Dorien Beurskens

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Dorien Beurskens was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Dorien founded Young Africa (YA) to empower underprivileged youth in Southern Africa with marketable skills so that they can pursue self-employment or access opportunities in the job market. She has established YA centers in Zimbabwe and Mozambique that offer vocational education and training programs at affordable prices and serve as business and social hubs for the community.

The mutually beneficial relationship among the students, the entrepreneurs and YA is central to Dorien’s model. The centers’ spaces, capital equipment, and the YA brand are rented out to local entrepreneurs, who use them to sell products and provide services to the community. In addition, the entrepreneurs are responsible for training students in their respective fields. Since the training programs are predominantly practical in nature, the students have the opportunity to “learn on the job” through apprenticeships, and the entrepreneurs have access to skilled labor and a pool of potential employees for the future. In effect, YA licenses out various skills training departments to local entrepreneurs, which allows it to cover its costs and boost the efforts of local entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs also have access to business facilities in the YA centers. These resources elevate the otherwise informal ventures of the entrepreneurs to well-established businesses. The synergies between the roles of the students, the entrepreneurs and the YA centers are essential to the success of this model.

Dorien is convinced that economic, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual empowerment must go hand-in-hand in order for young people to feel equipped to make a decent living and, therefore, has designed the YA model around this. YA offers “skills of hands” to provide young people with marketable skills, and “skills of heart and mind” to enable them to live with dignity, purpose, and responsibility. Unlike other vocational education and training providers, YA’s training programs and resources are designed in alignment with current skills gaps and needs in the job market. The departments include motor vehicle mechanics, welding, plumbing, catering, computing, sewing, and music production and entertainment. All students are also offered a course in business management to ensure that they are equipped to pursue self-employment, should they choose to do so. Students also have the option to borrow start-up capital and tools to establish their own businesses. Life skills education is an essential and compulsory part of the training programs to build students’ self-esteem and help them develop purpose and a sense of responsibility for themselves and their communities. Thus, YA’s students are empowered to improve their lives and pursue employment (or self-employment) upon graduation through a combination of vocational education and training, business management skills, life skills education, and access to additional resources.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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