Susannah Farr

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa
Fellow Since 2014

Citation

This profile was prepared when Susannah Farr was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Young people in African countries have fewer opportunities to access the knowledge, skills and confidence to achieve their full potential and influence positive change in their schools and communities. Susannah created Generations of Leaders Discovered (GOLD) to develop social capital in African youth. By employing a structured three-year curriculum, GOLD trains and educates potential young leaders and role models in schools and communities who educate, guide and mentor their peers. These young leaders urge their peers to adopt a positive way of thinking about their lives and encourage their peers to overcome the social challenges they face.

Susannah’s model is built on three axes: (1) leadership training, (2) peer pressure and (3) social engagement in their communities. This is an integrated extra-curricular model that helps young people exit the education system as accomplished and confident change leaders in society. GOLD recruits learners from various schools and provides them with intensive leadership, peer education and life skills training to transform them into qualified peer educators who spearhead positive behavior change in schools and communities. Susannah employs a methodology that runs parallel to, and complements, the school curriculum without actually interfering with it. The participants graduate with a leadership and peer education certificate that is accredited and recognized within the South African National Qualification Framework and can be used to access employment opportunities. Susannah’s ultimate objective is to increase the employment opportunities and employability of young people by creating the development of a recognized career option in youth leadership and Peer Education. This makes GOLD more than just an informal youth-leadership course or life skills training program.

The trained peer educators then strategically use peer pressure, a powerful force among the youth, to influence positive behavior change in their colleagues both at school and in the communities they come from. The viral effect of this outreach ensures that the negative effects of peer pressure are diminished and replaced by positive behavior change. This aspect of her work minimizes the ill effects of negative peer pressure, such as drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, abortions, teenage suicide, school dropouts and other criminal behavior. As a result, young people are more focused on their education and other constructive engagements that boost their academic performance and improve their chances for further education and employment opportunities. Finally, GOLD stimulates the spirit of social change and community action in youth by inspiring them to be change leaders through designing and implementing their own community activities. The peer educators are confident and inspired to identify resources in their communities that can be used to create solutions to their problems.

The sustainability and spread of GOLD model is based on the viral effect of peer education, in which accomplished educators advance to the next level of the program and recruit and help educate new entrants into the program. This ensures that the principles of GOLD are entrenched in the schools and communities even after trained peer educators have left to seek other opportunities outside the community. After its inception in South Africa in 2004, the model expanded to Zambia in 2009 and has now started in Botswana. To date, GOLD has trained more than 2,800 peer educators in over 58 communities, working with over 13,000 youth. Through an income-generating arm of GOLD, Susannah has adapted the model to create a product called Peer2Peer, which is a branded ‘do it yourself’ package for peer education. Peer2Peer is franchised out to organizations working in youth education that have plans to incorporate peer education into their programs. Susannah has established a partnership with South Africa’s Department of Education to pilot the Peer2Peer package, which is now being implemented in nine schools in the Western Cape Province. She plans to do the same in Zambia and Botswana.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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