Pip Wheaton

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Pip Wheaton was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
enke’s strategy is based on the three principles of connect, equip and inspire, which translate into a methodology that ensures participants emerge empowered within diversity and understand that another person’s problem is also their responsibility.

Under the principle of ‘connect’, enke starts each program with an intensive “residential” program to catalyze a new network of peers and build empathy to unite young South Africans around a call to take action on social issues. Thus, the first step of the enke: Trailblazer Program is a week-long forum where about 125 learners are brought together from across the country. The learners are carefully selected from various schools ranging from wealthy private schools to under-resourced public schools in rural areas. The ideal ratio for each cohort is 10-20 percent from most well-resourced schools (private and well-resourced public schools e.g. “ex-Model C” schools), and 80-90 percent from under-resourced schools (rural, urban and peri-urban). In addition, enke aims to recruit approximately 30 percent of participants from remote and rural communities. By providing and organizing the platform for peer interaction (the forum), enke is able to intentionally bring together young people across racial, economic and gender barriers and create social capital among people from various segments in society. After connecting, the learners are equipped with various skills through the training program. The training has two components – personal leadership development (emotional intelligence and contextual awareness) and the practical skills required for community action. All facilitators who deliver the training at forum are young people themselves, many of whom are alumni that have graduated from the program, further inspiring the current participants as role models and examples of youth change leaders.

For the duration of the forum, participants are organized in diverse teams as they work through the personal development curriculum. Although the brief looks simple, it forces the participants to work across physical and emotional barriers, which ultimately facilitates a better understanding of oneself and of the skill of empathy. Further, participants are inspired to take action on social issues around them. Each participant is challenged to identify a problem in their community and to develop a practical solution for it. The program inspires the participants and supports them through the implementation of their projects. enke provides technical and emotional support through a structured trouble-shooting hotline and SMS reporting line. The participants are given nine months to implement and report back on their achievements and challenges at a celebration event (like a graduation) that is specifically organized for this purpose. The Trailblazer Program has three key components of Training, Action & Support, and Celebration that ensure that participants emerge from the program transformed into change agents for their communities.

The Ignition Program is very similar to the Trailblazer Program but is designed for an older age group. The program ignites an entrepreneurial spirit in tertiary students that enables them to create social change, in turn increasing their work-relevant skills (and hence their employability) or, on occasion, to create their own employment opportunities and others. This is an extra-curricular six-month program that connects tertiary level students to diverse and active networks that inspire them towards entrepreneurial thinking and to become proactive leaders of change at work and in society at large. The goal is to ignite their passion and unlock their potential by using the resources at their disposal. “Igniters,” as they are called, are equipped with skills in leadership, project design and implementation, facilitation and other skills that complement their academic education. The participants are responsible for coming up with the projects they will be working on. The participants are also exposed to professional development opportunities through practical internships, volunteer placements and mentorship (from prominent business leaders).

Since 2009, enke has run nine intakes of the Trailblazer Program and six intakes of the Ignition Program, reaching over 1,250 young people from all nine South African provinces. Skills development and empathy building are the focus of enke’s work but the organization has seen great success when it comes to the implementation of the participant’s ideas. The Trailblazer program has recorded an 81 percent conversion rate (metric for the implementation of ideas) and a 83 percent completion rate of the implemented ideas. The 2013 cohort of the Ignition Program brought together 80 youth from across 18 universities and colleges in South Africa.

Pip is planning the program’s expansion, building around enke’s core business in order to broaden its impact. Examples of ideas in the pipeline include a year-round fund available to all alumni, to support the continuation of youth projects. Furthermore, enke is in the process of documenting the key trends that emerge from the program, best practices that can be shared more broadly as enke scales and findings that prove the effectiveness of enke’s model and other similar models of youth development. Not wanting to stop with South Africa, enke is already looking at expansion, with ideas for the next enke hubs in Africa being Namibia, Zambia and Botswana – to be opened in the next 5 years. enke’s alumni are of multiple nationalities already, having worked with youth from 12 countries, including Botswana, Zimbabwe and the UK.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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