Peace Corps and Ashoka: Collaborating with Social Entrepreneurs

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Source: Ashoka

The big moment had finally arrived. It was last November, I was a trainee with Peace Corps Burkina Faso, and, after six weeks of language learning and technical sessions, I was about to find out my assignment for the next two years of my Peace Corps service.  

As it turned out, I learned I would be working alongside an Ashoka Fellow. At the time, I did not know the impact that this collaboration would have on my service; now, a year later, I could not be more grateful for our partnership. Working with a motivated Ashoka Fellow has made my first year in Burkina Faso both exciting and productive, and I look forward to all the projects that we can implement together in my second year as a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV).

My collaboration with Souleymane Ouattara and his “Association des Tailleurs, Tisserands et Assimilés” (ATTA) connects me with an innovative organization that provides youth tailor apprentices with the skills and resources needed to succeed in their profession. To complement their technical tailoring training, Souleymane and I have developed business seminars for accounting, marketing, and management basics. In addition, we have implemented health topics and life skills trainings to build a comprehensive apprenticeship program for the Burkinabe youth.

Direct Volunteer-to-Ashoka Fellow partnerships, such as mine, can greatly enhance both the Peace Corps’ in-country development objectives and Fellows’ projects. My relationship with Souleymane has proved to be an advantage not only to our association, but also the community as a whole.

Souleymane has benefited from the network and resources I bring from the Peace Corps community.  Working hand-in-hand with Souleymane, I have seen the impact that one enthused individual can have on a community.

Souleymane’s work in Burkina Faso has inspired me to search for other motivated local leaders. Finding and collaborating with the positive deviants in local communities has always been a tenet of the Peace Corps’ development philosophy, and there is no better example of the success of this model than through collaboration with Ashoka Fellows.

One way that PCVs and Ashoka can continue to partner in the future is by using the network of volunteers, well-integrated into their local communities, to help find other social entrepreneurs and changemakers. By establishing a stronger collaboration with Ashoka, Peace Corps volunteers can give positive leaders in their communities the global network and resources that Ashoka offers.

My service in Burkina Faso as a Peace Corps Volunteer is richer thanks to my alliance with Souleymane and Ashoka. The opportunity to partner with a social entrepreneur on a grassroots level has made my work as a PCV more efficient, and our exchange will only deepen throughout the next year.

As the Peace Corps and Ashoka both celebrate milestone anniversaries this year, we cannot miss this opportunity to encourage further collaboration between the two organizations and strengthen the extraordinary work that volunteers and Fellows do.