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Role models and goal setting – A recipe for success?

Success can have many definitions, but are there similarities of successful people that we all can learn from?

Photo of Rafael Smith
14 28

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During our first week of research in Tanzania, our Amplify Team spent quite a bit of time speaking with parents who were currently facing challenges in giving their children the best possible start in life.  As a team we decided it was also important to spend some time exploring existing examples of success in hopes of seeing concrete examples of what it looks like for children to thrive once they become adults.

In order to get this new perspective on the issue, we met with and interviewed adults from low-income backgrounds that had achieved relative – or, in some cases, astronomical – levels of success. We met with Michael who grew up in the slums and now owns a tourism and taxi company, Joshua who never finished secondary school but now owns and operates a gemstone trading company, and Helen who has become a successful attorney despite the majority of her childhood peers not being able to make it out of the informal economy.

In speaking with them, we heard certain themes over and over again that lead us to the following insights:
  1. Successful adults from adverse backgrounds were more adept than their peers at goal setting early in life.
  2. Role models enable children to envision a life beyond their current environment.
Michael told us, “When I was a kid I saw the safari jeep drivers working hard. I saw their cool sunglasses, I saw how they carried themselves, and I told myself – I want that life.” Helen told us how she and her brother watched a soap opera as children and fell in love with one of the lead characters who was an attorney. She and her brother told each other that they too would become attorneys and pushed each other all the way into their adult lives to meet the goal they set as children. Helen also told us how she looked up to many women in her childhood church that had financial successes. She told us that her childhood church was a place where children of lower socioeconomic classes gained exposure to a wide range of influencers and role models.

How might we ensure young children in low-income communities are exposed to a diverse set of influences and role models?


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