We talked to Nik Kafka, Teach A Man To Fish on nurturing young person’s skills during the Pandemic and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nik Kafka: It’s been a rollercoaster, but we are all doing fine. With less work-related travel, it’s been nice for us to be able to spend more time together. There’s also something quite relaxing about not always feeling the need to be doing something or going somewhere!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Teach A Man To Fish.
Nik Kafka: My journey towards building a founding Teach A Man To Fish began in 2003 when I left work in the finance sector in the City of London to study a Masters in International Development at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London and then volunteer with Fundación Paraguaya, in Paraguay.
Initially motivated by Fundación Paraguaya’s work in microfinance, I then became fascinated by the innovative approach developed at their San Francisco school, which aimed not only to teach the poor how to become rural entrepreneurs but to do so as a self-financing social enterprise.
Once I returned to the UK, I first joined the “Make Poverty History” campaign, and then went on to found Teach A Man To Fish in 2006, with the aim of empowering youth around the world with essential entrepreneurial and life skills. I have been the Chief Executive Officer of the organization since.
How does Teach A Man To Fish innovate?
Nik Kafka: From its beginnings, Teach A Man To Fish has had a single, all-encompassing mission: to empower young people with the skills and entrepreneurial mindsets they need to succeed in school, work, and life through practical entrepreneurship education.
Being driven by such an important social mission means that we are constantly looking for ways to deliver more impact with limited resources, which in turn drives innovation. Despite being a charity, we foster an entrepreneurial culture in our teams to drive them to come up with innovative ideas and answers to the challenges we face as an organization.
We have a flat management structure, which opens up the lines of communication and collaboration amongst teams. This also allows staff to know that if they have an idea or suggestion, there’s a real chance that they will be able to bring it to life.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nik Kafka: Teach A Man To Fish’s flagship program, the School Enterprise Challenge, which launched in 2011, works to help schools around the world to create fully-functional student-led businesses that are both educational and profitable. So, of course, the pandemic had a huge impact on our work, given that educational institutions everywhere had to close to keep people safe. However, this incredible challenge became a great opportunity for innovation in our approach.
We remained committed to supporting teachers to deliver relevant education to their students by providing high-quality enterprise education resources and support. For this, we created a series of activities that teachers could send to their students to complete at home. In addition, we decided to offer professional development opportunities to teachers everywhere through a series of free webinars focusing on entrepreneurship education and holistic teaching skills and methodologies.
We also created new programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that we continued reaching young people during this time. This support gave them a chance to continue learning and building skills, confidence, and aspirations to fulfill their potential in school, work, and life during school closures.
In Rwanda and Uganda, where we have field offices, we worked alongside teachers to guide young people in the planning, setting up, and running of businesses outside of school, thanks to our new Business Clubs.
We also developed the Enterprise Adventure, which is delivered both through physical Home Learning workbooks in South Africa and Uganda for low-resource young people and internationally through a mobile app. The Enterprise Adventure is designed as a series of activities that take young people through a learning process of identifying problems in their communities and coming up with social enterprise ideas that address these problems.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nik Kafka: We had to plan for difficult choices, but fortunately, with a little help from the UK government’s Furlough Scheme, we were able to ride out the roughest few months and get back on our feet. This year has really highlighted for us the importance of being entrepreneurial in our approach and the need to be flexible in challenging situations.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Nik Kafka: I’m not the best at dealing with stress, but I find that exercise and a deep-seated belief that good things happen when you’re trying to do good in the world definitely help!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nik Kafka: There’s such a need for what we do, that while there are other organizations trying to tackle the same issues, it’s a very positive kind of competition where we’d love to see them succeed too!
That said, we rely heavily on foundations for funding our work, and there are all too few of these. So for us, it is vital to prove how each grant we receive for our work translates into a great impact on the lives of those who take part in our programs.
That is, based on the data we collect in the countries we work in, we know that young people who have taken part in our programs go on to earn more than the national average for the youth of their age in their respective countries. They often become entrepreneurs who are able to create more jobs in their communities and benefit others around them as a result. So, the sustainability of the change we help to create is what allows us to stay relevant in our field.
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