A page will be created and we will invite as many people as possible to participate. Face-to-face interactions will also take place. Information sessions and workshops will be organized in order to reach to a wider audience and hear from them. Volunteers of the Bridge Project will also reach out to remote locations.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I am keen to receive further guidance from OpenIDEO on how best the Bridge Project Model can be implemented. I am a co-founder of a youth development association called LEAD!, and want to find more partners that work towards the same vision to refine the idea further and implement it.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation
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Team (4)

Rehmah's profile
Rehmah Kasule

Role added on team:

"Hi Rehmah, I am glad to add you to the team. Let us work together to help youths unleash their potential. I visited your website, and would be very interested to work with you on refining ideas further. Please let us keep in touch. My email is jmercy2812@gmail.com. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Jean-Marc"

Jean-Marc's profile
Luisa's profile
Luisa Fernanda

Role added on team:

"With her insightful comments and relevant questions, Luisa has greatly contributed in refining the Bridge Project idea."

Roshni's profile

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Photo of An Old Friend
Team

Jean-Marc, this is a fantastic idea and I applaud you for your efforts. I was just on the initiative's website and I am really looking forward to seeing it grow. Félicitations!

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Thank you Simona -- you can also have a look at our new website here: www.thebridge-youthinitiative.org  -- we have grown since our inception and are looking forward to implementing more projects across the DRC.

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