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Leadership and Workforce Development for East African Women

We offer a unique combination of market-relevant skills and soft skills to prepare young women for professional success in East Africa.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Akilah, an accredited women's college in Rwanda, offers an accessible, affordable, and highly effective education-workforce model that empowers young women to enter and thrive in the workforce. At Akilah, we expect our students to be more than capable employees - we expect them to be leaders and job creators. Our competency-based academic model combines marked-based technical instruction in a range of measurable, concrete skills related to their major with leadership and soft skill development. When students acquire the following core competencies, they are, in fact, workforce ready: -Communication: The ability to understand and interpret complex materials, assimilate, organize, develop, and present an idea formally and informally. -Personal Growth and Self-Confidence: The ability to focus on tasks, manage behavior, and overcome challenges. -Leadership and Responsibility: The ability to understand, develop, and demonstrate social and emotional intelligence including interpersonal skills and ethics. -Critical Thinking: The ability to identify and predict issues and challenges and evaluate evidence in order to reach a reasonable conclusion. -Information Technology and Quantitative Literacy: The ability to locate, understand, evaluate, and synthesize information and data in an increasingly technological society. -Career Navigation: The ability to explore and negotiate career options, understand and initiate the steps necessary to pursue career opportunities

WHO BENEFITS?

Akilah enrolls women who have graduated secondary school, passed their national exams, and demonstrate leadership potential. The average age of our students is 22. Eighty-nine percent of graduates are employed, earning 12X the national median income, 58% of graduates have received at least one promotion in their position and/or salary since graduation, 90% of graduates financially support at least one individual or family member, and 82% of graduates participate in at least one community group.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Akilah is an accredited, all-women’s college offering diploma programs in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management, and Information Systems - all high growth sectors in East Africa. 88% of graduates secure employment within 6 months of graduation, earning 12X the national median income.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Rwanda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Akilah is in constant dialogue with our beneficiaries to gather feedback on our program. Our students and alumnae expressed their desire for more time to practice the tangible and soft skills that are critical to professional success in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management, and Information Systems. Our shift to competency-based education, therefore, is a natural progression from our standard curriculum, as our goal is to graduate students who are workforce-ready and prepared to advance to leadership positions in their places of employment. In addition to the changes to our academic model, we are also incorporating more opportunities to strengthen practical skills. For example, this fall we opened our Hospitality Management Learning Lab, which gives students the opportunity to practice the theories and skills they learn in the classroom in a real-life hotel, bar, and restaurant setting. We will also open a Business Incubation Center, which will help students from all diploma tracks commercialize their innovations, perfect their pitches, and compete for capital in Akilah’s Entrepreneurship Fund competition.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Akilah offers the most comprehensive and effective women’s education-workforce model in the region. While other universities offer similar degree programs, few share Akilah’s commitment to competency-based education, and none are developed solely for women, the demographic most in need of educational and career opportunities. Our gender- and region-specific theory of change focuses on the development of a) academic and market-relevant skills, b) leadership and soft skills, and c) career navigation skills. We keep our program affordable through our tuition deferment program, to ensure all women, regardless of their socioeconomic background, have the opportunity to secure competitive employment and economic independence. Akilah’s leadership team has decades of regional and technical experience in the areas of education and women’s economic empowerment and development; 93 percent of our campus staff are from East Africa, and have an inherent understanding of the needs of the region. We have also cultivated a competitive network of 60+ private sector employment and internship partners who provide valuable insight on our curriculum.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

The high cost of education, distance between homes and schools in rural communities, and traditional gender norms limit female participation in education, particularly at the tertiary level. In Rwanda, fewer than 8 percent of university-aged women enroll in higher education. Nearly 85% of East African women still work in subsistence agriculture, living on less than $2 a day. By 2035, an additional 100 million people will join the Sub-Saharan Africa’s working-age population, more than the rest of the world combined. The country is in dire need of an accessible and affordable education-workforce model; Akilah, subsequently, serves as a bridge between women, the workforce, and the economy.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

Our organization is at a critical juncture; we are pursuing our long-term vision of bringing our proven model to women around the globe through a regional network of campuses and an online platform for global e-learners. We have developed a new business plan and financial model with clear benchmarks for progress, but have yet to execute on growth plans. In the coming months, we will need to identify the most appropriate online platform, consider options for physical campuses, build our network of private sector and community partners, and market our program in a new country and online. We will also need to raise the capital to support this growth without compromising affordability.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Akilah began shifting its curriculum to competency-based education in July 2016 with the hire of our Chief Academic Officer, who is overseeing a team of curriculum developers. Beginning in fall 2017, diploma programs will shift from three years to two. Each diploma program and course will have specific competencies through which we base our assessments. Students will graduate with proven proficiency or mastery in practical and soft skills integral to their chosen career path. Private sector employers will benefit from skilled employees with strong leadership skills and a keen understanding of industry demands. As competency-based education is now a national strategy in Rwanda, Akilah is not only aligned with the government’s vision for education, but the region’s critical need for girls’ education and economic empowerment. Along with the changes to our academic model, we will offer evening and weekend classes and deliver course content in a blended learning (online and offline) format to broaden our reach and allow for more flexible, self-paced learning. With the proposed changes, we are on a path to serve exponentially more women while strengthening financial sustainability.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Akilah’s Chief Academic Officer, Rick Daniels, is overseeing a team of curriculum developers and leading our transition to a competency-based, hybrid-learning education model. Akilah’s Co-Founder, Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, Executive Director, Karen Sherman, and Country Director, Aline Kabanda, provide executive management and strategic oversight. We are also partnering with our network of 60+ private sector partners to ensure our curriculum is meeting the needs of the market.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an accredited all-women’s college offering diploma programs in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management, and Information Systems - all high growth sectors in East Africa. In Rwanda, only 7 percent of university-aged women enroll in tertiary education. Nearly 85 percent of East African women still work in subsistence agriculture, living on less than two dollars a day. Conversely, the private sector across East Africa is experiencing rapid growth while facing an acute shortage of employees with the requisite skills and initiative. Akilah offers an accessible, affordable, and highly effective education-workforce model that empowers young women to enter and thrive in the workforce; as such, Akilah serves as a critical bridge between women, the workforce, and the economy.

At Akilah, we expect our students to be more than capable employees - we expect them to be leaders and job creators. Over half of Akilah’s current students come from rural areas, 75 percent were unemployed prior to enrolling at Akilah, and 29 percent are in Ubudehe Levels One and Two. The average Akilah student is 22 years old. We now have an alumnae network of 145 young women. In January 2017, an additional 88 students will graduate from our program. Based on a recent graduate evaluation, key impact metrics include the following:

-We have a current employment rate of 89 percent.

-58 percent of graduates have received at least one promotion in their position and/or salary since graduation.

-36 percent are supervising at least one other employee (average number of employees supervised is 2.4).

-90 percent of graduates are supporting at least one individual or family member financially.

-On average, graduates pay school fees for 1.5 other people in their families or communities and pay for the healthcare of 2 other people in their families or communities.

-82 percent of graduates are participating in at least one community group.

Our competency-based academic model combines marked-based technical instruction in a range of measurable skills with leadership and soft skill development. When students acquire the following core competencies, they are, in fact, workforce ready:

-Communication: The ability to understand and interpret complex materials, assimilate, organize, develop, and present an idea formally and informally.

-Personal Growth and Self-Confidence: The ability to focus on tasks, manage behavior, and overcome challenges.

-Leadership and Responsibility: The ability to understand, develop, and demonstrate social and emotional intelligence including interpersonal skills and ethics ,and use these characteristics to actively influence and mobilize oneself and others.

-Critical Thinking: The ability to identify and predict issues and challenges and evaluate evidence in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.

-Information Technology and Quantitative Literacy: The ability to locate, understand, evaluate, and synthesize information and data in an increasingly technological society.

-Career Navigation: The ability to explore and negotiate career options, understand and initiate the steps necessary to pursue career opportunities and the ability to self-advocate and build professional networks.

Each diploma program and course has specific competencies through which we base our assessments. Students graduate with proven proficiency or mastery in practical and soft skills that will be integral to their chosen career path. Private sector employers will benefit from more skilled employees with strong leadership skills and a keen understanding of industry demand. Furthermore, Akilah is able to streamline its academic model in order to serve significantly more young women in the coming years. As competency-based education is now a national strategy in Rwanda, Akilah is not only aligned with the government’s vision for education, but is also meeting the critical need for girls’ education and economic empowerment in the region. We began transitioning our curricula to competency-based education in July 2016 with the hire of Chief Academic Officer Rick Daniels, and have since hired a team of curriculum developers to transition all diploma programs to competency-based education.

Along with the changes to our academic model, over the next two years we will introduce evening and weekend classes and deliver content in online and offline formats, further broadening our reach and allowing for more flexible, self-paced learning. In their first year, students will spend more time in a traditional classroom setting, working collaboratively on group-based projects. In their second year, certain courses will be delivered online, with facilitated support from coaches and faculty. With proven success in educating young women, we are committed to growing our program and helping more young people develop the skills needed to thrive in today’s society.  

SHARE ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE THIS PROJECT TO HAVE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW, AND ONE QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER TO GET THERE.

In five years, Akilah will scale its program across East Africa to develop a new generation of female leaders who positively contribute to the the region’s economic development and who have the ability to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities. To reach this impact, we must answer the question - how can we maintain our outstanding outcomes and high-quality programming while growing our program to serve exponentially more women?

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Above $1,000,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • More than a year

WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING AMPLIFY'S PORTFOLIO OF INNOVATORS?

Akilah has ambitious plans for our growth, and we will rely on our network of partners to help us get there. Joining Amplify’s portfolio of innovators will allow us to broaden our network and increase our visibility as a thought leader in soft skill development and women’s tertiary education. We can also contribute our own best practices and lessons learned after years of refining our education-workforce model.

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